The Early Rise Compromise: Mornings at the Hueninks

When you are a morning person and you marry a night owl, it can make for some interesting starts to the day. Over the years we have worked hard on our own and together to make for better mornings. It's been a journey, but here is how God worked in our marriage and how we've learned to compromise with something as simple as our wake up routine.

Pick your battles.

Sound familiar? What wife (or husband) hasn’t been told that in those first few months of marriage? Or maybe years or decades? Hey, I’m not judging! I’m right there with you. I hear it time and time again. But I’m not so good about deciding what is worth “battling” over. And I usually pick the things that I probably shouldn’t…



Early on in our relationship, Seth often surprised me by showing up at my gym (all the way across town from his apartment) at 5am! Wow! Now that’s commitment. And I’d swoon and daydream about how fun it’ll be to work out together for the REST OF OUR LIVES!


There were a few mornings he didn’t show. I’d be confused and bummed. As a morning person, I had no understanding of how someone would struggle to get out of bed. Just get up when the alarm goes off and go, right? Seems simple to me. But because we were still in the “honeymoon” stage, I wasn’t quite as blunt about this issue. And honestly, it didn’t affect me all that much since we didn’t live together.


Mornings: By Jessi

In my life, there were only a few years where I wasn’t a morning person (during college and while working at a bar). As a little girl, I was always happy to wake up in the morning. For some reason, everything is better in the morning! I’ve since come to the conclusion that my favorite part of the day is before 11am. I get so much done in that first quarter of the day. I pop out of bed, 90% of the time completely ready to go. Out the door and into the world, prepared to face people. Coffee not required. To me, mornings are a beautiful time. I prefer being up before the sun; in fact, when I wake up after the sun is up, I tend to have mini panic attacks thinking I’ve overslept.


I have since learned that I’m in the minority here. Many people are just not morning people, and getting up at 4:30am is not normal. I’ve come to terms with that, so no one needs to lecture how crazy I am! 🙂 


Mornings: By Seth

I grew up in a farming community, where you are expected to be an early riser. Taking it a step further, in my family, being an early riser was not only seen as positive quality, but there comes a sense of pride with being the first out of bed. The males in my family (dad, uncles, grandpa) are known for being the best at it — always beating everyone out to the fields.


Obviously, I was quite surprised that getting up early wasn’t an area where I had a lot of success. It felt like quicksand. The harder I tried, the worst it got. The more important a reason, or the higher the stakes, the harder it was for me. Growing up, my parents tried a variety of tactics to help me; everything from being kind to being forceful. Sometimes it was helpful, sometimes they would just be frustrated. Hey, I get it! I was frustrated with me too!


Sometimes I would wake up and just stay in bed. Other mornings, I would simply sleep through my FIVE alarms. It’s like being paralyzed (in a milder sense) or what a mute person must feel like. You just want to do this insanely easy task, this one that is so easy, that everyone around you does frequently, without thought, completely taking it for granted. And you just can’t.


Fast Forward to Marriage

Now that you see how differently Seth and I look at mornings, you can imagine the problem this caused for us once we were married. And I made it worse. Basically, I made it clear I wasn’t switching from morning workouts, so if he wanted to see me ever, well, he’d better get up in the morning. I know… I’ve toned it down a bit, but he did marry a strong-willed woman! He agreed it was logical to get up in the mornings with me and made every attempt to do this. Well, he SAID he was making every attempt. I wasn’t convinced.


How he felt…

Obviously, my issue became a bigger problem in our marriage. Jess is as talented at waking up as the males in my family. She is up between 4:15-4:30 everyday, no matter how early or late she went to bed the night before, to go to the gym. I am also passionate about fitness, but am more of an evening-gym-guy, so why get up in the morning?


