Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Estranged Bedfellows

Years ago, my mother predicted our marriage would fail. Being the tactful person that she is, she didn't come right out and say so. Instead, she couched it in terms of well meaning motherly "concern". Her worry was due to the fact that I moved in with my husband three weeks after meeting him and her suspicion that my attraction to him was because of his resemblance to my former fiancee. We've been married 13 years now and I think she's pretty much over that. But several years into our marriage there arose a new reason for her to fret over our the longevity of our marriage. She was sure that it spelled d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

The reason for her concern is, I believe, fairly common among married couples, but it's a dirty little secret that nobody talks about. There is a sense of shame and failure associated with this issue. Couples think they must be the only ones living with the horrible secret, and yet there is evidence to suggest that a large percentage of married couples are in the same boat.

So, I'm going to break the silence. Are you ready? Here goes...

I don't sleep with my husband.

There. I said it. Actually, I say it a lot. I've never treated it as a secret, though it's not something that comes up often in casual conversation. But when it does come up, I'm very upfront about the fact that we have slept apart nearly all of our marriage. We have to, you see, if my husband is to survive into middle age. Because there were nights when, exhausted and suffering from a form of insanity induced by severe sleep deprivation, I plotted to kill him if he emitted just. one. more. snore. I began taking a cast iron frying pan to bed with me, fully intending to bludgeon him to death at the very first sound.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. But those of you who don't have a snoring spouse have no idea how maddening it can be. Honestly, I think it could be a very effective form of psychological torture. The military needs to look into this.

You lie there, listening to the cacophony, gritting your teeth, willing yourself to just tune it out. But after years of sleeping with one ear open, vigilant for the cries of an infant and ready to wake at a momen'ts is simply impossible. So you poke. You prod. You roll over, purposely flopping around like a fish out of water. And there is usually a reprieve. But you know it won't last. So you think to yourself, If I can just fall asleep before it starts again, I'll be okay! You desperately employ every trick you know to fall asleep. You begin to relaxe. Limbs and lids begin to feel deliciously feel heavy. You think you might have a chance and then...


Even though you were expecting it, you are startled. Your eyes fly open as your heart beats rapidly, and every nerve ending in your body is electrified as adrenaline surges through your veins. And you know that you are well and truly screwed, because you'll never be able to sleep now, what with the chemical cocktail in your blood and all.

It's a nightmare. No, scratch that. One can't have a nightmare unless one has actually achieved unconsciousness. It's a living hell.

My husband's problem is hereditary. His father and mother have slept separately for many, many years. When a surgical solution became available, his father eagerly went under the knife. They cut the man from ear to ear. No joke. His scar is frightening. They removed his tonsils and adenoids as well as his uvula and a portion of his soft pallette and some of his tongue. Guess what? Yep. He still snores.

As an infant, Diminutive One was a very noisy breather. They attributed it to irritation of his esophagus due to severe reflux. He had "silent" reflux, which means that the contents of his stomach were not regurgitated. He never spit up, so the corrosive acids of his stomach would sit in his throat. It seemed like a logical explanation. He outgrew the reflux eventually, but still snored. He was a very restless sleeper as well. Co-sleeping with him was an absolute nightmare.

He began experiencing some breathing problems around 5-6 years old. He was given an inhaler and a nebulizer by his pediatrician, but they didn't seem to really solve the problem. He was taken to an asthma specialist. All of his lung function tests were normal, and the specialist did not believe he was experiencing asthmatic episodes. His heart and lungs were checked. He was born with a small hole in his heart, which closed on it's own, but there was some concern that there might be residual effects. Everything was normal. His lungs do have some slight scarring due to inhaling stomach acids as an infant, but otherwise they were perfectly healthy. In the absence of any definitive diagnosis, they told me to keep using the inhaler when he experienced a breathing crisis. There was no point, however. It didn't help at all, and usually just having him sit down and relaxe indoors put an end to the episode. It was baffling.

