Partners of snorers are often desperate to get a good night's sleep and as a result, they often develop a habit that can be devastating to their marriage--they sleep in another room.
Snoring Harms Our Health and Our Relationships
Marital complaints about snoring are common and they can have significant implications for each member of the couple as well as for their relationship as a whole. Sleep is crucial to our cognitive functioning, our physical health and our mental health. Disrupted sleep can cause impairments in judgment, decision making, learning and general cognitive functioning. In addition it can hamper our moods and lead to irritability, anxiety and even depression. As for our relationships, snoring often fosters deep resentments between partners that can erode their feelings for one another and damage their couplehood and their sex lives.
Snoring and Complaining Psychology
Despite the many injurious effects of snoring, when it comes to dealing with snoring as a problem in their relationship, most couples avoid doing so. Our complaining psychology is such that we often feel helpless about resolving common complaints. We feel the best we can do in many situations is to vent about the issues that bother us or to work around them and as a result, we fail to make real efforts to tackle the issue at hand and resolve it directly. In my book The Squeaky Wheel, I discuss how this complaining mindset impacts our lives and relationships for the worse, how frustrated and defeated it makes us feel, and how we can overcome our 'complaining learned helplessness and learn to complain effectively.
Snoring is a problem that provokes the worst of our 'complaining learned helplessness' because the snoring partner often feels as though there is nothing they can do to prevent their snoring. Their response is therefore to minimize its impact and say "just nudge me and I'll roll on my side", a solution that works for only a few minutes and puts the burden on their partner.
Night-Time Migrations to the Couch
The complaining helplessness couples feel about snoring can be so profound, they often fail to mention it entirely when seeking couple therapy. For example, I often work with couples who complain about an unsatisfactory sex life yet neglect to mention they no longer sleep in the same bedroom until I inquire about it directly.
It is rare for a couple to formally decide they will no longer sleep in the same room. Rather, the non-snoring partner is awoken by their partner's snoring and takes their blanket and pillow to the living room couch, their study or even their kid's bedroom. They wake up in the morning, return the bedding to the bedroom and feel grateful they were able to sleep uninterrupted. However, over time their night time migrations become more rule than exception and eventually they solidify into a 'permanent temporary solution', even if an 'unofficial' one.
Managing Snoring Complaints in Couples
So, what can couples do to prevent snoring from harming their marriage, their couplehood and their sex lives? There are several factors to keep in mind:
1. The non-snoring partner (the partner most impacted by the snoring) should raise the issue as a serious problem to be resolved. I suggest using the complaint sandwich to do so-a tutorial can be found here.
2. The snoring partner should agree to seek medical help and visit a sleep-clinic (info here), despite the inconvenience involved in doing so.
3. The non-snoring partner should express clear appreciation for their partner's efforts to resolve the problem (once they make such efforts) even if they've been asking their partner to do so for a while. In other words, give the snorer credit for taking action once they do.
4. Couples who with no young children in the home can look into powerful beeswax earplugs (beehives must be very noisy because these earplugs do a great job of shutting out loud noises such as snoring--but make sure you can still hear alarm clocks or smoke detectors).
5. Consider white noise machines. They can often even out the snores of light-snorers.
Copyright 2011 Guy Winch
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