A "Social Q's" rebuttal
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I love reading Philip Galanes’ New York Times etiquette column, because he usually gives good saucy compassionate advice but also sometimes the questions are just very New Yorky and nuts. But this week I think he whiffed on a question:
My husband will retire soon from a job that has been deeply fulfilling to him for decades. It was always his top priority, and I’m happy his career fulfilled him. But his dedication to work meant that there was little left over for our family. As one of our counselors put it: “He had two buckets — one for work and one for everything else.” We in the second bucket got short shrift. He can acknowledge this now. But he’s started asking what kind of retirement party I’m planning for him. My goal is to make peace with what his career cost me and our children, not celebrate it. Can I pass on the party?
I’m sorry that you couldn’t get through to your husband earlier in his career. Based on your counseling comment, though, it sounds as if you really tried. Not that it will be much consolation, but many people struggle to find self-worth apart from career and external validation. Still, you stayed in the marriage.
So, how about compromising on his milestone? Unless your husband is pretty thick, he won’t be shocked to learn that you have mixed feelings about celebrating his career. Speak to him honestly about what you are willing to toast: his transition from workaholic to more attentive husband and father. (Be ready to discuss what this might look like.) If he agrees, party on!
Philip! The issue isn’t what this party is about. The issue is that this spouse (whom I’m going to guess is a wife) doesn’t want to be responsible for throwing a damn party for the man who gave hardly anything to his family. The issue is that he has some gall to assume his spouse will throw him a party. He should throw her a party.
Anyway the correct answer isn’t “come to terms with what you want to celebrate”; the answer is: “Yes, you can tell your husband to go ahead and arrange the party himself. If you want to be nice, give him three ideas for restaurants with party spaces.”
Culture • Book Review
Kids • Just a roundup of good things our kids have said about penises
Obviously Tweets on this topic will be accepted in perpetuity.
Food • The ultimate endorsement
A word with • Witches who sleep separately from their spouses
For how long have you been sleeping separately, and what led to this arrangement?
K in Dallas: Off and on for over a decade. It never came up before in my life--just with my spouse, due to his snoring. We brought up the issue organically, after one too many middle-of-the-night proddings.
R in Chicagoland: When we started spending our nights together early in our romance, we'd sleep together, but I'd end up leaving the room to actually get sleep d/t his snoring. Then when we lived together, one of us would couch it every other day -- either me to get sleep or he out of guilt. Once our son was born we made the decision to do split sleep schedules. Then the idea / feeling that one of us would be on-call and that we would need to sleep apart in order to protect our sleep took off from there. Plus, after sleep training my sleep was so jacked up I often ended up leaving and going to the couch. I had terrible middle night insomnia. I heard a lot of "ghost babies" (crying when baby wasn't crying). And I just wanted my own space to read, toss and turn, listen to audiobooks, etc. After we moved into a house where it became possible to do this elegantly, it became part of our identity.
How did it affect your relationship and routines, especially in the morning and at bedtime?
R: At bedtime I go upstairs to our shared bathroom and brush my teeth and then kiss him goodnight and go downstairs. Or if I get in bed first, he comes in and kisses me goodnight. It's freed us up to be able to take turns sleeping in. I can get the kids and go downstairs and have a dance party and he won't know. And he can get the kids and get them ready for school and I won't know. And when we're sick it's SUCH a blessing. We can actually be sick, alone.
How does your arrangement affect your sense of intimacy?
K: It didn’t: We still have “snuggle time” — he just goes and sleep-sleeps in the so-called “snoring room” (guest bedroom).
R: I think kids, fatigue, stress, this time of life have affected it more to be honest. We were never right before bed or right upon waking up kinda people. But I think it has taken some time away from the cuddling. And we would both admit that. We should work on carving out more time for that. The decision didn’t impede our romantic feelings about one another. We were choosing self-care and to protect one another. Misery does not love company.
Do you ever sleep together just for fun, sort of like camping in the backyard?
K: We definitely give it the ol’ college try a few times a month, but it’s not great because of the interrupted sleep.
R: We always sleep together in hotels, and it's actually totally fine. I think a king size bed might help us do this at home. We're on two separate planets in that thing! But I don't feel at home in our shared bedroom. I don't even like the sheets he uses or the pillows up there.
Do your kids have any particular thoughts about it? Is there anybody else in your life who has given you weird vibes about it?
K: The kids know their dad sleeps in the snoring room most nights but they’re still too young to have an opinion about it — it’s just normal to them.
R: My kids do call that room "mama's room," not the office, which is sweet. I am a little wary of the idea that my kids may talk about "mom's room and dad's room" to their teachers. But I quickly shoosh that away and think teachers hear way worse things. Initially when I would show people around the house I'd be like "This is my office and it's also our guest room." But pretty quickly I became proud of this luxury: "This is my office, and I also totally sleep here. I know, ladies, I know. Thank you." And it always devolves into a conversation about why we associate sleep with love and sex and when that happened. And Lady and Lord Grantham. And how baller it is to have everything of your own - bathroom, closet and now bed. It's not baller to also have your desk and post-it notes a few feet away, but I try very hard to keep that a serene place for me. I do think my parents might secretly balk at the arrangement, but probably because my mom never had the balls to do it herself. She has terrible sleep, and my dad is a snorer. But she's a martyr who powered through or some crap?
Is your spouse’s sleeping room full on ‘his’ room, with his pajamas, books, etc?
K: The master bedroom is still our shared bedroom; he just sleeps in the guest bedroom.
R: His room, the master bedroom, is a problem. It's the one room in the house that is totally not decorated. It has paint swatches all over it from when I couldn't decide, hand me down furniture, no duvet cover. And my husband keeps weird things in his nightstand like loose pills of Tylenol pm and a wrap for his knee. There are Amazon boxes all over the floor It lacks serenity or sex appeal. I think it's a place in purgatory, not his space or our space, just a place he happens to sleep where his clothes are in a dresser. On my list of "Things I will do one day when I have time" are making this room beautiful, but I just don't know who I am making it beautiful for - him, me or us.
Is there anything you do miss? What do you love most about sleeping alone?
K: I do miss being able to stretch out my foot to gently touch his leg as I’m trying to fall asleep because it does wonders for calming the ol’ mental hamster wheel.
R: I do miss laughing in bed right before sleep. And I miss cuddling. And I miss waking up and stretching and making weird noises and laughing again.
What do you not miss about sleeping together?
R: I do not miss that point in the middle of the night when it's cold and you have to get up and set up shop all over again on the couch. It's nice to go to sleep one place and wake up in that one place. Not be a wandering Jew. I also don't miss waking up and wanting to toss and turn and being worried that you'll wake someone up. And I don't miss going to bed feeling like you love someone but waking up feeling like you hate them because their body is too warm and their nose is making terrible noises.
And what I love most about sleeping alone is just the moments when I'm fully myself. Like the whole world is asleep, and I'm all alone and it's not a scary feeling - it's totally liberating.
K: Not gonna lie, I love to be able to starfish. And to get a good night’s sleep.
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