When we were youngsters, we kids used to pile into our parents’ bed in the mornings, all four of us. When they put a television in their room, my sister and I frequented it even more as we used to watch “The Early Show” movies after school and “One Step Beyond” before going to sleep. So my parents bought a king sized bed to accommodate our loving family. We fit better but they both complained bitterly that it as too big for them when they slept, they couldn’t find one another in the vastness.
When I began menopause, even my husband’s knee cap in close proximity to my body set me off in a heat flash. His arm resting lightly over my middle triggered one in mere seconds. Although he enjoys when I toss all the covers off, raise my arms above my head, spread my legs apart for maximum cooling, as he gazes and fantasizes, knowing he will benefit not one bit from the exposure, I tell him, “Don’t touch me, not one finger!” No, I don’t tell him, I yell it to him.
We do not sleep in a king sized bed, nor a queen sized bed, but a double. Most nights it feels like a 3/4’s bed or even a twin.
When menopause began, I told him, “We’ve got to figure a way to get a queen sized bed into this tiny bedroom. You are too close to me. I have no room.”
He let it slide. One of his great marriage fears is that the day will come when I will want to sleep separately. He is astonished how many of our friends have been doing that for years. Not because they have ceased loving each other but because their husband’s snoring is beyond belief. Couple that with the wife’s menopause and erratic sleep habits, it is a recipe for horrible fatigue. The husband often is kicked out and goes and finds his own bed. I have one friend who sleeps separately during the week so she can get a good night’s sleep in order to do a good job as a teacher, (her husband sleeps in and works at home) and they sleep together on the weekends and indulge in fun and games then.
The only time Todd and I sleep separately is when one of us is pretty sick- hacking and coughing and spewing mucous particles into the air of our tiny bed and bedroom, then the well person finds another bed for a few nights.
My symptoms of menopause came on late and were pretty short lived, fortunately for both me and Todd. He did not have to get a bigger bed. He did learn to inch as far over on his own side without falling off in order to make me happy, when I needed him away. But otherwise, we sleep touching, knees, parallel legs, always fall asleep holding hands. Always, even in a tent in sleeping bags.
The snoring issue has not gone away, however, but has gotten increasingly worse as I have heard from many middle aged couples. I told him about a neoprene strap I saw on the internet that hooks over your chin and around your ears which holds the mouth closed. He in turn told me of a headband the wife can wear to block out sounds. We have yet to work out this issue. I threaten separating but they are idle threats at this point.
He told me the other day after hearing a piece on NPR- “You know happiness in a marriage can be measured by how close couples sleep with one another, how much they touch. Couples who sleep three inches from one another are the happiest.” He made me smile. That’s exactly the amount of space we have from one another if we are trying to get away- not very far. You cannot go to sleep mad either in this home, especially with this wife who makes you stay up and talk until it is ironed out, even if it is 3 am when it is resolved and you have to get up for work in the morning. Priorities. No one would ever be allowed to LEAVE the bed because of anger either. That is grounds for dialing a marriage counselor in the morning. There are lines each marriage draws.
My husband and I have not been without our marriage challenges over the course of the last 30+ years we have been together. Any couple who doesn’t admit to that is not being honest and honesty is extremely important in a successful marriage. One of the things that makes our marriage successful I believe is that we both allow the other to follow their own personal dreams and support them in it. We still have plenty that we do share. When I signed a contract to write a new guidebook entitled “Best Day Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in the Mid-Atlantic” and needed to hike 40 hikes, I did not MAKE him carve time out of his busy life to go along. I found other friends to keep me company and that was okay. Yesterday however, he was at a place with his chainsaw carving work that he could easily get away and did not want to start anything new, so he said he’d go on a hike with me.
We crossed the ridge above Port Clinton on the west side, visiting Auburn Lookout, and spotted a car at the beginning and end so we would not have to backtrack. As we descended into the gap of Port Clinton, and saw the gash in the mountains that the Little Schuylkill River cut, the red brick homes of the small village where the Appalachian Trail crosses, he remarks, “You know, I have not been on this section of trail since I was a thru-hiker, thirty-five years ago.” Although this section of trail is only 10 minutes from our home, we do not hike on this stretch.
And I turned around and said, “You were descending into that town down there where you would be the recipient of some Trail Magic and you would meet your future wife and she would bring you home and feed you and let you take a bath and sleep in a bed (not hers!). And you would go on to hike half the PCT with her and the whole CDT and make babies and a hand-crafted log home, and create a wonderful life with her for 30 years. How about that, and here we are together, 35 years later, on that same stretch of the AT that led you to your destiny.” And I kissed his cold wet face with his beard and mustache icing up in the winter weather.
Our daughter is getting married this May. When she was home over the Christmas holiday from grad school we were making lots of plans. There was some stress and challenge involved and we tried to tell them, the wedding is only supposed to be a celebration, there is the rest of your lives together, it doesn’t matter really if your guests eat on paper or china or the tablecloths are fabric or plastic. What matters is how close you sleep to one another. Keep your bed small. Stay up and fight. Touch.