Thursday, April 10, 2014

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My Wife Sleeps In The Living Room



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I woke up just after midnight because Mel was moving things around in the closet. The room was dark, and she was using her cell phone for light. She was seven months pregnant with our third child. With the previous two children, I got used to her getting up in the night for one reason or another. With Tristan, our oldest, it was because her sciatic nerve was giving her pain. And with Norah, it was because the baby wouldn’t stop wiggling in the night. But with Aspen, our yet to be born little girl, it’s been a mix of things.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m going to sleep in the living room,” she said.

She was obviously looking for the air mattress.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I can’t sleep on the bed. It’s hurting my hips and my back. And…” She paused for a moment. Took a breath. “You’re snoring. It’s too loud. I can’t take it anymore.”

Although I knew that she’d had a difficult time with her hip and her back because of the pregnancy, I looked past all of that and focused on my snoring. I felt like a leper or something. Like I had this contagious sickness that made me so unfit to be around that even my wife refused to sleep next to me.

She found the air mattress and was dragging it into the living room. I helped her gather blankets and pillows. And then I went back to bed. I was, more or less, half awake the whole time. But I do recall having two thoughts before I drifted off again.

One: This bed is huge and lonely.

Mel and I have been married for almost 10 years and it’s unusual for me to be in our bed alone. I didn’t like it.

Second: There is no way she is going to sleep out there all night. She will miss having me by her side.

I got up just before 6AM like I always do and wandered down the hall and into the living room. The air mattress looked like a large dark block on the floor, and there was Mel curled up in the middle of it. I leaned down, kissed her, and said, “goodbye,” before I left. She stirred, and I expected her to mention how poorly she slept in the living room. I anticipated her saying something to the tune of, “Oh… I missed your warmth. I missed the comfort of your body next to mine. I’m never sleeping out here again. It was a horrible decision.”

The main reason I assumed she’d say all these things was because that how I felt most of the night. I was cold and had to get up and change into some warm sweat pants and long sleeve shirt. The bed felt huge and lonely without her.

I didn’t sleep well.

But she didn’t. Instead Mel turned, kissed me, and said, “This was a wonderful idea. It was quiet and cozy, like I was sleeping on a cloud.”

That day at work I watched a video online and the commercial before it was for a mouthpiece that prevented snoring. It showed a woman elbowing her husband in the night because of his snoring. Then she got up, angrily, and slept in another room. The woman in the video acted like her husband’s snoring was intentional. Like he did it just to piss her off. I can’t recall this ever happening before, but in that moment I thought, “This commercial is my life!” I almost bought the product, but it seemed really cheaply made and it didn’t have very good reviews, so I decided against it.

But what really hit home for me was the way the woman acted in the commercial. Sometimes I feel like Mel sees my snoring as a personal attack against her, or something I do just to get under her skin. Like it’s something that I could change, but just don’t want too.

This is definitely not the case.

I went to a doctor about it, and he made it sound like overcoming snoring was hopeless, and that the real problem was my wife. He recommend that I get a sleep study because he was worried I might have sleep apnea, but he didn’t recommend anything to stop the noise. He just said that Mel needed to get used to it.

I’ve been using nose strips, which are irritating and itchy and don’t make much of a difference. Mel has suddenly become interested in essential oils, which I think are something similar to snake oil, the fraudulent health products from the 20s. Naturally there is an oil for snoring. In fact, I’m surprised there isn’t an anti gravity oil. But despite how I feel about essential oils, and that I think the snoring oil smells wretched, I’ve been using it because Mel asked me to. I’ve been eating better and working out more in an effort to lose weight. I’ve heard that can help, but it takes time. I’m going to keep trying different solutions and keep hoping for the best.

Looking at it from Mel’s prospective, I have to assume that it’s difficult to sleep next to someone who sounds like a lovesick blue whale in the night. This just seems to be one of those cliché and ridiculous things that married couples have to overcome.

I came home from work and the air mattress was still in the living room. Mel’s blankets and pillows were still on it. I suppose I had naively assumed that this was a one-night thing. Clearly I was wrong.

“How long do you plan to sleep in the living room?” I asked.

Mel shrugged. Clearly she didn’t know. “I slept great last night,” she said a singsong kind of voice. “My back and hips feel better. I didn’t have to listen to your snoring. It was amazing.”

That night, I went to sleep alone, again. And it’s been like that for the past three nights. I don’t know how long it will be this way. Probably at least until we have the baby. And I wonder if, during the next few months, we will get used to sleeping alone, and have to get used to sleeping together again. Hopefully during that time I will find a solution to my snoring. Maybe I won’t. Maybe we will sleep apart for the rest of our marriage.

I suppose it sounds scandalous to say that my wife sleeps in another room. It sounds like we are fighting. But we’re not. No one has done anything wrong. We still love each other. But I suppose what bothers me the most about this whole situation is that it feels like I’ve done something wrong. It’s funny how much I’ve taken for granted sleeping next to Mel, and only now that she sleeps in the living room, do I realize how much I miss having her next to me. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley