How To Share A Bed With Someone Without Wanting To Axe Murder Them
The Debrief: After all, humans weren't designed to share a bed every night - which is why all those 19th Century aristos had separate chambers and just met up twice a week for a quick shag
Do you want to know what my favourite 70s trend is? You probably don’t care, but I shall tell you anyway: SEXY COHABITING! Sharing a bed every night with someone you’re not married to still thrills my old-fashioned sensibilities. The idea of hot, hairy couples thinking, ‘Hey, let’s go splitskies on rent and then we’ll have money for more cheesecloth, which is great because we keep renting our garments as we can’t stop having mad rumpy!’
The idea of regular pillow sharing should feel so wild and exciting that you want to ring up the Daily Mail, put on a deep voice and say, ‘Send a photographer. Them at number 32 can’t stop flaunting their unmarried bliss! We’re disgusted!’ before popping out for a quick hump in the privet hedge.
However, the reality of sharing a bed with someone night after night is not a series of plotlines from a retro scandal-packed sitcom, but a series of conversations that start, ‘Baby, can you not?’ ‘Can you not get pen all over the pillows?’ ‘Can you not eat toast on my side of the bed?’ ‘Can you not sleep diagonally in a way that disproves Pythagoras’ theorem because you somehow fill every angle and there’s no fucking room for my hypotenuse?’
Here’s the thing: I utterly bloody love living with my boyfriend. I genuinely open my eyes with delight every morning and think, ‘Hurrah! You’re still in the same bed as me!’ Our domestic life is pretty chill. However, I know this is, like the Lotto, largely down to luck and timing.
It isn’t our first soft furnishings rodeo. He’s a grown up, he’s lived with girls before, he’s very adult about the stupid stuff that can kill a perfectly good partnership, like thread count, fabric conditioner and the idea that the duvet cover and the duvet must be used at the same time, one is not an optional accessory.
And I’m… probably terrible to live with. But I like cooking, and do everything I can to make sure I can’t be accused of never making the bed, and I recently made a ‘lip balm chest’ which is almost as good as having a house first aid kit.
However, I’ve lived with guys where their presence is like a pressing on my chest. When the first think I think when I see them next to me in the morning is, ‘WHY. ARE. YOU. STILL. HERE?’ Guys who filled every available inch of under-the-bed space with video games (HAI TOM.) Guys who, once rental contracts had been signed, came out and revealed they were human-Gremlin hybrids with a total aversion to showers, baths and water – both linen and limbs went unwashed.
Guys who made me embrace the neglected practice of writing letters by hand, just so that I always had something to leap out of bed and post when I was on the brink of screaming, ‘I CANNOT BE IN HERE WITH YOU FOR ANOTHER SECOND, LISTENING TO YOU GRINDING HULA HOOPS ON YOUR BACK MOLARS.’
Cohabiting is hard. There are no set rules, just a series of compromises that will feel easy or difficult depending on how you were brought up, how your partner was raised, what you like to keep in your fridge and under your bed, and your respective attitudes to oral hygiene, scented candles, cuddly toys and cushions.
But you can make sure your likes and dislikes align, and that discovering their drool on your pillow first thing in the morning does not drive you to despair or result in you throwing their pants and shoes out of the window. Here’s how.
Have the grace to accept what they cannot change
Sharing a sleeping space with someone is an amazing, if frustrating demonstration of what the subconscious is capable of. You’re allowed to get annoyed with someone who repeatedly leaves dirty pants at the bottom of the sheets, spills coffee over your one posh, white, not-from-Primark duvet cover and won’t apologise or put a wash on, or periodically leaves the remains of a ham sandwich in a pillowcase. (If it’s a whole, edible sandwich that still has all the ham in it, they might actually be a keeper.)
But snoring, stealing bedclothes, creeping over to your side in the night – it’s annoying, and nobody does that on purpose.
You might be able to stop them from doing it, but you need to treat the problem with compassion, empathy and tolerance. Remember that whatever it feels like at four in the morning, they are not making vacuum cleaner noises purely to wind you up.
Relationship expert Clare Hill explains, ‘Sleep is so important to us that if we’re deprived of it, and we’re tired, we’re going to deal with our problems in an angry or emotional way. But it’s vital that you remember it’s your problem, and if you’re asking your partner to fix a sleep issue you’re asking them for help, not berating them.’
If you’re pissed off, they’re pissed off
Sometimes when you’re living with your partner or just spending a lot of time with them, you’ll be infuriated by one of their habits and they will be cheerfully oblivious to it – and as soon as you mention it, it’s fixed. Usually, if you’ve got strong, negative feelings about something they’re doing, they’re equally angry when you do the opposite.
Clare says, ‘It’s about getting the balance between compromise and being a doormat. Just reminding yourself that there is no “right” way to do anything helps you chill out a bit, but if you feel like your partner is always “getting their way” and you make all the sacrifices you’re going to be angry and resentful. If you’re bothered about bedtimes, bathroom hogging, general domestic routines, frame a change in a positive way.’
That means, ‘I’d really love it if I could be first in the bathroom on Wednesdays because I always have a big meeting first thing’ not ‘I HATE it when you spend an hour in the shower, while using my spendy shampoo as shower gel and singing the Budapest song when you only know the bits that go “Ooooooh!”’ For example.
Remember they’re a room mate
Familiarity breeds contempt. When you’re sharing a bed, you’re constantly close and intimate enough to feel like you’re extensions of the same human. Baby, you don’t know where they end and you begin. That can be incredibly romantic, but it can also mean that you fail to extend basic courtesies to them and treat them as some kind of irritating, skin shedding organism, screaming when they won’t stop sniffing instead of offering them a tissue.
Clare says, ‘Sometimes people come to me and ask why they can’t get on with their partner when they have good relationships with friends and colleagues. It’s usually because they need to bring some boundaries back. Intimacy doesn’t work unless it’s combined with basic politeness.’
You can have a night off
What’s the best way to bring sexy back? Stop sleeping together! A night away from each other can change everything if you feel like you’re on the point of pretending to fall asleep and then leaping on top of each other and smothering each other with pillows. Go and see your mum, see if you can get sent on a work trip, ask a mate if you can come over for a retro sleepover – one night off and you’ll be on each other like Burton and Taylor, doing sexy dances with sleeping caps and vowing that you’ll never fight again.
Clare says, ‘We weren’t built to share beds for long periods of time. If you look back a few hundred years, members of the aristocracy always had separate bedrooms. They visited each other in the night but the actual sleeping was supposed to be a solo activity. If you need the odd night off, it’s nothing to worry about, and it’s probably going to strengthen your relationship in the long run.’
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Picture: Eylul Aslan
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