Living Polyamorous: the Sleeping Situation

I think that “Living Polyamorous” will be a series of posts that I’ll offer up as I go, centering around the logistics of living in a throuple/triad–that is, with three people, all of whom are in love, in the same home. To begin, let’s talk about… the bed.

We all tried to sleep-over simultaneously before we lived together. The first time, it was in the other husband’s full bed. Too small. Somebody was always on the edge. Worse, it was way too hot. Add his dogs, who love the bed, into the mix and… well, it was a bad, sweaty scene. We tried it sideways the next night (the bed is longer than wider, right? Makes sense.), but as it turns out lying with your legs hanging off the bed does not make for happy sleep. Other arrangements–for example, the men on the bed and me on a chaise longue that I had drawn up beside the bed–were more physically comfortable but emotionally upsetting.

Because, okay, one night sleeping separate from your husband (or wife) isn’t going to kill you. But what if that one night spent separate was also spent watching the other two people you love (who are also in love with each other) snuggling happily? Not that there was ever any deliberate taunting (The happy couple were asleep when the lonely other lay awake.). The emotionals that situation caused were not intended or rational, but we couldn’t ignore them; any feelings of resentment or shut-out-ness are bad, bad news in a polyamorous situation. Letting that kind of insecurity grow and fester is like letting your house burn down. And it was happening at night, too, when even our most irrational fears have a way of seeming plausible.

Ick.

We were looking, always, toward the future. If we couldn’t find a solution that worked both ways–physically and emotionally–then the situation wasn’t going to work in the long-term. So, I saved and scrounged until I could afford a king-sized bed and mattress, and I bought them both to coincide with all three of us moving in together.

There should have been a hallelujah chorus, really. Flopping ourselves down, one after the other, it was clear that we had more than enough room. Even any two of our three pets could be on the bed, in addition to ourselves, and we could still fit. Thank goodness, too, that the bedroom in our new apartment was big enough for the frame and a few dressers to fit inside.

It seemed like our problems had been solved. High on gratefulness we slept well for a little bit. Then, we had to come to grips with a few things. One was that heat was still a problem, especially for whomever slept between the other two. Even with the overhead fan on high, no one slept so much as sweltered. Neither of the men could really handle being boxed in on either side by human furnaces, so it was decided that more often than not I should take the middle spot.

Not only am I the one with the highest tolerance for heat; I am also the tiniest person in our trio. Imagine, if you will, three people spooning. The people on the ends are broad-shouldered, and the person in the middle is petite. Can you see the way the blanket falls? If it’s taut–and it often was, we three keep firm grips on the covers–then it doesn’t really touch me. Okay, it touches my shoulder a little. But it doesn’t contour my body the way you would want if you were, oh, trying to keep warm. And my tolerance for high heat is more a… crippling need.

I like being warm. And I do not like it when air touches me when I am trying to sleep. Unfortunately, the breeze the fan created could and did shoot cool air right down under the covers, between the men and me. I couldn’t get them near enough to me on both sized to alleviate this issue, either, because a) they were asleep, and b) they didn’t want to overheat.

Often, I would become frustrated by the cold and sleep on the living room couch. Sometimes, the other husband would go because he was too hot. This interrupted our good rest, and also left us feeling like we used to feel: left out. It seemed like the logistics couldn’t be conducive to a functional relationship. We were cranky, but not for anything anyone had done wrong. It was confusing and frustrating that we were happy with each other but unhappy with the situation, and we didn’t know what to do. We were so afraid of the relationship falling apart, when everyone was really wonderful and blameless, that we never really talked it through like we should have.

Polyamory is all about talking. You think it’s about sex? Noope. Talking.

Winter was better for the other husband, but not at all for me. Other husband took the middle often during that time, to save me from the awful cold fan, but it didn’t matter. I slept on the couch some more.  I was worried about how I was feeling left out, and about the lack of intimacy between legal husband and I; we hadn’t slept beside each other for ages.

Then the summer came around again and we installed an air conditioner in the bedroom window. This had not been enough last summer. But then, other husband coupled its use with an electric fan that would sit near the end of the bed and blow over the comforter, rather than down and under it. The overhead fan was phased out.

Voila! And thank goodness. I mean, really.

But it’s not just the AC/fan combo. It’s conditioning, too. We’ve had to sleep in smaller beds since, while staying in hotels and stuff like that, and been much better off than we were when we started. You get used to the extra heat. You get used to being hedged in by bodies and not feeling particularly crammed. You even get used to cycling the sleep rotation without even properly waking up.

For example, if other husband sits up from the middle, I wake up because I know he has to go to the bathroom, sit up, and let him out. Then I slide over, switching our pillows as I do, so that I can snuggle legal husband. By the time other husband returns, I’m probably asleep and he happily snuggles me. Sometimes we switch mid-night, sometimes we don’t, but figuring out the temperature issue allows us to switch it up more on a regular basis, which is enough.

Other husband goes away for work sometimes. He’s actually gone for this very weekend. When he’s not here, the bed feels huge. The first time this was coming, we all joked that it would be a little retreat, a plus side to missing him. But no… It’s a vast, lonely sort of bigness that feels wrong.

It was a tough thing to make livable, but now that it is… It’s, well, our life. It’s snuggly and peaceful and warm and loving. There are three goodnight kisses to give, and for any one person there are two different hands to hold.

So: what questions about day-to-day polyamory do you have?

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2 comments

  1. My husband and I had started to think about some of these things before our relationship with a girlfriend ended. One thing we couldn’t figure out was how to share one bed between three people — when two of us are on CPAP machines and we all have different sleep and work schedules! I think, for us, moving her in would have required another bedroom with different arrangements for different nights.

    The really tough part came when what made the most logical sense didn’t work emotionally. I’m an insomniac and work from home on my own schedule and don’t spend that much time actually sleeping while my husband does. Her schedule was much more compatible with his. But emotionally, it REALLY didn’t feel right to move me out of our bedroom in order to move her in. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with that!

    For a three-people, one-bed arrangement, I’ve thought a lot about blankets and wondered about having multiple smaller ones with some overlap, so everyone could have one wrapped around them and be cozy, but could also throw it off when it got too hot. That would be a big bonus for the person in the middle, I’d think, and would also allow them to crawl to the foot of the bed to get out without uncovering everyone. The next time we have a sleep over, I really want to try this.

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    1. I know what you mean! (Wow, I never get to empathize over this stuff… Cool!) We have just started experimenting with multiple blankets, and it works GREAT. We just need to get actual separate comforter-type things (maybe meant for twin beds), because right now it’s short fleece blankets, etc.. …The dogs eat holes in them. Sigh.

      It’s also on the radar that, when we move into a bigger home, we will have an extra bedroom. Sometimes one of us wants to be alone, sometimes one of the duos really need some couple time, and I think that’d be a great help.

      Yes, sometimes the apparent logical solution just won’t work emotionally–that’s how I was on the chaise while the men had the mattress. I just couldn’t feel right that way. And isn’t it amazing how different three people’s schedules can be? It makes me wonder how we ever managed even as a couple, if we can’t synchronize three measly people into compatibility…

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