This is unsurprising to anyone who’s experienced depression – and it can have a terrible impact on relationships.
Anyone who’s ever had conception sex will know what a killer it is: it’s therefore no wonder that IVF has such a devastating impact – particularly when it’s such a long and uncertain road for most who undertake it.
I would hate to share a bed with myself. I thrash about, sleep-talk and grind my teeth. I also slurp water from a plastic bottle throughout the night, noisily. I am possibly the worst sleeping partner imaginable.
Not a single bit of this bothers Herbert. Don’t ask me how. H is the sort of person who can sleep through a wild party next door. Whereas I will get all rage-y about it, H can simply observe that there is an large amount of noise going on, and fall asleep anyway. He truly sleeps the sleep of the just.
I, meanwhile, am a sensitive sleeper. Everything wakes me up. And so, even though I know it’s unfair, I take enormous issue with his snoring. It. Just. Drives. Me. Crazy. He has a cold at the moment, and so there is no position in which he won’t snort like a wild boar on heat. I try to be all Zen and accept it, but I can’t. I just get angrier and angrier. This, of course, only makes it harder for me to get back to sleep.
For this reason, H has moved into the spare room lately. It happened spontaneously in the middle of one night, when he reached the limit of times he was willing to be jabbed in the ribs. It was all very un-acrimonious. We both woke up the next morning feeling, well, refreshed. So much so that the next night, he suggested he went straight to the spare room, seeing as his cold was no better. And the next night. And the night after that.
It’s turned into a rather a luxurious habit. We cuddle up in (my) bed, watching TV or chatting, and then, when one of us gets sleepy, H retreats to the spare room. We both spread out in our own kingsize bed for the night, free of any infuriating distractions. And then, the next morning, we share a hug on the landing, usually with baby Bert sandwiched between us. It’s all rather civilised.
Will it last forever? I don’t know. Sadly, other people sleep in the guest bedroom sometimes. But it’s made me realise that we romanticise sharing a bed for no real reason. Some commentators have lamented the fact the most couples sleep with their backs to each other, but, really, does anyone actually sleep with their limbs entangled after a few months together?
I’m going to say something obvious here: we don’t have sex in our sleep (actually, there is a condition called sexsomnia, but that’s not what I’m talking about).
When sex begins to fade in a relationship, I think we often kid ourselves that it will happen by magic at some point: we will both be inspired, suddenly, to ravish each other. Sharing a bed is part of that faith. But in actual fact, that blissful moment when we finally get into bed after a long day is hardly conducive to sex; we’re usually so exhausted that we’re seconds away from sleep.
What’s more, the time at which most couples enjoy their hottest, most urgent sex comes before they share a bed, when they’re still living apart. Perhaps this is no coincidence. And scientists are beginning to agree: Neil Stanley’s research found that separate sleepers are healthier, happier and have better sex.
Could it be that separate bedrooms could inspire great sex, by bringing back privacy, mystery and separation into our over-familiar relationships?
Why do couples argue in Ikea?
I was amused to see the story of an Australian couple who’ve won a prize to get married in Ikea.
Quite apart from obvious question of why the hell anyone would want their wedding to be a publicity stunt for a major furniture retailer (the answer, apparently is, “It felt right to be able to show our commitment to one another by getting married somewhere we both love, and to show the world that romance can be alive anywhere.” A spontaneous quote if ever I heard one), I can’t be the only person who associates Ikea with complete marital meltdown.
You know that couple who you pass in the rugs section, who are screaming at each other with such ferocity that you have to avert your gaze and assume they’re only staying together for the sake of the children? That’s us, every time we set foot in the place.
This is despite the fact that, nowadays, when we absolutely have to go to Ikea for something, we pause in the car park to gaze solemnly into each other’s eyes, and swear that, this time, we won’t rise to any aggression from our partner, implied or otherwise. Ten minutes later, we will have descended into a hissing, passive-aggressive standoff over whichever part of the kitchen has fallen off this time.
What is it about that place? Is it the perma-daylight, and the geographically-confounding warren they create in their stores, which I am certain is aimed inducing a sense of huntedness, thus leading to the panic-buying of tea-lights and straws?
Or is it the cultish happiness of the place, the yellow-shirted staff calling each other colleagues and the utopian images of tiny flats made enormous by massed storage, that scatter the walls? One can’t help but feel that this is what it must have felt like to live in USSR, back in the day: a thin attempt is made to spin the drudgery of life, but it doesn’t matter that nobody believes it, because there’s no choice either way.
Or perhaps it’s just exhaustion, or sensory-overload, or the way that, despite only picking up a few things costing £1 each, you end up spending a minimum of £60 every time you enter the stop-start yellow doors. All I can tell you is this: there was once particularly nasty incident over some lightbulbs that I thought would actually break us. At moments of weakness, we are still capable of bickering over it.
So, perhaps Ikea are wise to start the PR fightback early, positioning themselves as the guardians of marital bliss, before they get cited in too many divorce suits.
And do you want to know the worst thing? Just writing this has made me crave meatballs and lingonberry jam. Bastards. They’ve got me again. Time to make a pact with Herbert.
I have to admit, I was rather disheartened to read this article in the Daily Mail.
In it, Shona Sibary talks about all the things she’d rather do than have sex with her husband, and of course quotes statistics from a survey that ‘proves’ it’s a big trend.
Well, it’s no news that many women go off sex over the course of long term relationships (and, it appears from his response, that her husband isn’t exactly keen as mustard either).
