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I Can't Bring Myself to Sleep With My Wife

Photograph by Twenty20

It started over a year ago. I was very ill, somewhat fragile and prone to becoming sick in the night. I had to sleep on a special inclined pillow and spent most of the wee hours hacking, choking and wondering if I would live to see the morning. I didn't sleep much, and my restlessness was taking its toll on my wife, not because she had a lack of sensitivity, but because she had to get up early. Then one night, she never came to bed at all. She had fallen asleep in the guest room, surrounded by books and cats, and sleeping like she had never slept before.

The next night we didn't even pretend that we were both going to the same bedroom. She stayed on the extra bed, which, for the record, is much more comfortable than our regular one, and I resumed my routine of pacing, puking and crying softly in the moonlight.

It was a pretty good system.

Eventually, after treatment and surgery, I was able to sleep soundly again. For a while, we returned to the traditional scenario of sharing sheets and all that goes with it.

We hated it.

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I broke first. There are things I don't care for about the master bedroom, specifically that the master bath is home to the litter box. While the smell has, on occasion, been enough to stir the soundest sleep, it is the scratching of cat on plastic, for lengths of time that seem totally unnecessary, that really drives me crazy. In addition, my wife enjoys falling asleep beneath the glow of television's warm embrace, the saccharine overacting of shows from a network that should stick to greeting cards. Me? I prefer the sounds of silence.

Also, she snores.

So it was that I soon found myself stopping mid-hallway, armed with my wedge pillow and a bit of light reading, to enjoy the give of the comfy bed. I could hear the TV fading well into the night.

Perhaps our sleeping apart is a little unconventional, and it may not even be permanent.

Speaking of which, for much of television's early history we were led to believe that couples maintained separate beds (and that bathrooms didn't have toilets), this despite the fact that the very first sitcom, "Mary Kay and Johnny," had the pair sleeping together like "normal" people. Hollywood, however, prudish as it is, portrayed many couples—namely marquee matchups like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (or Bert and Ernie)—as saying goodnight from across the nightstand, not a pillow. It would take years before multi-person beds became the accepted norm. It took a little longer for toilets.

We think Hollywood may have been on to something.

Of course, the implication is that a shared bed is one of intimacy. But as most people with kids, long days and a world of stress will tell you, the majority of intimacy happening on any given weeknight is relegated to bodily functions that are generally non-sexual in nature and context. Remember, romance can happen anywhere, and it doesn't have a bedtime.

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Perhaps our sleeping apart is a little unconventional, and it may not even be permanent. But we can't argue with the results—both of us are getting some of the best sleep we've had in years, with room to stretch and no fighting over covers. That's a pretty sweet goodnight if ever there was one, and we are all the better come morning.

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