As my responsibilities as a married adult grew, I seemed to have less time. If I want to work towards a good marriage, it’s not wise for me to go to the gym in the evening when it’s the only time I have to spend time with my wife. So, I tried the early morning gym routine and it was hit and miss. The times it was “hit”, I was running about 10 minutes behind the rest of my day. I would ask Jess to help and she would try to sympathize, but she just didn’t get it. And because she didn’t understand my struggle, when it began affecting her mornings, it just put gas on the fire. I would say for at least the last couple of years waking up has been one of the most frustrating endeavors I’ve had to deal with on a daily basis, obviously.


Not being helpful…

And there’s my (Jessi) reaction… Rather than sit back and let him work through this on his own, I nagged and complained. And yelled. And teased. You could say I was less than supportive. Looking back on my actions during this time, I’m embarrassed. I offered him no grace. After learning how hard mornings were for him (because yes, I didn’t ask him how he felt about them) I’m ashamed to admit my behavior to you all. But I committed to being authentic, so there you go!


Wake Up Styles That Don’t Sync

Not only do we have a morning person and a non-morning person, but we also wake up entirely different. Jess turns on all the lights, is ready to have a conversation, and in general is ready for the day. I couldn’t be more opposite. Absolutely under no circumstance do I turn on a light. If I need to find something, I have a light on my phone. I’m not ready to talk for about 20 min or so, and even after that, my mood can be a dice roll for around the first hour or two. You can easily see why this potion may cause some conflict.


As we tried to find solutions, for the sake of our marriage, we figured out a few pain points…


Issue #1: The Mind Knows

Just to clarify, when we joke about the fact that I (Seth) “sleep in”, please know, I’m still setting my alarms around 4:30 a.m. Yes, multiple alarms. It’s a strategy and I do all of this to align with my wife’s schedule. On a good day, this strategy would get me up by 5:15-5:30 a.m. But on a bad day, it would be between 6 a.m. The funny thing is, for most people I know, 6:00am isn’t “sleeping in”. And my brain knows that I’m not really sleeping in! Evil forces at work here…


Issue #2: Alarm Clock

One way to get out of bed is an alarm clock. Fine. I (Jessi) use that and it works well. I might snooze once or twice on a cold morning, but typically, I pop out on the first ring. As you have learned, Seth uses 3. Two minutes a part. And he’ll snooze ALL of them! Some mornings, they’ll go off for more than an hour. It blows my mind how he can sleep through it; it’s magic!


Issue #3: Lights

NO LIGHTS. This is now a running joke, but for the past few years, it was a point of calamity in our marriage. I need lights to wake up! If lights are off, I want to be in bed. Seth hates lights. And he’s very angry and sensitive to the slightest bit of brightness. I’m talking clothes over the face, running into walls sensitivity. 🙂


Issue #4: Gentle Wake Ups

When I asked Jess to help me get up, naturally, she would try in her way. This was usually some version of pulling off the covers or beginning to speak in normal conversation voice (which sounded like someone was dropping a bowling ball in my ear). Of course, when I tried to give her feedback about that (after snapping at her attempts to wake the sleeping beauty) I found my “manhood” in question. What I mean is this: imagine me asking my wife “Baby, could you wake me up more like you would a newborn?” Yeah right! To make it worse, she’s afraid of getting her head bit off, I’m afraid of not being a man… get it? Fear breeds fear breeds fear.


Seth Processes

There are certain things in life that are tough to explain. Certain thought patterns where logic applies and by “applies”, I mean is effective. For example: When attacking this problem, I tried different logic-driven methods. One was to tell myself the night before how much I regret sleeping in. I would remind myself, “Hey, remember how this NEVER works out for you? Like EVER? Like it’s a dumpster fire EVERY time?” And it never worked.


I tried to shame myself into a different way. Tried going to bed earlier. Even setting my alarm up to two hours before I had to get up?! You get the picture. At the end of the day, what I know to be true is God’s always trying to teach me something. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not. It’s important for me to maintain the attitude that I need to seek whatever God is trying to reveal. At least one of the things is that this issue is fear driven. It never seemed to matter if I woke up to my alarm or if I continued laying there after it went off. Or whether I was in such a deep sleep I didn’t even hear it. These are just examples of fear in my life creating chaos.


