Couples will fight over bed pillows, but some thoughtful pillow shopping can bring pillow equality and maybe some peace.
The pillow war between my wife and I escalated dramatically. I had recently become the proud owner of an ultra-soft queen-sized pillow that I encased in a luxurious silk pillowcase and she was covetous. In the nightly chaos of propping ourselves up to read in bed, the pillow would somehow always find its way under my wife’s head.
Her tactics were, frankly, brilliant. She leveraged her ability to fall asleep quickly and early, knowing that I’d be up long after she’d gone to sleep. Inevitably, at 11 pm, I would attempt to snuggle down with my pillow only to find my wife cuddled around it, snoring daintily. She knew I would never tear it away from her. I couldn’t bring myself to be so cruel.
Like many married couples, my wife and I had been battling over bed pillows for years. The soft mounds we slept on were a strange assemblage of those purchased when we were single and those that were bought on a whim. Some came into the house as wedding gifts; others were bought for kids. No two pillows were the same. They each had their own quality. Some were squishy, some were flat and lifeless; others were made of heavy dense memory foam. And because every pillow was different, finding the right combination was key.
Our pillow set-up seemed pretty basic. Aside from the uncomfortable decorative pillows that spent more time on the floor than the bed, we each had two pillows, as limited by the number of matching pillowcases at any given time. Her preference was for soft pillows. Mine had traditionally been for more firm pillows.
There were pillows we both enjoyed, and whose side of the bed those pillows ended up on was largely the discretion of whoever made the bed in the morning. The placement depended mostly on whether that person was feeling selfish or generous. But the nightly ownership could change too, depending on who had the guts to cry “do you have my pillow?” and then defend ownership long enough for the other person to give up.
But the new pillow with the silk pillowcase was different. For one, the pillowcase didn’t match the bedding. There was no way of accidentally putting it on the wrong side. For two, it was a pillow that both of us loved. Finally, it was expensive, making buying more a dubious proposition.
But the pillow war and its escalation were becoming a problem.
You see, my wife and I are generally pretty good about managing the cycle of resentment that can tear a relationship apart. We’re honest about our needs, for the most part. And we’re honest about our feelings of resentment when we feel overworked or taken advantage of (again, for the most part).
The pillow war was a special case though. The problem was that by the time a person realized they’d been beaten, their adversary was asleep. There was nobody to air the grievance with. The resentment could build.
We did find a solution, but it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t even intentional. And it came in the form of buying new bedding.
With new sheets and new pillowcases, we reasoned, we should buy new pillows. After all, the new pillow cases were larger than the last ones. We needed bigger pillows. So we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and started shopping. What happened next was surprising.
What we found was that our taste in pillows was far more similar than we’d ever known. As we bent at the waist and laid our heads on crinkly plastic-covered pillows in the aisle, we both settled on a favorite — a kind of mid-density number that managed to be both puffy and firm at the same time. We each bought one.
Over the next few weeks, the pillow war cooled. There was no need to fight because the pillows we’d purchased were the same. A sense of equity and fairness had arrived in our bed. There was finally some peace.
Does my special silk pillow still sometimes wind up on her side of the bed. Yes. But I don’t mind. Because we’ll be ordering another one soon. After all, the night’s too short for resentment, and when the pillow fight ends, the pillow love can finally begin.
This article was originally published on