Opposites Attract

Warm smiles on a wintery day

Yesterday my mom asked me if I still slept with my head under the covers. I laughed and said I did that because I didn’t want any light in my eyes and to drown out sound as best I could. Highly sensitive people don’t “grow out” of their sensitivities but the adaptive ones learn to manage their environment!

So what was the answer to my mom’s question? No! I don’t sleep with the covers over my head because now I have my own house and shut my bedroom door to sound and keep it dark and cool – no nightlight for me. Along with a comfy bed and pillow, I get 9 hours of much needed rejuvenating sleep each night. Sleep is important for everyone but a longer sleep time is especially needed for people with a highly sensitive personality to “recharge their batteries.”

But my husband, that’s a different story. He’s a sensory seeking machine and it takes a lot to overwhelm him. He stays up late, I go to bed early. He likes light, I like dark. He likes to sleep in undies, I like to sleep in full flannel pajamas. He likes background noise, I like it quiet. He likes light sheets, I like a heavy down comforter. He likes … well, you get the picture, we’re opposites on the sensory spectrum and it’s funny how opposites attract.

But even though we’re opposites, we both prefer an amiable relationship without “drama”. However, this week, we had a showdown. We’ve had a spell of cold weather and use a wood burner in the living room to heat the house. Keeping the bedroom door closed means keeping the heat out, not totally out, but possibly it was in the 50’s. I snuggled in my blankets and slept fabulously but he was cold and couldn’t sleep, so he did the unforgivable – he opened the bedroom door and let the heat in.

I woke up at 1am soaked in sweat from the ever present hot flashes and couldn’t get comfortable enough to get back to sleep no matter that I had no covers on and I had shut the door. The next couple of days, he opened the door and I would shut it – over and over this occurred. The dualling door syndrome. Finally we had to talk, because neither of us was giving up on this one.

I explained that I had hot flashes at night and had covers on and off all night but needed it cool or I couldn’t sleep. He explained that he was shivering all night and couldn’t sleep. I offered to get him blankets for his bed but he stubbornly said he didn’t want blankets, he wanted a warm room. Actually, I understand sensory needs, even when they are opposite of mine and I did respect his needs.

We’d just have to sleep in different rooms. Only problem is we live in a small house … a small “3 bedroom” house where 1 bedroom is a TV room (my husbands “man cave”) and another bedroom has my business stuff in it and the last bedroom is where the beds are. There’s no room in the man cave for a bed, unless my husband sleeps on the couch and my office on the north side of the house is drafty, cold and the furthest away from the wood burner. The cold part would be fine for me but it’s drafty because of two large windows that let in a lot of light.

There was no easy answer to our dilemma but I was willing to explore a solution that would make us both comfortable. I’m not sure what happened next, if it was including him in the practical planning part, or his needs being taken seriously part, or my sticking up for changing needs (i.e. teaching him about the reality of hot flashes) as I age part … but my husband said he’d use extra blankets and it ended there. Opposites do attract and it can work. Oh, and on my part, I began to leave the bedroom door open all day so it wouldn’t be quite as cold for him at night when the door was closed.

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