Finally, his pediatrician thought to check out his tonsils. They were touching. We took him to an ENT who took one look and said "Geez, these should have come out years ago. I can't believe this poor kid can breathe at all!" Basically, he was experiencing sleep apnea while awake. The unusually "floppy" tissue of his soft palette, combined with unusually large tonsils and an unusually long uvula, would cause his throat to simply seal up.

When we were in pre-op, the doctor came in to give us a little briefing. He had not met Husband yet. He took one look at husband and said "SO! You're the reason Diminutive One is here today, eh?" He could tell by looking at DH that he was a snorer. People with unusually short, thick necks and weak chins are especially prone to obstructive airway issues. Husband and his father both have necks that immediately call the word "beefy" to mind. And though their chins are not markedly "weak", neither are they very prominent.

Diminutive One sleeps SO much better since having the surgery. He stopped wetting the bed, and he stopped thrashing about. The doctor says that having surgery now may prevent sleep apnea as an adult, though it can't be said for certain.

So, I do know Husband honestly and truly cannot help it. He's inherited the unusually large tonsils, the floppy soft palette and the freakishly long uvula, and passed it on to Diminutive One. I won't ask him to undergo extremely painful surgery when chances is are it won't solve the problem anyway. We know another man who underwent surgery with the same results as my FIL, which result at all. His wife and I commiserate with one another about snoring regularly. But knowing they can't help it does not really ease the frustration when one is desperate to sleep.

And it's not just the snoring. Our sleep styles are drastically at odds as well. He likes to untuck the covers wrap himself up in them like a cocoon, with his feet sticking out the bottom. I like the covers neat and smooth, firmly tucked and my feet covered. He likes it pitch black. I mean...not even a flicker of light. I get weird sensory deprivation type disorientation when I can't see anything. He insists on having the door closed, I like it open so I can hear if the boys need me in the night. He likes to snuggle. I don't want anybody draped all over me when I'm trying to sleep. And though he falls asleep quickly, he is a light sleeper. The slightest movement from me awakens him, which makes him very grumpy. So I spend the night stiff and uncomfortable, afraid to move. Aside from the snoring issue, none of that makes for a very relaxing sleep environment.

Probably the most notable though, is the fact that he can get in bed and be asleep in about 3.4 seconds. As a life long insomniac, this is impossible for me. I have to disengage somehow. In order to turn off my brain, I have to read something before I can go do sleep. This, of course, is completely unacceptable to him. Light baaaaaad.

So, to be quite honest, I like sleeping by myself. Scandalous, isn't it??

But I get the whole bed to myself, and never do I have to deal with a sweaty arm or leg slung uncomfortably accross my person. I can read as long as I like. I get some covers. I get ALL the covers. I can roll over as many times as I like. I can get up to go to the bathroom without tiptoeing and I can TURN ON THE LIGHT to avoid a concussing myself on the door jam. It is infinitely more peaceful and relaxing.

I have heard people express that this cannot possibly be healthy for a marriage. But really, how healthy can a marriage be if one partner is fantasizing about killing the other in his or her sleep? How healthy can a marriage be if one partner is too sleep deprived to handle conflict resolution in a rational civilized manner? How healthy can a marriage be if one partner is resentful and angry all the time?

I assume the assertion relates to intimacy issues. Well, in my opinion, if you are emotionally intimate, then physical intimacy follows as a matter of course. We find ways to accomodate that and it isn't terribly difficult. I can say with absolute certainty that trying to sleep together actually has a negative effect on our intimacy. Being tired and grouchy and resentful is certainly not a recipe for intimacy of any kind.

By the same token, if your marriage is a troubled one, sleeping together isn't going to fix that. I have a good friend whose marriage is really terribly unhealthy. They are horribly unkind and disrespectful to one another, but they sleep together. It's a crutch that both of them use to support the ideal that everything is a-okay. And I think that is where this judgement of non co-sleeping couples comes in. Those insecure in their own relationship can always fool themselves into apathy by using other marriages as a yardstick. "Well, at least we SLEEP together." Which makes perfect sense, because how can lying unconscious next to one another for eight hours not mean a healthy marriage?

