For those of you thinking this is a post about sex, I hate to disappoint you. This is a story about marriage, sleep and beds (decidedly where sex also occurs, but that's a topic for another day.)
In the beginning
My first daughter was colicky. Or maybe "possessed by the devil" is a better description for the chaos that reigned down on our lives in the first six months after I gave birth. She cried ALL. THE. TIME. And in case you think I'm exaggerating, I have friends and family members who witnessed the carnage; people who probably believed I just hadn't used the right technique yet, or I was being an overly anxious mom. When they attempted to use their no-fail baby comforting techniques and gave up after ten minutes, I always felt a small sense of satisfaction. "HA! I'm not the only one who can't soothe this crazy baby."
Poor kid - she was diagnosed with GERD at around four months of age, and medications helped a little bit. Mostly, though, it was just time that helped. As she learned to sit up and then walk, the GERD got better and she was a much happier kid. As a feisty eight year-old, she thinks the stories we tell about her first months earthside are hilarious.
What does all of this have to do with my marriage? In the early days, to save our marriage, we had to start sleeping in separate bedrooms. Because dear daughter slept in fits and starts, one of us needed to be getting better quality rest. We began trading off once she was old enough to go longer stretches without night nursing. By the time she was finally sleeping through the night (at age 2.5,) I was pregnant with my second child. My all-day morning sickness and sleeping woes meant I was bunking down most nights in the guest bed.
You can guess what happened next - yup, another wee little newborn to contend with. Thankfully, she was a better sleeper than her big sister, but she still woke every 2 hours in the night, and it was easier for my husband and I to sleep in separate beds (one of us was always with the baby...we'd given up on the crib and turned it into a laundry hamper.)
Living separate lives
Months of sleeping apart turned into years, and soon we found it difficult to sleep together in the same bed. When both kids were finally sleeping through the night, I found myself waking up to every small movement he made, or lying awake totally annoyed at the loud breathing he was making (the poor guy doesn't even snore!) We both agreed that sleeping in separate beds was a much better option for our relationship, as we were getting a solid 8 hours a night.
But of course, we all like to tell ourselves lies when we don't want to rock the boat. The truth was, things had become slightly strained between us. Despite our insistence that sleeping apart was BETTER for us, deep down we knew that it was actually having a negative impact on our relationship. We became snippy with each other, quick to criticize, and increasingly found ourselves going hours and days without showing any sort of affection towards each other. Even just reaching out a toe to your partner after an exhausting day can have a profound effect on your physical connection.
Seeking the sleepy dust...
We knew it was time to make a change, and we finally headed over to The Bay to shop for a new bed. A new king-sized bed. Our lovely Queen bed belonged to my husband way back in university, and had seen better days. It was a super firm mattress, and totally uncomfortable. I wanted a comfy king, where we would both have room to stretch out.
I'm not going to lie - it took some time to readjust to sleeping in the same bed. When you're accustomed to your own space, another body beside you can cause disturbed sleep - especially when we are now both very light sleepers (thank you for that, dear daughter.)
But almost immediately, our relationship began to improve. We communicated much more (because, duh, we were having a nice chat right before lights went out,) and close proximity meant more snuggles and physical contact - all of which we'd been missing anyway, due to the stress of two full-time jobs and raising young kids.
Where we are now
Although I would never say my marriage was in any real trouble, any of us in long-term relationships know that there can be ups and downs. For some reason, we had managed to survive six moves together (one to a brand new city,) pregnancies, two newborns that didn't sleep well, unemployment and financial woes. What we couldn't survive was living together like roommates.
Our sleep is still not perfect. I sometimes sneak downstairs to the guest bed when my husband is tossing around, and it's common for one or both of us to be lying awake worrying about work or parenting challenges. But the impact of sleeping location on our relationship has been significant, and the decision to invest in a really good bed was worth the price tag.