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Apr 1 2014

My Husband and I Switched Sides of the Bed (and Our Marriage Survived!)

By at 2:49 pm

sleeping

When I told people that we were considering a change-up after almost a decade on our respective sides, they recoiled in horror.

“That would be grounds for divorce in our house!” they shouted. “We would move into separate rooms before we would swap! You will never sleep again!”

I have never been a middle-of-the-bed type of girl. In my unmarried years, I trended towards the side farthest from the door, probably with the subconscious thought that if someone nefarious broke in, they’d get to the first empty pillow and give up. When my husband moved in, there was no bed-side discussion; he simply filled the gap.

So thereafter we slumbered–in hotels, apartments, and this one time on a very questionable futon–him on the right, me on the left. However, not all was sweet dreams.

In the time that we slept on our original sides of the bed, we both had completely unrelated emergency surgeries which required months of recovery. My husband had to make an unexpected career change right before the arrival of our son which left him with temp jobs–and temp paychecks–for a year. In what was supposed to be a six-week transition, the three of us moved into my very generous, but long-suffering parents’ guest room for so long that our mail forward from the post office expired. Worst, worst, worst of all, my mother-in-law was killed in a car accident.

Granted, wonderful things happened, too. Obviously, our son is a major win. My husband graduated from law school and got his dream job. We figured out why many cultures live with their entire extended family in one household (when it’s 4 a.m. and the baby won’t stop crying and your mother is across the hall…). We bought our first home.

But after we had waded through the many stages of grief and paid off our bills and unpacked our moving boxes, the pull of the past still kept me awake at night. I second-guessed my daily decisions out of fear that they would cause a repeat of what we had just overcome. I mourned for what could have been. I stared nightly at the ceiling on the left side of the bed, worrying, worrying. Even though we had literally moved, I couldn’t move on.

I needed a fresh start to my days, beginning with the nights before. I casually suggested a bed-side swap to my husband and, because he’s Canadian and thereby naturally agreeable, he said yes.

(A side note: If you have never had the good fortune to meet a Canadian and experience this agreeableness first-hand, allow me to offer up the following story:

My mother-in-law ruled her home and banished her family from the kitchen. One spring, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend completely rearranged the entire room, including purging so many cooking implements that when we first walked into the house I thought it had been robbed. My mother-in-law’s response? “Well, she seemed really excited to do it.”)

We made the switch carefully and cautiously. The first night we moved our pillows, and it took me 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes to fall asleep.

The second night we repositioned our books and notepads and other nightstand accoutrements. The next day, I was promoted at work and my husband landed a huge client.

It was as if a light had been switched. I woke up each morning with a new outlook, which completely affected how I treated every person and every circumstance I encountered. After a solid week of blissful slumber and happy days, we plugged in our respective alarm clocks next to our bedside lamps, kissed goodnight, and that was that.

A year later, I asked my husband what he thought of the change-up. “Good,” he said with a shrug. “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

He’s right, of course. In the grand scheme of things, the side of the bed on which you slumber probably ranks somewhere around the color car you drive or whether you prefer Coke to Pepsi. We also aren’t tethered to our beds; I napped on the couch last weekend and the only thing that happened was a weird dream involving Bradley Cooper, the Oscars and Ryder from “Paw Patrol.”

However, humans are creatures of habit, and even a little shift can make all the difference. My best friend put it perfectly: “In life, so many things happen to you, sometime taking control, no matter how small that control is, grounds you and prepares you for what comes next.”

Now I try to make a monthly attitude adjustment whether I think I need it or not. Last month I cleaned out my closet (and replaced almost all of my underwear, which was a near-magical experience), this month I started a Zumba class, and each night I go to sleep excited for the day to come. I highly recommend it–that, and marrying a Canadian.

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