Although we tend to see marriages as static things, we would be better off understanding them as vehicles that allow huge changes to happen over time. They see us into new careers, mortgages, parenthood, bereavement, illness and ageing, amongst other things. It’s no wonder that our sex drives will wax and wane over that time, especially if you include the inevitable boredom of going to bed with the same person for the rest of your life.
What horrifies me about this article, though, is the blatant cruelty of it. It taps into a rather alarming part of contemporary female culture that makes it reasonable to run down our partners in public as if they’re nothing. You are so appallingly vile, the article implies, that I’d rather undertake the nastiest of household chores than touch your body.
We need to be kinder to our partners, and acknowledge the inherent difficulty of maintaining lust over decades. Our problem is that we’ve trapped ourselves in the belief that we should expect absolute sexual fidelity, even if we we don’t want to have any sex at all.
It’s a dog-in-a-manger position, when you think about it. If we are being loving towards our partners, and if we respect their physical and emotional needs, we have a responsibility to at least take them into account. Nobody should force themselves to have sex ‘for the sake of their marriage’, but it seems barely worth stating that, equally, we shouldn’t humiliate them in the Daily Mail in order to collect our shoddy little fee and gain a bit of home-counties post-feminist back-slapping.
Whether we like it or not, our partners’ sexual needs do not disappear just because ours do. Everyone has the right to decide not to have sex, for whatever reason. But we don’t get to decide on behalf of our partners, too. Surely it’s better to explore different formats for our relationships, than to indulge in this brutal rejection?
This is just a short post to recommend a brilliant programme from BBC 2 last week.
Wonderland: The Trouble with Love and Sex was based on recordings of real couples undergoing counselling with Relate. One couple struggle to maintain intimacy with a growing family to care for; another come to salvage a 33-year relationship that seemed to have hit the rocks. A third man enters the consulting room alone, trying to explore why he is unable to form the romantic relationships he so desperately yearns for.
The bravery of the participating people is given a helping hand by the format of the show – the original sound recording remains intact, but the visuals are animated to wonderful effect.
Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows how hard it is to keep going, year in, year out. This show had me nodding (and sniffling) in recognition at so many points. Essential viewing.
Author: Lucy at Literary Friction
My mother said that marriages were like trees. You nourished them, you let them breathe, and they grew solid and far-reaching. Circles within circles; spiralled roots in the soil.
My teacher said that if you cut through the trunk, you could count the rings to see how old it was. Circles within circles; legends soaked in sap.
All by myself, I figured that no matter how old it is, there are only two rings in a marriage. Circle within a circle; his and mine.
I hope we’re not made of wood. I hope we’re up there on Mars, awaiting the marvel of the men who think they know everything and who bleed for knowing nothing at all.
It’s always the same.
He creeps through the shadows of our bedroom forged in twilight, and his shirt rustles as it falls. Then there is a world of warm flesh at my spine; teeth at my earlobe; a stubbled jaw at my neck.
He smells like four hours of driving. Polo mints. Whisps of aftershave. Earthy sweat. His palms are cool as they mould to me and his voice is a thirsty breath.
“It’s Sunday, baby.”
I come alive beneath him. I become myself all over again. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, he will slip away as he always does and these are the times that keep my blood pumping. When he’s here, I have everything; when he’s gone, all I have is a ring.
Being married, I think, is about the memories you share together. Making love is about crafting new ones in sighs and gasps and smiles, and on this newborn Sunday, we are conjuring.
I wake up wet for him. My dreams turn me buttery in anticipation of the fingers that know me best. No disappointment, not here; he drags my thighs apart with the lazy swagger of his knee, and he sinks in to find the spots that swell for him. Rubs my flesh to echoes. Deftly skims the bud.
God, I’ve missed the taste of his collarbone and the weighty curve of his hips.
It is the one thing I always have the beg for; I tear chalky paths along his shoulders until he relents, and then his teeth close round my bottom lip in a sucking welt of a pucker. I am teased for five long nights each week — this is the masochist in him, the one that thinks pain is like love.
And it is, isn’t it? They both crack you open. You feel every second of the meandering knit of the wound.
He lifts my legs to his shoulders. I want to kiss him while he fucks me, to feel his breath steam in the hollows of my neck; he wants to watch me come. A hand circles my throat and holds me firm against the pillows. He likes the way I moan his name with the climax half crushed in my lungs.
Circles spill out into my belly, hot and tight and ebbing. He doesn’t stop and I crash, crash, crash. Fold in on myself. OhpleasepleaseyesGodIloveitowwowwoooow.
I suck on his fingers as we slow together. He feeds his spoiled little girl. That’s what he calls me, when he’s hard and wants my surrender. Or when he’s mad. He’s usually both at the same time.
“Happy Sunday, Scarlet.”
His kiss is light, sated, though no delight casts his cheeks to apples. No smile; he never smiles when he takes me. There are nights when I am lonely and I worry about that, but for now the thought is buried because he is so painfully present, and I never know when that will slip away.
I put my arms around him and whisper in his ear.
“Luke. I love you.”
“Shut up.” He always says this. Hates hearing the words. When he leaves for work again, he’ll bend and murmur love you, baby because he thinks I’m still asleep. He’ll brush his lips to the blond waves swept across my forehead, trace the jut of my pout with a fingertip and then drag his suitcase out on to the landing. Launch himself back into the world.
Right now, though, he belongs to me; me and the rings that bind us. Feels transient.
I wonder if love is supposed to behave like a God with a hot temper.
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