If your husband snores, don't feel guilty about abandoning the marriage bed. I gaurantee you that it won't spell the end of your marriage. You might even find the opposite to be true. And don't sleep on the couch for the rest of your life either, telling yourself it's only temporary. It isn't and there is nothing wrong with creating your own space.

When our snoring problems first started, we lived in a one bedrooom apartment. The only place I had to go was the couch, where I didn't sleep well either. I was tired and grouchy all the time. Luckily, I got pregnant and we had to move. We bought a daybed with a really comfy mattress to put in the nursery and for the first time in many months I had a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. It was sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Now we live in a home large enough to have a room for each of us. The mattress on the king sized bed in the master bedroom is kind of the cadillac of mattresses, so we take turns. But either room provides a comfortable night's sleep.

Don't let this be your dirty little secret. It's okay. I promise. Sleep is good. Sleep is necessary. Sleep keeps us from ending up on the news because we stabbed our husband 237 times in a sleep deprived delusional rage.

If you're sleeping on the couch, go buy yourself a bed. Today. After 13 years, I feel pretty confident asserting that it will not spell d-i-v-o-r-c-e. But it will spell Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z.


  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    My husband snores too. I elbow him and say, "Roll over, honey" and he says, "I already did."


  • At 11:02 AM, Blogger Arwen said…

    I just blogged about this:
    well....similar, at least. I too have bene known not to sleep with Hubby.

  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger Thumper said…

    Nice to know we're not the only couple out there having to sleep in separate rooms because of freight train decible, wall shaking, incredible, frustrating, annoying snoring.

    My Spouse Thingy had the surgery. And then another. And then another. He still snores....loudly.

    When you live with someone who snores like that, you just about have no choice. Still, with or without snoring, what's the big deal? It's not like ya can't beat a path between the 2 bedroom doors...

  • At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No spouse to speak of here, but the message is deeper, as always BA. Marriage is about the how and the who as opposed to the what.

    Making any sense? I didn't do well at the marriage thing, so I'm taking notes! ;-)

  • At 2:50 PM, Blogger Bea said…

    This was such a stimulating post! I just read the opposite perspective over at Three Times Three and expressed my agreement in the comments, and now I find myself agreeing with you as well. (This is something I've been noticing about myself lately - the tendency to agree with whoever I'm reading, even when it's two positions that contradict one another.)

    But really there's no contradiction. Sleeping together can be a nice thing in a marriage, but sometimes the price is TOO HIGH. I myself have worried sometimes because I'm like you - I don't like anybody touching me when I'm trying to fall asleep. Does that mean there's a lack of intimacy in my marriage? But I read an article awhile ago about sleep styles - apparently many people NEED to sleep a certain way in order to fall asleep: some people need someone else to cuddle with, and others need to be on their own.

  • At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yeah, Erik snores--he has sleep apnea and a cpap machine. No surgery here, but even with that machine, which helps a lot, he makes a lot of noise at night.

    When I need to sleep in the guest room, I do; when I don't, I don't. YOu're right, it doesn't mean anything about how I feel about Erik. It's just that I'm an insomniac and I find it hard enough to sleep already, and when his cpap machine starts squeaking, it's either leave ... or kill him.

  • At 8:24 PM, Blogger Lisa said…

    Having lived on my own for many years and sleeping that way as well, I rather like it. As you mention, I need to wind down and decompress by reading and DH falls asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow. Some nights we sleep together okay (if Im really tired and don't need to chill a bit) but most nights we sleep in separate rooms.

    It bothered me for a while because it felt like a thing you shouldn't need to do if you're married. But you know, like you and your husband, it works for us. I am SLOWLY learning how to accept that some things are right for us and that's okay.

