I once asked a couple to draw what came to mind when they thought of sex. One partner grabbed the markers and immediately started drawing shapes with thick lines and sharp edges. The other partner stared at a blank page, expressed how hard it was, and then apologetically said:
All I can think of is a bed.
So I told him to go ahead and draw it.
It was interesting that he felt so embarrassed to “only think of a bed.” There are never right or wrong ways to express oneself through art therapy. But as we started discussing, I wondered why more couples don’t talk about their beds with me. What we do in bed with our partner has everything to do with everything.
I stumbled across Paul Rosenblatt’s amazing book Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing at a library book sale years ago and it is still one of my best finds –and one of my frequently forgotten resources.
I highly recommend this book if you:
- Sleep next to your partner
- Want to sleep next to your partner
This is one of the rare books that feels applicable to almost every single relationship out there – at least within our American cultural context. There is so much interesting information and it is such a fun, easy read. In Two in a Bed, Rosenblatt interviewed 40 couples and shared his findings on:
- learning to bed share
- going to bed and waking up
- activities like talking, reading, praying, and TV
- touch and sex
- temperature, snoring, nightmares, and other sleep issues
LET’S TALK ABOUT TV
I’ve often talked with couples in my office about their rituals of connection throughout their days including how they greet each other when they come home, how they go to bed, and how they get up in the morning.
Fun fact: Rosenblatt notes that couples spend so much time focusing on TV together that “the television set is part of the couple system.”
Does that scare you as much as it scares me? The TV? Part of us? My body does an involuntary shudder. Rosenblatt also tells us that couples tend to interact less in the mornings than the evenings. This makes sense based off of our work culture, lack of community-living childcare, and of course our morning coffee rituals. We like our sleep and our slow wake-up routines. And after these, we race out of the house to work and some of us have to drop the kids off first – not to mention making lunches, taking showers, exercising, or rolling the recycle bin to the end of the driveway.
Oftentimes it feels like there’s no time for connection in those early morning hours.
But here’s the problem: most of the couples in his survey had TVs in their bedrooms. So what do you think many of them did in the evenings? They watched TV.
I always strongly encourage my clients to get the TV out of the bedroom. Going to bed with our partner – meaning literally going to sleep – can be one of our most intimate moments throughout the entire day. If we have a TV available, we are likely to use it. And if we use it, we lose those moments of connection.
And we don’t get those moments back.
TV in the bedroom also changes how we go to bed with our partners. Meaning sex. Rosenblatt’s surveys showed us that as couples become less physically affectionate and intimate, they also touch less in the bed while sleeping.
Here’s the story I have heard from many couples:
- TV gets set up in the bedroom.
- Couple starts watching TV more regularly before bed instead of connecting emotionally.
- Less connecting means less sex.
- Less sex and touching outside of the bed means less touching in the bed.
- Less touching in the bed means we don’t cuddle.
- Less cuddling means less sex.
- Less sex means less connecting.
- Less connecting means more TV.
This is one of the reasons why my partner and I decided to live 10 months without TV – and then chose to only use a TV seasonally.
Let’s also think about Rosenblatt’s findings contextually. Two in a Bed was published in 2006, one year before the first iPhone was released in 2007. While TVs in the bedroom may have been the problematic component during his survey, the availability of smart phones today makes TVs in the bedroom almost irrelevant.
If TV in the bedroom is so troublesome because it disconnects us from our partner, what does our phone do?
If we want to figure out how to get our partner to come to bed with us, to connect with us at bedtime, and to have more sex, we might want to think about where our attention is going in those late night hours.
To learn more about all kinds of interesting patterns in bed sharing for couples, read Two in a Bed. For other good books, check out this list – but not right before bed. Try turning towards your partner instead.