My wife is an actress; work often takes her away. One month here to workshop a show; two months there to stage a summer stock production. At these times, I never feel lonelier than when it’s time to go to bed.
Or so that’s what I tell her. In actuality, the first two or three nights are incredible. I sleep as though I’m single again. I don’t have to wrestle the covers away from anyone and I can sleep diagonally or starfish all over my bed and not be met with a swift, righteous kick. I can fall asleep to a podcast. Best of all, there’s no threat of snoring, night farts, or being woken by the hot, acrid blast of morning breath against my cheek.
But, like clockwork, the joy fades and I find myself on my usual side of the bed, legs tucked, arms wrapped around an oversized pillow. Because, I miss the body of my wife. I miss the familiarity. And goddamn it, I miss the spooning.
I used to hate spooning. For starters, spooning is a strange term. It’s somehow become commonplace, but when you think about it, it means picking up something and putting it onto something else. That’s weird. Semantics aside, I hated the act. There’s no sense in tentacling yourself around your partner. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sweaty. Most of all, it felt overly needly. I was confident in my level of affection in the daytime; I didn’t need to sacrifice my sleep to do so.
But then life revved up. And, squeezed into busier and busier schedules, the end of the day became the only time my wife and I would really have together that didn’t involve talk of bills or bosses. And I felt like we didn’t get a chance to show our affection for each other as much during the day, so I gave in and showed my wife affection in the evening (Plus, it really ups the odds for other things).
Then a funny thing happened: the act of sleeping with my arms wrapped around my partner or even lightly touching her became pretty damn wonderful. There’s warmth. There’s closeness. There’s security. There’s the distinct feeling that you are man and wife in bed, together. It also doesn’t hurt that your body revs up the production of oxytocin, the so-called love-drug, during such moments of closeness too. Chemicals, man.
My buddies think I’m out of my mind. They tell me that spooning is torture, that it’s akin to some device used during the Spanish Inquisition. And, don’t get me wrong: Some nights, lodged in a too-long cuddle, slick with sweat and so tired of the high-pitched whine of my wife’s tea-kettle snores sounding a few inches from my ear, I feel like Aron Ralston-ing my trapped arm, using the phone charger looped around my bedpost as a tourniquet, and escaping to my side of the bed where I can sleep un-touched.
But on most nights? I really do love spooning with my wife because my wife loves it and I like to do things she loves. It’s as simple as this: she likes to be held and I like to hold her. Do I want this to last the whole night? No, but that’s what the “I have to pee” method and Ross Gellar hug-and-roll technique are for.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. People have their own needs and bed-sharing is a very particular arrangement. Plus, not all experts feel the same way. Sex and relationship guru Esther Perel, for instance, is adamant that couples should not cuddle — or even hug for that matter. She says the acts makes them feel too close and depletes hormones that could better be used for sex.
That may be. All I know is that cuddling makes my wife and I feel closer together. And when you say your vows to someone, you’re agreeing to share your life with them. Sleeping beside a person is a big part of that sharing. To lay in the same bed as someone is to accept them fully — snores, butt-burps, errant elbows, sickly-sweet morning breath and all. We spend one-third of our lives sleeping; it’s nice to spend it tangled with the person you love.