The Marriage Bed


The vows are spoken. The rings are exchanged. The birdseed is flung, usually with enough force to raise welts on the bride’s neck. The newlywed couple climbs into their oh-so-tastefully decorated car and drives away into Happily Ever After. They make a quick stop in an exotic vacation spot, get matching sunburns, and finally return home to real life and a whole world of new adjustments.

Who handles the bills? Where will we spend holidays? How do we split up the housework? What do we do when we fight? Premarital counseling and couples classes abound to help the newly married navigate their way through these changes and decisions.

Sadly, however, most of these classes fail to address the one question that comes up each and every night of married life: how do we sleep together?

I’m not talking about s-e-x (or, as one of Paul’s more archaic college professors famously called it, “sexmaking.”) No, it’s way more pressing than that. I’m talking about the down-and-dirty logistics of two different people finding a comfortable way to catch their Zs night after night in the same bed.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. Maybe it was easy for you. You and your spouse collapsed into bed together on that very first night and woke up eight hours later with your hair attractively tousled and a goofy, well-rested smile on your face. But for countless others, the day after the wedding started with a bleary glance at the clock, a sleep deprived shudder, and a semi-hostile glance at the object of their recently-pledged affections to check and see if he or she had actually grown extra elbows and knees during the night.

I remember running into one such soul in the Student Center one day. Paul and I had just gotten engaged, and we were devoting this particular morning to gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes over cokes and a shared croissant. Suddenly, along came our friend Barry*, who ignored the stars in our eyes and plopped haphazardly down in the chair next to us. Barry and June had recently been married themselves, and we could not imagine how this wobbling, glazy-eyed creature could be the product of what was surely a blissful married life.

“What’s up?” Paul asked.

Barry raised his eyes to us and confessed, “I haven’t slept at all since the wedding.”

Paul and I cast arch grins at each other.

“No, no—it’s not what you think,” said Barry. We waited, nonplussed, for the explanation.

“It just that…well, June likes to cuddle. And I need my space, you know? I’m not used to sleeping with someone else. And…well…I-can’t-sleep-because-June’s-butt-is-always-touching-me!” he ended in a rush.

Paul and I very supportively burst into laughter. We continued to fail at suppressing our giggles while Barry described long nights of frustration wherein the sleeping June snuggled closer and closer to the desperate Barry until he was nearly falling on the floor in his constant quest for room to spread out.

We never heard anything more on that front, and, since the two are still happily married, I can only assume that they worked out some sort of mutually agreeable arrangement. A table tennis net down the center of the bed, perhaps?

This issue of space comes up a lot among married couples. Sometimes even the most loving and affectionate pair needs room to spread out before they can achieve peaceful slumber. Many of our friends and family members have ended up buying a king-size bed to accommodate these individual real estate requirements.

Paul and I are an anomaly among the people we know in that we’ve eschewed the king-size bed in favor of first a full-size and now a queen-size bed, which we love. We’ve slept on king-size mattresses before on vacations and while visiting people, but to a couple of cuddlers like us, it feels akin to sleeping in the vast emptiness of the Sahara desert, where the two of us crawl around all night like thirsty pilgrims looking for water that’s always just out of reach.

We’ve gone through many incarnations of our sleep positions, but somehow we always wind up touching, from me carelessly tossing my leg across both of his to him falling asleep with his hand resting on my pregnant belly. Currently we’re doing a classic spoon, flipping back and forth to take turns throughout the night at being the “big spoon.” (Although, personally, I like being the little spoon. I’ve never quite figured out what the big spoon is supposed to do with her arms.)

Anyway, with all the potential for hidden resentments and mounting health problems that accompany poor marital sleep habits, I think this is an issue that bears discussing in all those marriage preparation courses. It’s at least as important as who balances the checkbook. Or how holidays are celebrated. Or whether the husband rinses out his milk glass when he puts it in the sink instead of making his wife chip dried up milk particles out of the bottom of the glass with a wire brush.

You know, stuff like that.

*Names changed to protect those who would like to remain married.

20 responses »

  1. how could you have posted at 11:29 pm when it is now only 11:10 pm? are you in some type of time warp? Official NaBloPoMo problem solved.

  2. Ha! No…I actually started this post a couple of days ago, and then shelved it. I finished it up today and went to post it, but had to change the time stamp to today in order for it to show up at the top of the blog. When I did that, I only changed the date, not the time–I must have been working on it later in the evening that night when I saved it as a draft.

    All that to say: boy, you’re nosy. ;P

  3. A king-size bed might not be big enough for us, because I flip and flop all night. Unfortunately, we have to stick with a queen-size because our room isn’t that big.

    Actually, the bed size wouldn’t matter that much if the kids would just stay out of it. Four people in one bed makes for a fitful night!

