I know there’s a lot on your plate right now.
Here’s something you probably know already, but I’m going to invite you to look at it in a different way.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Social scientists have a casual shorthand for each chrono-type; “Larks” and “Owls.” Larks are early to bed and early to rise, while Owls are at their best at night, and may turn in much later than their Lark spouses.
It’s not as clean and neat as “either-or.” But for many couples, it can seem that way. You’ll have a lot of different kinds of work to manage now. Understanding your individual circadian rhythms is an important first step.
New research has uncovered two additional chronotypes; “high-energy” spouses who are larks in the morning but hang out at night like Owls, and “lethargic” spouses who are late risers in the morning but turn in early like Larks at night.
However, Lark-Owl is the dominant paradigm that resonates with most couples. It has withstood the test of time in research over the past 40 years.
So why is this important to Love in the Time of Coronavirus? It’s important because couples will be grappling with working from home, dealing with kids, and running a household…perhaps without the usual helpers because of social distancing.
What’s needed here is a healthy mutual sense of your individual “Morningness” and “Eveningness.”
These four chrono-types reveal different morning/evening preferences. These differing levels of Morningness and Eveningness will have a powerful impact on which of you is more energetic and alert at any given time.
Researchers have been studying Larks and Owls for quite awhile. Here are some interesting differences between these two most common chronotypes:
Spouses have a genetic predisposition to either rise early or go to bed late. A sleep divorce is not your only option.
During this period of hunkering down and working from home, it’s more likely that partners will have more marital conflict unless they adjust to each other to avoid getting out of sync with their perhaps differing circadian rhythms.
For the time being, you’ll be working from home, perhaps also temporarily homeschooling, and running the household too.
You’ll be attempting to do all of this with a social-distancing mindset. This means you’re both going to need to work more closely as a team than ever before.
Start by allocating time alone in the early morning or late evening for high-focus work, if possible. Maximize your time together, and take on chores that make sense for your chrono-type.
Start by looking at the question of Larks and Owls in your marriage, and accept your differences with patience and resilience.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.