    Good post, as always.

  • At 8:26 PM, Blogger Karyn said…

    I. Feel. Faint.

    You have. Your OWN. Room.

    I am so jealous. So very jealous.

    My husband too, had his tonsils, adnoids, & uvula removed, as well as having his soft palette reduced. So much that food sometimes falls down his throat before he is ready to swallow it.

    And still.


    Or if he doesn't SNORE, he makes these "pffff" noises which threaten to drive me around the bend. Admittedly a short drive, but still. I slept on the couch for a long while.

    Now, I am so perpetually sleep deprived that I could sleep standing up in Times Square if they'd let me, so I manage, but sheesh. The freedom to turn the light on and off... to keep it neat... to keep blankets tucked in... to pretty it up or change the colors or whatever... wow.

    And emotionally satisfied on top of it all.

    You're doing something right.

  • At 9:46 PM, Blogger Rachelle said…

    Wonderful post and thanks for encouraging people to bring their dirty little secret out of the closet! I don't have a snoring husband, but I do have an unusual need for solitude.

    I'm married to a firefighter who works 24-hour shifts. So everytime he works, I get to sleep alone. And I LOVE it. I consider his job -- which gives me precious time to myself -- to be one of the greatest blessings of our marriage. Those times we sleep apart spell Z-z-z-z-z-z for us as well as b-l-i-s-s for me.

  • At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your post is enlightening and empowering. I agree that marriage is more about how you are together when you are both conscious rather than your physical proximity when you are asleep. Thanks for sharing and making such a touchy suject touching! My husband snores up a storm, but I sleep like the dead. We have a pact: as long as I get to fall alseep before him, all is good. He will even get up and stay awake for me until I fall asleep. Its about compromise and understanding, no matter how it works in the end. (P.S. At times the falling asleep in 3.4 seconds has made me want to get out the frying pan, just out of sheer jealousy! I hate that! How do they do that!)

  • At 5:07 AM, Blogger MommyHeadache said…

    I sleep apart from my husband too, and he doesn't even snore. I guess I just really really like my own space and don't like pulling the duvet back and forth. People always think its crazy that we sleep apart but let them think what they like, we're the one's getting a good night's sleep!

  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger Jaelithe said…

    Didn't this use to be the norm among middle and upper class westerners who could afford the space, a century ago, that married men and women had separate bedrooms and dressing rooms?

    I actually have grown so accustomed to having my husband in my bed with me that when he works late into the night and is not there to go to bed with me I have trouble sleeping.

    But he doesn't snore.

    My mother has sleep apnea and before she got treatment for it, she used to snore so loudly that you could hear her throughout the house even when her bedroom door was closed. The few times I had to share a hotel room or something with her as a teenager, I got NO SLEEP AT ALL. It was awful. I completely understand why someone would need a separate room!

  • At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey I don't sleep with my husband either! er...wait mine is for a different reason altogether...


  • At 11:36 PM, Blogger Debbie said…

    this is pure fucking poetry for me. I'm not kidding. I'm sorry I dropped the f-bomb, but I don't want to take it out - it gives proper emphasis to how strongly I feel about this post.

    thanks for encouraging the bedroom split. I'm gonna think about this. long and hard. tonight. while I'm awake from the snoring.

  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger Carolie said…

    I adore my husband. He adores me. And we keep it that way by not sleeping in the same room. MUCH happier all the way around.

    (And to be probably more graphic than necessary--bedroom gymnastics are always in HIS room, so I can then go to my nice, smooth, unrumpled, clean sheets, since I really care about that, and he doesn't!)

  • At 1:23 PM, Blogger Carolie said…

    p.s.--that was our only premarital matter where we live, no matter what, I get MY OWN ROOM. It will not be the laundry room, the utility shed, the kitchen. It's my own room, with a bed and a chair and a window and books and a door that I can close. He gets his own space as well. As a result, we love being together, because we both know we have the OPTION to be alone!


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