Last week, my wife, Mel’s helped run a youth camp for our church. She was gone for four nights. So I slept alone, in our big king-sized bed, without her. She didn’t come in around midnight, after I’d already gone to bed and clank around as she got into her pajamas. She didn’t turn on her electric blanket, making me get all sweaty in the night while she slept as warm and soft as a cinnamon bun. She didn’t toss a few times to get comfortable, or tug at the blankets to get more. She didn’t pull at the fitted sheet because it had come off the top corner, or stretch her leg across the bed, putting it between mine, like we are holding hands in the night, only it’s legs. She didn’t put her cold hands against my back to warm them, and her hair didn’t stretch across the bed and into my face.
And I know none of what I just wrote sounds like a recipe for a good night’s rest. I admit it. I fell asleep pretty well all sprawled out in that bed. I slept right in the middle, with a pillow for my head and one on each side. I had all the blankets I wanted. I didn’t have to fight for them or anything. I didn’t get too hot or too cold in the night.
It was just right.
But in the middle of the night, I kept reaching to her side. I kept dragging my hand across the little slump in the mattress where she usually sleeps on her side, one arm under the pillow, the other on top of the blanket, her left leg straight, the other slightly bent. It felt lonely in that bed, late at night, when it was quiet and I was so used to seeing her dark shape across from me.
When she’s gone, I have dreams of her leaving, or being taken, or just flat out disappearing. I never dream like this when she is next to me, but when she’s gone, it feels like my subconscious knows she isn’t near.
Mel is a bit of a night owl, and I’m a morning person. Sometimes, when she stays up really late, I get up and walk downstairs to find her in the living room, watching TV and folding laundry. I tell her to come to bed.
One night I woke up after having this wild dream that we were hiking and we got separated. I woke up and felt for her, but she wasn’t there. Half awake, I assumed she was downstairs, so I stumbled out of bed to find her. I made it halfway down before I realized she wasn’t home. I don’t know what I was thinking.
It’s funny, a lot of couples I know say they sleep better when their spouse is away. I know some people who actually have happy, loving marriages but sleep in different rooms because they can’t, for the life of them, sleep in the same bed.
But not me. Mel and I have been married for almost 15 years now, and during that time, I’ve gotten pretty used to having her at my side each and every night. We don’t always go to bed at the same time, and we almost never get up at the same time, but there are several hours in there where we are together. Night after night, just together, next to each other, our bodies hardly touching, but our warmth is mixing beneath the blankets.
And I don’t know why I can’t sleep well without that. I don’t know how I could miss something when I’m sleeping, but it’s just a fact. To be honest, I don’t know if Mel misses me at all in the night when I’m gone. Well… outside of when I get up with the kids. I am 100% sure she misses me then. But just having me next to her? Who knows?
So if you sleep better when your spouse is gone, that’s fine. I don’t think that makes you a bad spouse. But, for me, I miss having my wife there. I miss her on a deeper level at night. It’s something I never expected when we got married, and each and every time it happens, it feels like it shouldn’t, but it does.
I don’t know if this makes me clingy, or too attached, or what, but I do know that the moment she comes back, I sleep better. I dream better. And when I reach out for her in the night, I feel a comfort that only happens after sharing a bed with someone you love for a very, very, long time.