loving couple sleepingAs humans, we seem to love self-tests. For instance, let’s say I told you that there was a proven way to tell if your relationship was in trouble. All you have to do is this: measure the distance you sleep from your partner each night.

You’d rush to get a tape measure, right? Or maybe you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t either. I’d just mentally calculate the distance in my head. Same thing.

Recently a study found that 94 percent of couples who sleep while touching — spooning, her head on his chest, one arm on another’s waist, and so on — are happy, compared to only 68 percent of couples who don’t touch. Here’s more: a higher percentage of couples who sleep just an inch apart are happier compared to those who sleep more than 30 inches apart.

My first thought went something like this: Oh my gawd, we sleep like three feet apart. That’s why we got a king size bed after all. It allows us to sleep as far apart as possible. I love that bed. Does that mean I don’t love my husband? The only time I touch the man is to hit him in the shoulder when his snoring wakes me in the middle of the night! OMG! What to do? 

Then I took a deep breath, and I remembered that, just this morning, my husband had told me that he’d been awake most of last night as he wrestled with one of his life’s biggest and most vexing decisions: To hit his wife or not to hit his wife. Seems I was the one who was snoring last night. Despite how many times I’d nailed him in the shoulder in the past, he decided not to hit me because he didn’t want to wake me. “So I stared at the ceiling and thought about how this is how it must be for you every single night,” he said. “I’m sorry you have to go through that.”

I replied, “Well maybe the only reason I’m not putting you through the same thing every night is because you are such a sound sleeper. You probably usually sleep through my snoring. I’m such a light sleeper that I don’t sleep through yours.”

He said, “No, there’s no way you snore every single night.”

You know? I married a keeper. And, despite my proclivity for beating him up during his most vulnerable state, we’re pretty dang happy. The takeaway: It might be true that many couples who sleep on top of one another are happy. That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy if you sleep on opposite sides of the bed or even in separate bedrooms.

Related to this, the other day, Brian Leaf sent me an excerpt from his book Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting. I’ve posted the excerpt below with his permission:

Years ago, toward the end of a month-long program at Kripalu, I found myself sitting in the hot tub next to a very famous yogi. I knew he had recently left the order of monks and was in a relationship, and I wondered how often an ex-monk has sex.

So I asked him, “How often do you have sex?”

Ever equanimous, he equivocated, “There’s no certain prescription. But ideally, for me, sex should not be stress management or a way to smooth over a fight. My partner and I have sex when we feel a bubbling up of love for one another and the urge to express that love physically.”

Very nice. Beautiful answer. But I want a number.

I push him, “So this bubbling up of love happens, what, a few times a day, monthly, only on solstice?”

“Okay, okay,” he relents, “about once a month.”

At the time, at age twenty-five, that sounded awfully slim to me. But now at age forty, as father to two young children, from what I hear from fellow parents, once a month, if you average it all out, seems a lot less out there.”

You’ll find statistics about the number of times per week the average couple does it. Don’t use them as a self-test for whether your sex life is normal. Some people are like former monks, and they are happy with once-a-month. As long as you and your partner are both happy with your sexual frequency, there’s no problem.

Now here’s a self-test that, admittedly I just made up, and that might have some merit. I’m calling it the  Can-You-Imagine-Yourself-Ever-Doing-This-To-Your-Spouse!?! test, and it’s based on a recent experiment done at Ohio State University. In an attempt to see how blood sugar affected relationships, the researchers told spouses that they’d be competing against one another to see who could press a button the fastest. The winning spouse was allowed to blast the losing spouse with loud noise through headphones. The lower someone’s blood sugar, the more willing they were to do in their spouse’s hearing.

It’s a disturbing study, right up there with the Milgram experiment. If I enrolled in a research study and learned that my husband and I would be blasting one another with loud noises through headphones, you want to know what I’d say? I’d tell the researchers, “No, thank you.”

That’s because, despite what I might do to my husband while he is sleeping, I can’t imagine myself purposefully blasting him with loud noise just so I can gloat over winning a button-pressing game.  If that’s your response, too, I’m guessing you have a fantastic relationship no matter where you sleep at night.

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