  4. Just last night I think I “whacked” (lovingly of course) my husband three or four times saying, roll over… you’re snoring. Now my gentle suggestions at two and three o’clock in the morning are as much for my son as they are for me… I mean who wants to get up with an 18 month old who’s been woken up by daddy if they don’t have to? 🙂 But I think our sleeping issues were at their worst at the tail end of my pregnancy. Imagine it… a eight/nine month pregnant woman, full sized bed, Texas summer heat in August, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty 🙂 but we made it through. I love the creativity of your posts! You have a true gift!

  5. we are Non-Touchers.

    in fact, if by some fluke, we touch sweetly in the moments before we drift off to sleep, we hold the position for a few secons, and then one of us always says “mmmkay. i am moving now. love-you-g’night.”

    we have a king sized bed and could fit two people between us, so intent we are upon not touching!

  6. You know how they solved this in the old days? Separate beds in separate rooms — that’s what one set of my grandparents did anyhow.

  7. We are cuddlers most of the time. BUT, we still have to have a king size bed. You know, to accomodate the dog. Or, an early-rising child. Or those times when, even though we love each other, we have to be cuddling only in the sense that maybe the only parts of us “cuddling” are our feet.

  8. I agree, the king size bed is too big. In our perfect sized queen size bed, we start out cuddling, but separate, but don’t mind a leg and foot touch now and then. My husband and I do premarital counseling at our church. Maybe we should add this to our curriculum!!

  9. Thanks for coming over to kelloggbloggin and reading about the alcohol/jet lagged addled guy in the London pub. It was sweet of you to recall Warwick Castle…I, too, enjoyed it there and I think (it’s been almost 30 years), I think a person could climb the interior stairs to the top of a tower there and revel in a spectular view of the countryside.

    About being a home body. I do think if I were in the North Idaho area and blogfest were happening when I was up visiting, it would be drawing on the strength of InlandEmpireGirl and Silver Valley Girl that would guarantee my presence at the party. I’d be okay once I got there, but I am pretty shy around people I haven’t met and it would be hard for me to go alone. It sounded like a lot of fun.

  10. I love your new picture on the header at the top. The flowers are so colorful. We are queen-sized bed folks…just the right size for us… especially if I sneak in for a Sunday afternoon nap with two dogs and a cat!

  11. My wife Jessica and I sleep on a queen size bed which was given to us upon taking the vows and on top of that the box spring was broken when we got it so needless to say there were a few obstacles to overcome. My wife often has trouble sleeping, I think I’ve blogged about that before.. Anyway, I’m a very inconsiderate sleeper in that I sleep very soundly, take all the blankets, kick and prod said wife, and generally ignore her efforts to cuddle with me and turn toward the wall in an unconscious, angry grumbly manner. I’m sorry, but can a person be blamed for what they do in their sleep? I think not.

  12. Umm, this is totally a problem that I’ve had with my last boyfriend. I cannot sleep with another person in the bed. So, I bought a bigger bed. Problem solved. I slept soooo much better. I still woke up a lot when he moved but got so much more sleep that I was excited. Now, I don’t have to worry about that.

  13. I am 5’10, Tim is 6’2, and yet we somehow managed to comfortably sleep in a full size bed for seven of our ten years of marriage….and we are NOT cuddlers while we sleep. We graduated to the queen mattress, but would have gone to the king if our bedroom was big enough. Sweet post, Katrina…very sweet. 🙂

  14. Michael & I started out married-life with a Queen, moved up to a King, then somehow ended up in a Full – I know exactly how it happened, but no time for stories here. We finally graduated back to a King and I refuse to sleep in anything less when I have any control over the situation. Neither of us like to touch, and, in fact, do not even use the same covers. I sleep under the sheet and will use the comforter during colder nights, he wraps himself into the comforter and kicks the sheet to the bottom of bed. So, even when we ‘snuggle’ (and by snuggle I mean those brief 2 minutes when we’re trying to be sweet to one another right before entering the Land of Knod) we don’t because there is always at least a thin sheet between us 🙂

  15. The big spoon is supposed to put her arm around the little spoon’s waist. I always feel weird being the big spoon, since it seems more of a masculine role, but sometimes you have to roll over!

  16. (By the way, the other arm that’s left under you is kind of just in the way. Put it wherever it’s the least uncomfortable — between you and the “little spoon,” behind you or under your head are all options.)

  17. I’m late to the party on this post… but… this is one of the best blog posts I have ever read! Such a hot topic that never gets discussed. As for me… I’m a partial cuddler. I don’t mind my significant other cuddling around my upper body, but my legs have to be free to stretch out. Fortunately for me, my wife is a 10-minute cuddler. After that, sleep takes over and we go to our respective corners. However, in the morning we seem to have switched corners during the night. Weird?!

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