As I fulfill my nightly reading goal and my wife wishes to talk to me at this time, she is more than free to do so. However, it must be stipulated that she must speak in a soft voice. There can be no commotion, no raising thorny, controversial issues, no raucous, no uncontrollable laughter, as she is sometimes prone to doing in a way that frequently hurts my eardrums.
It’s not that I don’t treasure my wife’s moments of intense engagement, hilarity and self-abandonment. It’s just that I am a chronic insomniac and a vital part of my sleeping strategy is to lower the volume before bedtime. Everything needs to get nice and soft. This part of the evening is called Quiet Time. The principle works on children. You don’t get them all wound-up and let them rough-house before bed. You put them through their nightly rituals, the warm milk and cookies, the brushing of the teeth, the bedtime story. My solitary cereal eating and bedtime reading constitute the bulk of my Quiet Time, which my wife must help to preserve. I don’t implement this rule because I’m a bossy husband. I do so because of necessity. Any glitches in my ritual, any heated discussion, any bothersome inquiries, any ticklish laughter, anything at all that disrupts Quiet Time and I’m screwed. Which is to say I’ll be in for a long, sleepless night. Worse, I’ll resent my wife for having ruined Quiet Time. Staring at the ceiling all night while resenting my wife is not the manner in which I wish to spend a huge chunk of my marriage. So let’s be clear. Quiet Time must be at all costs preserved. The harmony of the marriage depends on it. Yes, my strict before-bed ritual is burdensome, but it is necessitated by my insomnia, a condition my wife knew about me before we got married.