One of my fears was that I was a failure, because of the problems I have in this area. My mind would say things like, “You can’t even get out of bed at the time you want, what are you some kind of lazy loser?” This idea was driven by my upbringing, whether verbally or by example, you work and you work hard. Growing up, what I saw was people who worked hard typically woke up earlier than most, or at least that was my perception.


Thoughts and Theories

I don’t know what the exact answer is to this problem I have; what I mean is I can’t point to any one thing. What I can tell you is, in a miraculous way, this is getting better.

A couple of theories:

  1. Prayer is my friend, and talking specifically to God about this. Asking Him, “What are you trying to teach me?”
  2. It seems with all my fears, when fears control me, outcomes tend to follow what I’m most afraid of. Possibly a self-fulfilling prophesy?.
  3. Making sure I go to bed at a decent, consistent time. Avoiding extremes is good as well. Example: Going to bed 2 hours late, or setting my alarm for 2 hours before I need to be up.
  4. As I’ve mentioned, fear is the ultimate driver here, it seems. The more fear I have in my life (especially, but not exclusively, before I go to bed) the worse the problem becomes. This most definitely includes the fear of sleeping in.


God, I Need Some Help Here

There is a difference between fear and a healthy respect for sleeping in. So what I have found helpful is searching for fear, getting to the bottom of it and asking for God’s help to eradicate. This might be a fear I’m not even aware of. It might include yelling at God and asking, “What is Your problem? Don’t You see what I’m going through here?! Wake up!!”


Talking to God like this may mean uprooting some deep issues that are going to make you wish you didn’t mess with in the first place and finding truth from reality (a lot of my fears are made up and made believable by evil). By sharing all of this, I’m hoping to help those of you who may be suffering from something similar, especially if you are on a similar journey of spiritual growth.


How Jessi Copes

After countless fights with Seth, both trying to get the other to understand, many conversations with friends–even our pastor, having spurts of being ok with it and then not, and reaching my breaking point, I was done fighting. The gloves came off. I made the decision to stop trying to change Seth. Finally, I could see this for what it was. This was his struggle and I didn’t need to take it on and let it ruin my days. I also didn’t need to chastise him or make fun of him. All I need to do is let it go.


So I did. But I didn’t just wash my hands of it. First, I needed to see my selfish in this and how it was fuel for our fire. And yes, I was selfish. Selfish in my reactions, my desires for his life, my lack of compassion. Always more room to grow! The other thing I’ve done is to pray for him, specifically about this issue. Not that he’d become this awesome morning person and suddenly love mornings. My prayer was simple, that he would have an easier time with the problem. That’s it. And I’ve prayed that over and over for much of this year.


Progress & Answered Prayers

Gym Mornings with SethAll of this leads us to now. What prompted us to share all of this with you if there’s been no progress? Well, partially, I’ve made a commitment to let you all into our lives and share how I’ve grown through experiences. And this is a great example. I fought to change my husband, to turn him into who I thought I wanted him to be. Really? Was he that bad? No, but I couldn’t let go of this. Through our morning struggle, I’ve definitely learned what it means to “pick your battles”.


About a month ago, Seth began waking up around 4am, BEFORE his alarm. Almost every day since, he is out the door before I am fully out of bed! What is happening?! When I would get to the gym, he’d be there. Weekends didn’t matter and sometimes he’d be up closer to 3 a.m. We are both baffled with the amazing turn of events, but aren’t questioning it. I know I’ve been praying a lot more lately, and he’s been asking for help in this for years.


So, we see God working in our lives. Very simple; He’s helping my husband get out of bed. Seth is able to face the day with less fear. Many times people will have the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” mentality. Not us Hueninks; maybe because it hasn’t dropped yet. But we will continue to enjoy this change in our lives and should it change, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Until then, I love seeing his handsome face at the gym now. 🙂

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