I’ve lived with my boyfriend for exactly five weeks and one day. It’s a nightmare.
For years, I fantasized about moving in with my man. I dreamed of moving in with my boyfriend before I even had a boyfriend. There were many reasons for my eagerness to cohabitate: Investment cookware! A line of defense between my sleeping body and the murderer at the front door! Someone to teach me how to use a remote control! Someone to use the remote control for me when teaching me to use the remote control is a failure!
But mostly, I was looking forward to sharing with him. I’m not referring to sharing my life with him, exactly -- that’s what marriage is for. Rather, I had visions of sharing things: I saw a packed refrigerator, with my soy creamer nestled up against his two-percent milk; my strawberries sharing a drawer with his cut cantaloupe. I couldn’t wait for the day when I would take inventory of our joint paper goods and send him a text message, telling him that we’re all set on paper towels, but would he mind popping by CVS for some Quilted Northern on his way home? (I would do it myself, I would tell him, but I’m all tied up separating our whites…)
In my mind, this exchange also involved me calling him “babe.” That’s a term I’ve never before used, but I’m assuming people who live together and argue over who uses more toilet paper refer to each other as “babe.”
And then there’s the ultimate in sharing -- sharing a bed. In my innocent, pre-actual-bed-sharing fantasies of living together, there were many advantages to bunking up. I was naturally pretty stoked about the prospect of a permanent sex partner, but the intercourse portion of the program is not brand-new territory. People have sex before they live together. Sex is sex. So, more than that, I was besotted with the idea of constant overnight companionship.
According to my shacked-up friends, the best part of living with a boyfriend is the fact that no matter what you’re doing during the day, no matter how busy one or both of you become, you always come home to your loved one. It’s so comforting to feel their warm body next to you every night, they told me. I just sleep better knowing he’s next to me.
That’s all very sweet. But they were lying.
Until the day my boyfriend and I moved in, we were in a long-distance relationship and shared a bed only on weekends. Ah, those long, lovely, weekend nights. We would fall into bed at the same time and cuddle up to chat about which furless animal would make the best pet -- a salamander? an iguana? a sea turtle? Would a sea turtle be capable of eating a baby’s head? -- until we drifted off to sleep. When the morning dawned, we would laze in bed for as long as our tuckered-out little bodies desired, then wake up slowly, with nothing to worry about except whether there was cheddar cheese in the refrigerator for breakfast sandwiches.
In those halcyon days, time was of little concern. If I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30, what did it matter? Tomorrow is Sunday! Besides, I had all week of a bed to myself to catch up on the sleep.
To think, I actually used to consider it cute that he couldn’t fall asleep without old episodes of “30 Rock” blaring from the laptop on his nightstand. His snoring made me happy because it meant he was getting a deep sleep after a week of hard work. His preference for keeping his bedroom the approximate temperature of the meat refrigerator at the wholesale grocer was fine by me, largely because I never had to face the doom of stepping out from his mountain of cozy covers at 6 a.m. to get ready for work. On weekday mornings, I was emerging from my own bed into my own warm bedroom after eight hours of beautiful, uninterrupted sleep.
Then I moved in with my boyfriend. As it turns out, surviving a Sunday after a night of co-sleeping is a whole lot easier than surviving a Wednesday. At least, that’s the truth when your live-in boyfriend is a television-addicted insomniac who suffers from the twin maladies of nocturnal body spasms and incessant sheet adjustment.
Of course, there are two sides to every story. He would say that I’m a bed-hogging drooler with a tendency to set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., hit snooze three times, and sleep through the fourth alarm until it wakes him up and he’s then the thing that has to wake me up. And he would be right. He would also correctly tell you that I’m prone to night terrors, which consist of making disturbing ghost/zombie noises in my sleep that grow louder and louder in volume until the sounds puncture his sleep and he’s the one who makes up screaming and terrified.
Neither of us are resting easy. Case in point: This past Sunday night, I was exhausted from a long weekend of worrying about what I would do if I wasn’t able to sleep during the coming week. I crawled into bed at 10:30 p.m., hoping to fall into a deep sleep before my boyfriend returned home from watching the game at his friend’s house.
No such luck. Ten minutes after I got into bed, he sauntered into the bedroom. He tried to be quiet and change into his pajamas without turning on the light, bless his heart. But problems arose when he climbed into bed. That’s when the thrashing began. His nightly pattern involves shifting his sleeping position into at least a dozen different contortions before he finally calms down. Then, about seven minutes later, just as I’m starting to drift off again, the process starts over. And it’s not only the mattress that’s moving, it’s the sheets and covers underneath and on top of me.
Share a house, share a bed, share all of your boyfriend’s body movements forever and ever until the end of time...
So there I am on Sunday night, lying on my side of the bed, facing the wall, doing deep breathing and trying to remind myself to BE NICE. He has to be comfortable, too. He has to sleep, too. It’s just…why can’t he sleep in a more cooperative manner?
After the fourth cycle of aggressive position-shifting from the other side of the bed, I started silently debating with myself. Is this a choose-your-battles situation? Do we need to get twin beds? Or do I ask him to settle down? Those were the actual words I wanted to use: “Honey, please settle down. It’s time to go to sleep.” I shot down that phrasing when I realized it sounded like I was admonishing a child.
Finally, when I couldn’t take the constant movement, I turned over and asked him to please stop thrashing, except without the “please” part.
When he didn’t respond, I poked him. It’s possible that he had fallen asleep and I was waking him up to tell him to go to sleep.
“Did you hear me? I told you to stop thrashing.”
“Nope, I definitely didn’t hear you. If I had, I would have told you to shut your mouth and also to stop trying to cuddle me while I’m sleeping.”
I wasn’t trying to cuddle with him. My body must have been involuntarily touching his. And that’s when I had an epiphany. He had been lying there quietly, slightly irritated by my bed-hogging tendencies, and he was keeping his mouth shut. He was letting me do me, because he's a considerate boyfriend and a stand-up guy.
Which makes me...a complete bitch.
My annoyance with his tendency to fidget has very little to do with the actual fidgeting, and everything to do with the impatient, self-indulgent side of my personality (it lies dormant most of the time, but when it's awakened, boyfriend beware). There's a valuable lesson to be learned here: As with most arguments between couples, the irritation isn't really related to the thing that's ostensibly causing the irritation; it's related to the attempt to mesh two different personalities into a relationship and two different bodies into a double bed.
In the end, there's nobody I'd rather mesh with than the guy who lies in bed next to me every night. If the fidgeting went away, it would be because he and his restless limbs went away -- and that would be the biggest nightmare of all.