Let's Spend The Night Together - Sometimes
In his book Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Prof Matthew Taylor tells us “More than exercise, diet and wealth, science has shown that sleep is the most important factor to our physical and mental wellbeing.” If you, like me, feel compelled to trudge round the world’s great palaces and mansions, in a mood of vocal socialist disapproval and silent envy, you will have noticed that no-one with that much money chooses to share a bedroom with their noble spouse – hell they don’t even share a bathroom or a closet. “darling, I love you so much, I want to smell your shit first thing every morning.”
Viktor Frankl, the font of 92.4% of all wisdom, cites a true episode which happened during his internment in Auschwitz. In his marvellous book “man’s search for meaning: from Death Camp to Existentialism” [even the title fills me with awe] Viktor recounts ‘there was so little room in our hut we could not lie down on our backs. We had to sleep side by side, each man’s nose nuzzling the back of his neighbour’s skinny hairy neck.’ That’s a vision of hell, is it not?
Children from age about 7 start to militate for their own room. Children are rarely if ever either mad or illogical and they are always always practical – ‘how will your divorce affect my Saturday cinema trip?’ they aren’t saying ‘I hate my brother’ even though they probably do. They are saying ‘he’s a nuisance. He makes stupid noises. He gets up in the middle of the night to play with his phone. He kicks me in the bed. He smells and farts’ – remind you of anyone you know?
It’s worth drawing attention to two footnotes here:
1. Prof Taylor’s book is the result of 20 years deep scientific research.
2. Viktor’s masterpiece is also the progenitor of cognitive psycotherapy. CP is not psychiatry. It does not try to understand how the brain works. it looks at problems affecting us and seeks changes in behaviour which will lead to a solution.
In their own way, both specifically espouse and recommend sleeping alone. Taylor goes as far as to cite that over 75% of all sleep deprivation is caused by the person sharing our bed. aah children, they could have told him that.
Shelley and I have been in a strong partnership for decades. We have endured one another’s foibles, supported eachother’s hardships, taken on our mutual families and bonded over how lucky we are and how well we get along. We started as friends, spent time each living in a different continent, then to the same town, then the same borough, then the same apartment building – and that was and still is CLOSE ENOUGH. We sleep together either on holiday which we love as a treat, or by desire. When we do sleep we compromise on our own habits. If we forget we will bicker about it – and we don’t generally bicker.
We don’t like the same temperature in the bedroom. We don’t go to bed or get up at the same time. I snore. She hums [yes really]. We both talk in our sleep. She kicks me, I sleep like I am a swastika with long limbs hooking across her side until she is perched precariously on the ravine edge of the mattress. She likes to bring coffee back to bed and read in the morning. I like to lie in bed and listen to music. And on and on and on.
We are lucky we can afford two apartments, on the other hand if we cohabited we could get somewhere bigger. Our friends talk about us behind our backs. So do yours by the way. All of them.
They say they think it’s weird. They wonder why we don’t get married. They don’t quite understand why we seem to get along and yet still live ‘apart’.
Actually, the distance from my bed to hers is less than between the king and queens’ bedchambers in Hampton Court or the duke and duchess at Blenheim – hell! at the Topkapi in Istanbul and the Alhambra in Granada they didn’t even sleep in the same building either!
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘yes but it’s part of the deal of being partners, or being married’ then that’s fine. don’t change on my account ‘cos I’m sure not going to change on your account. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘actually, I wouldn’t mind at all if Jonathan lived next door!’ then there is hope.