I Love My Fiancé, But He Better Not Touch Me While I’m Sleeping

By Nicole Spector

Now that it’s getting colder out, I can think of few things sweeter than spending the chilly nights in the arms of my fiancé.

I imagine that, after some buoyant lovemaking, Patrick and I will drift off to in a close embrace. I picture him generously spooning me, supporting me, and just before consciousness fades out into darkness and dreams, I’ll have one last shooting star of a thought: “How perfectly we fit together!”

It’s not the most exciting of fantasies, and yet, a fantasy it will remain. For it turns out that I cannot tolerate at bedtime. Not just at bedtime, either; I don’t much care for it when we’re just hanging out watching a movie. But cuddling is downright deplorable to me when sleep is involved. You see, I know the passage from consciousness to unconsciousness is a sacred, fragile one, a transition which brokers no disturbances. That means no dead weight plopped on parts of my body, no crowding of the pillow, no sudden caress that could snap me awake.

As an insomniac, I have good reason to be fanatical about falling asleep. There are about a dozen nights every month where, even with the help of medication, supplements, and sheer exhaustion, I just won’t make it over the line of slumber scrimmage. Sometimes I’m wide-awake, bored out of my mind, just lying there, waiting, like someone who missed the last train. Usually though, I’m drowsy and loopy and feel like I’m teetering on the edge of darkness and dreams, but something keeps pulling me back. It could be the twitch of my leg, a flicker of noise in the quiet whirl of the fan, or nothing at all.

The nothing is the loudest, cruelest of all.

Certainly if I had an easier time sleeping, I’d have an easier time cuddling, for I wouldn’t have any paranoia surrounding sudden movement. But that doesn’t mean I’d have a more enjoyable time cuddling.

No, my disdain toward snuggle time is its own passionate problem, existing outside of my struggle with sleep. I simply cannot abide it. If Patrick so much as lays a finger on my shoulder I’ll just about bite it off such that he retreats all parts of his body to his side of the bed, muttering in exasperation. Usually these assaults of tenderness are mere accidents. He knows better than to cuddle me by now.

The problem is not just that Patrick wants to cuddle. It’s that I want to cuddle. Or rather, though I hate the cuddle, I desperately want to be a cuddler. I know it would make my partner happy, and perhaps it would make me happy too. Scientific research has shown that Oxytocin, aka “the cuddle-hormone,” helps mothers bond with their children, and even builds trust between two adults. My own stubborn abhorrence has me missing out on a kickass drug that nature is just handing out for free! Beyond missing out on the pros of cuddling, my anti-cuddle stance induces its own insecurities. Will my loved ones be deprived of yummy goodness as a result of my aversion? Can I be the nurturing and loving wife and mother I desire to be if I hate cuddling?

Poking around online revealed others who hate cuddling, and surprisingly glib or even sexist takes on us. Most of the articles ask how a woman can deal with her guy who hates cuddling, or look to explain why dudes disdain this precious act of intimacy. The most common justification I found was that people — especially men — need their space.

I was delighted to find a 2011 study asserting that 32 percent of U.K. women can’t stand cuddling. I’m in the U.S, but hey, count me in! But my delight didn’t last long. As I read on, I learned that one in 10 of the women consulted said they’d rather be checking Facebook than be in bed cuddling their partner. I’d definitely rather be cuddling my partner than checking Facebook. The trouble is I just don’t feel physically comfortable doing it. I feel restless, and barricaded. I have more in common with those commitment-phobic men than I do with these Facebook-checking women! But neither category explains my predicament.

This tension—between seeking out intimacy while also, at some level, shunning it—is one I have been living with many years now. Recently, Patrick was watching a show on his laptop in bed and I did the unthinkable: I rolled over and cuddled up to him.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Patrick said, stroking my arm. “This is so nice.”

“It’s not like I hate to cuddle,” I said.

And in that moment, I didn’t. I actually agreed with Patrick. Being together so literally felt warm and easy. But about a minute into it my mind started scanning my body for areas of discomfort. Sure enough, my hand, tucked under Patrick’s neck, was losing sentience. My lower back felt a bit crunched up and an itch on my thigh was forming and there was a chance I had to pee. I did what I always do—I bolted.

“See, you hate cuddling,” Patrick said, tapping his chest for the dog to come up.

For now, the dog will have to do.

Tags:  Cuddling Love Personal Essays Sleep

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