What If You Can't Really Sleep with the Person You're Sleeping With?


I used to think that a night snuggled in the same bed as my kicking, squirming, teeth-gnashing, sweaty, diagonally stretched-out son was an exercise in finding calm in an ocean of comforters and chaos. And then I met the Not Boyfriend.

There are a thousand things I love about this man. How he sleeps is not one of them. He’s not the worst sleeper I’ve co-bedded with — he doesn’t snore (often enough to require nasal strips, weight loss, or a CPAP) and he’s never asked me to squish into a sliver of a single-sized futon with him (ahem, Ex-Husband). He doesn’t breathe on me (much). He doesn’t have night terrors, flail his arms, or call out other women’s names in the night (ever).

He does a lot right when it comes to bedtime, sweetly encouraging me to tuck in earlier and lending me soft, oversized t-shirts to sleep in. He whispers me to sleep in when he gets up and never minds if I linger when he has to race off to the gym or work at dawn.

And it’s not that his kind of slumber requires a pillow tucked between his knees that takes up more square-inchage than his size of the bed allows. Or that he likes the ceiling fan to whir all night long (shudder: see “breathing on me” above) and thinks a bed sheet is just one more hot, unnecessary layer. It’s not the birds outside his window or the construction workers that illegally pound away next door in the early hours or the kid upstairs with the bouncy ball. It’s not his pastry-chef hours or his push to hit CrossFit even before he has to start baking at work.

It’s the bed. And how many times he gets out of it at night.

My love loves a nice, firm bed. A nice, firm, block of concrete kind of bed. He loves it so much, he invested a big old chunk of change in a fancy mattress that feels like the floor. Without a rug.

My chief co-sleeping complaint is also his. He hates my pillow-top mattress so much that he tosses and turns and cusses and sighs every time he sleeps (or attempts to sleep) in it. I wake up in his bed with throbbing shoulders and aching hips. He wakes up in mine with a furrowed brow of frustration and exhaustion.

And when we’re not snoozing in each other’s beds, we’re in and out of them like two full-term pregnant ladies (neither of us is a pregnant lady). At home alone, I will force myself back to sleep if I wake up to nature’s call. But the Not Boyfriend, who has complex explanations courtesy Ayurvedic practitioners about the whys and hows of the liver detoxing by the body’s clock at 4 a.m., wakes up several times a night, which wakes me up, which makes me sympathy pee whether or not I have to or want to.

To be fair, he’s not thrilled by my sleep walking, he’s confused by my sleep talking and he wakes up when I  am “purring,” what he sweetly refers to it when I’m deeply asleep on my back.

With all that tossing and turning, aches and pains, peeing and cussing, we’ve still somehow made it through many nights together, still happy to see the person on the other side of the uncomfortable bed in the morning. When we were long-distance, it didn’t matter so much (not lots of sleeping on those 48-hour whirlwinds). And even though we’ve been living in the same city for almost a year, our sleepovers are still usually only two (three, max) nights a week.  We’ve put up with the bad bed situation — maybe out of love and necessity, but definitely because we’ve both assumed it’d be temporary.

But what if it’s not temporary? What if the Not Boyfriend are always struggling to get a good night’s sleep together?

I’ve wondered this in the last month or so, since we’ve made a concerted effort to spend more nights in each other’s beds as we prepare to live together full-time. He’s gone out of his way, reprioritized his own tasks and to-dos, driving to my house every night for days. While it’s been nice to not pack an overnight bag, to wake up to my own routine and coffee maker and closet, to keep my son on his schedule, the sleeping has not gotten any easier.

Last night, I asked him for a break. I needed a night of solo sleep to recuperate from all efforts to be closer. I was desperate for one sleep sesh uninterrupted by a knee-pillow or ceiling fan or heavy sighs or potty breaks. I wanted time in the center of my own soft mattress, piled high with three comforters in the late-summer heat, with the banging around of my own irritating neighbors and ignoring my own pleading bladder.

I needed a break from worrying about how I can adore someone so much and still (jokingly?) wish that the Lucy-Desi method of separate beds was still in romantic fashion. I needed eight (OK, seven….possibly, six) hours to let go of what it means that I want the man in my bed to learn to love the (soft) bed as much as he loves me.

We laugh that, in a home of our own, we’ll fashion a bed frame big enough to fit both of our awful mattresses, never daring to cross the line once we say our goodnights. Or that we will scrimp and save for a Sleep Number or some-such that allows us to have control of what lays beneath us as much as who.

For now, we’re stuck like Goldilocks midway through the story. Too soft, too firm, too hot, too cold, waiting (with bags under our eyes) for the just-right.


What’s your advice? Did you ever resolve your issues sleeping with the person you’re sleeping with?


Article Posted 2 years Ago
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