The Two-Blanket Marriage: Who Says Couples Always Have to Share?

We get conditioned to think that marriage means there must be either agreement or compromise on all issues -- that having exactly what you want is something only single people do.

Oct 4, 2011 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

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Someone in my marriage, and I’m not saying it’s my husband, is a blanket thief.

I’m not saying it’s my husband largely because I’m pretty sure it’s not -- I like to sleep wadded up in at least two comforters and I wouldn’t put it past me to yank them off some unsuspecting bedmate. But the point is, I can’t even remember for sure that I’m the one with the bad nighttime manners, because since nearly the beginning of the relationship we’ve parceled out our blankets: one for you, one (or preferably two) for me.

When we moved in together, we eventually got a bigger bed, but we just piled it up with our pre-relationship individual blankets. We never make the bed anyway, so who cares -- although we do have a single unifying bedspread, in the unlikely event that the room has to look nice for some reason.

Basically, we could wrestle for blanket dominance every night, and probably be cold and pissed by turns. Or we could just take what worked for us before marriage -- one person, one blanket (OR PREFERABLY TWO) -- and translate it into a context where we live together and love each other and share certain legal rights and responsibilities but are not required, technically, to sleep under the same bed covering.

That’s pretty much how things go around here. There are a lot of things we brought into the marriage that we don’t feel the need to share -- not just belongings, but space and thoughts and time alone. Marriage, for us, is about making our new bed together with the same separate blankets we always had.

It doesn’t have to be blankets, obviously. My parents’ two blankets are actually two tubes of toothpaste, because my dad squeezes from the middle and it makes my mom mental. They could bicker about it like a sitcom couple, but they prefer to just spend the extra $3.25, because like us they believe that not every fight needs to be won and not every dry good needs to be jointly owned. (And, kayn ahora, it’s working for them -- 38 years last June!)

When I told my therapist about this, he sheepishly admitted to me that he and his husband had fought, over the course of several grocery runs, about whether they should buy soy milk or regular milk. He’d put his foot down and said “I don’t like soy milk, and I DO like cow milk, and if I’m going shopping, you’re going to drink what I buy.” It hadn’t actually occurred to him that he was allowed to just buy a quart of each.

Those guys have been together for way longer than my husband and I. We get conditioned to think that marriage means there must be either agreement or compromise on all issues -- that having exactly what you want is something only single people do.

Of course, there are areas where keeping things separate for the sake of harmony is expensive, or prohibitive in some other way. I’d love to have my own shower so the drain would always be clean, because hair clots give me the screaming meemies if they’re not dealt with the instant the water’s turned off. But getting a separate shower is a sight more difficult than getting a separate blanket, so okay, the odd meemie is a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.

Other things aren’t our fight. I could hardly care less where the toothpaste is squeezed, for instance, so we happily cohabitate with our single tube. We share a car, which many couples don’t, and we have no problem splitting maintenance using the formula of “who can bribe the other person into going to Jiffy Lube this time.” (It’s right next to a water ice stand, which is my main trump card.)

But then there are the blankets, and the laptops (do not TOUCH mine), and the closets (that’s where my STUFF is), and the laundry (okay, this one’s not about me being prickly, it’s just that he does a lot of soldering and if we combine our laundry I end up with bits of wire in my underwear).

And the space, of course -- he has a room that’s all his, and I have an office, although I spend much of my time in the living room, sometimes wearing a special hat that says “WRITING” on it so he knows I’m writing.

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It’s cool. Those things can be mine, and their counterparts can be his, and we don’t have to share them or meld them and the marriage won’t implode. We just have to declare them on the same taxes, is all.

Maybe this all sounds unromantic, to which I say “Damn right it is unromantic.” The notion of knitting two hearts into one breast is very nice as a concept for an Etsy store, but it is not an excellent recipe for a relationship. At least, not for a relationship that doesn’t drive you up a wall in short order. Think for a second about two people becoming one. Think about it really hard. Doesn’t it sound... sticky?

A better option, in my opinion: two people who like to live together and do stuff and have sex and make dinner and maybe have a pet or a child if that’s your thing, but who do not actually climb inside each other at any point. Two people with two lives that intersect mightily but are still a Venn diagram, not some fully integrated circle. Two blankets, one bed. Two laptops, one couch. Two tubes of toothpaste and one medicine cabinet, if you like. Two people, one partnership.