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Sleeping with the Enemy?

Laura & Rob Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show

Laura & Rob Petrie

Recently, a reader recommended The Dick van Dyke Show as a positive television show which “illustrates respect and love in marriage.” I enjoyed that series and its family values, but the comment got me to thinking about that era of film and television. Married couples were shown sleeping separately in twin beds. Respectful perhaps, but not the show of intimate lovin’ we typically expect from the wedded.

I have also read quite a few books written at times in history when an affluent husband and wife had separate rooms — his and hers chambers.

Pre-marriage, these arrangements struck me as preposterous. Who wouldn’t want to sleep every night in the welcoming arms of their beloved?

Yet anyone who’s been married for a while knows that there are moments when kicking your otherwise-delightful spouse out of the sleep nest is an attractive proposition. Perhaps he is always hot while she’s continuously cold, or she needs a fan running while he eschews air blowing onto his side. It’s not always easy to share your snooze space with another human being night after night, especially when their sleep habits don’t exactly match yours.

Perhaps you can relate to the descriptions below. See if you or your spouse make an appearance here.

The Thief. A Thief takes something that doesn’t belong to them – as in sheets, covers, pillows, etc. If you are married to a Thief, you wake up in the middle of the night to find yourself lying on a bare mattress with all your covering and cushions wrapped tightly around your bedmate. The Bible says that thieves should repay more than they took. Thus, the best way to deal with a Thief might be to roll over, yank as hard as possible, and wrap those covers around yourself instead. It’s not revenge; it’s recompense.

The Mover and Shaker. Whether twitching, tossing and turning, or flip-flopping all night long, this person cannot keep still. Apparently, no one informed her that sleeping was a largely inert activity. Sleeping with a spouse who moves and shakes all night long can make the bed feel more like a trampoline. And who can sleep through a series of seat drops and somersaults?

The Noisemaker. Ranging from heavy breathing to gurgling to buzzsaw snoring, the racket of the Noisemaker rattles your nerves and sometimes the rafters. When first married, you attempt sweetly tapping your spouse and informing him that he is snoring and should roll over. Several years in, you’re reduced to pinching his nose, shoving him, and contemplating how long you would need to hold the pillow to smother the snores but not the breathing.

The Stockpiler. This spouse treats the bed like her own work or play space, bringing in every conceivable item that might be needed as she works, reads, grooms, eats, plays, etc. This may include a laptop and piles of paper for work; nail tools, polishes, lotions, and more for a pedicure; a stash of dishes, cups, food, and drinks for snack time; or even the family pet collection of three dogs and four cats. Whatever your Stockpiler has managed to bring to the bed, there isn’t much room left for you to slip in and get some sleep, not to mention that a mass of the dog hairs and crumbs don’t invite visions of wild lovemaking in that space.

The Grabber. Primarily a male category, the Grabber reaches over to his spouse at any time of night to touch, grasp, pinch, or squeeze whichever body part seems particularly appealing at the moment. This can mean that you are delightfully snoozing and are suddenly greeted at 2:00 in the morning with a honk of your breast. Does the Grabber actually believe this will result in the kind of invitation he desires? At the very least, the Grabber may wish to ease into it through light touches, strokes, kisses, and whispers of love before clamping down on the goodies.

The Brainstormer. Of course, no one is opposed to brainstorming, but a Brainstormer here is the person whose flashes of brilliance occur at the very hours that you are attempting to hang onto sanity with a dab of sleep. The Brainstormer awakens at 3:00 a.m. with a list of to-dos, a headful of worries, a great idea for a new ministry or work project, or a need to talk something out at length . . . with you. It seems that your spouse cannot process through the honey-do list or emotional conversation during waking hours, but Einsteinian ideas or Freudian feelings rear their head at the very moment that your own head is fogged up with notions of sleep, blessed sleep.

The Sprawler. The Sprawler stretches out on the bed at odd geometrical angles, managing to consume the majority of bed space. Little by little, you find yourself edged into a sliver of inches in which to sleep. You wonder if perhaps your spouse is really that elastic guy from the Fantastic Four because you didn’t remember his limbs being that long and invasive. Your only hope is to learn to sleep in the fetal position, with your chin tucked to your knees and possibly even sucking your thumb.

The Silent Killer. I suppose the flatulent could also be named under the Noisemaker category, but nothing is worse than those silent-but-deadly ones that your beloved can render at times. There you lie, trying to enter dreamland after a long day, and all of a sudden your nostrils are viciously attacked by an odor that cannot be described (or at least I refuse to describe it here). Had there been noise, there might have been adequate warning. But in this case, all you can hope for is that moving to your edge of the bed, fanning the sheets, and turning on the ceiling fan will dissipate the smell. Unfortunately, however, not the memory.

I won’t admit to which one I am or which one my spouse is. But I will say that it isn’t always like sleeping with the enemy. Most of the time, it’s a beautiful thing to share your bed with your spouse. Like other parts of marriage, it involves give and take, live and learn, joke and laugh. In fact, I want to add one more category which describes both me and my husband:

The Cuddler. The Cuddler spends some of that time in bed, before and/or while asleep, getting cozy with her spouse. She enjoys touching, holding, snuggling, and spooning as affectionate expressions of love and intimacy. The Cuddler might notice when her spouse has left the bed to use the bathroom, get a snack, or for a bout of insomnia because she misses his body lying next to her. Now that’s nice.

What are the best and worst things about sharing sleep space with your spouse? Do you have your own category to add?