By Bunmi Sofola
IT is a known fact that having a relationship adds a lot of va-va- voom to your life. Suddenly, you’re a better person to be with and life couldn’t be more exciting. Then you have an almighty row and you’re boiling with rage. “All sort of nasty thoughts suddenly start running through your head”, posits Bibi, a constant sufferer of the ups and downs of love. “How did I ever end up with him? What does he ever do for me? You may not want to hear it right now, but this man may in fact be good for your health. He might even help you live longer.
“Love and intimacy are the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing”, says Dr. Dean Onish, Professor of Medicine at the University of California.
According to him, “If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. Being lonely can almost literally break your heart but a happy relationship boosts our immune system, helps us avoid depression and reduces our risks of cancer and heart diseases,”
Studies have shown that those who confessed to being lonely suffer from raised blood pressure at times of stress. That blood pressure rose with age in lonely men and women, while it remained more stable in people who said they were content. These facts don’t mean that living with the person you love doesn’t have its challenges. While a lot of us are good for the health of our partners, some might not be, as the way our partner live has a huge impact on our health and results in smoking-related diseases. Does he snore? According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association, 21 per cent of middle-aged men and 28 per cent of middle-aged women snore. The most common reasons for this are obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol. “Half the calls we get are from the partners of snorers who may be getting no sleep at all because of it”, says the associations’ director.
“Think how bad you feel when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep – all headache and bad-tempered. Then think about someone who feels like that day in, day out, for years because their partners snore, it can be devastating”.
Does he disturb your sleep? Some of us simply can’t drop off next to another person because we’ve always been used to sleeping together, but in recent decades we have taken infants out of the family bed to sleep alone”. The specialists also believe that lack of sleep can cause our immune system to run down. It can reduce our levels of concentration and make us liable to mood swings and depression. For instance, sleeping for only four hours a night, even for less than a week, affects the body’s ability to process and stored carbohydrates and regulate hormonal levels. The changes mimic the hallmarks of advanced aging – so we start looking old more quickly”.
Does he drink? When you move in with a man who likes his booze, you find that the fridge is suddenly stacked full of beer and there’s always a bottle of wine chilling away nicely. It’s hard to say no when someone wants you to join them in a sociable tipple. “Whereas you might not have bothered opening a bottle of wine just for yourself, you can easily drink half a bottle”, continued the specialist. “Increased alcohol consumption is probably one of the most common reasons for weight gain. Alcohol is not usually a substitute for food, but an addition to the diet. But it is almost as fattening as fat”.
Is he lazy? Left to your own devices you might walk to a friend’s house or to the shops. But what if your man drives everywhere? Or, worse still, what if he doesn’t go anywhere at all? “Most single women are out and about in the evenings and at weekends”, says the specialist. “As part of a couple though, they are more likely to stay in with a take-away, a bottle of wine and a video. If you used to walk everywhere before, don’t start accepting lifts or taking the car. One of the overwhelming factors in the increase in obesity which has seen it reach almost epidemic proportions, is lack of activity, so keep moving.
Not All Couples Are Comfortable Sharing The Same Room
A few years ago, Barbara Bray, 70, a British, killed herself after her husband, Harry, disturbed by her snoring – told her to move out of the matrimonial bedroom. The couple had been childhood sweethearts and had been married for 49 years when Barbara
snapped. Their son, John Bray, told the coroner: “There was a large disagreement about the fact that my father had wanted my mother to sleep in another room and she had moved her possession out of the shared room. I don’t think my mother was behaving rationally at the time. I tried to help her move her possessions into the room and she said she couldn’t live like this.”
“The shared bed represents intimacy,” explains Gillian Walton, a marriage guidance counsellor, “It’s a symbol of having a sexual relationship. Of being ‘a couple’, of being in the right place. And while some people sleep apart and are perfectly happy, it can be a sign that something is wrong when one person moves into another room.’ Yet there’s no doubt that sometimes, sleeping apart is the best option, particularly when a health problem is involved. You toss and turn. He gasps and snores. You are too cold. He’s too hot.
Neither of you has had a decent night’s sleep in months. But you live together and that means sharing the same bed, for better or worse.
“Maybe you’re a light sleeper” and the other person is a heavy sleeper. Perhaps he’s an owl and you’re a lark, or he prefers more or fewer blankets than you do. One of you could be an insomniac. Or maybe you just prefer to be alone in your bed! It’s very rare to find someone whose sleeping patterns exactly match your own.”
She believes that we attach far too much importance to sharing a bed. “Sleeping together is not an age-old custom. Most Victorian men would have found the idea of sharing a bed very strange. This romantic idealized view of marriage only became popular around the 1920s. But these days, sleeping apart – even for good reasons carried a stigma for many couples. It’s still considered an embarrassing thing to admit. People will make assumptions about the state of your relationship based on that knowledge.
“Yet, for a successful relationship, you need distance as well as intimacy. If you over-emphasize the importance of sleeping with your partner, it could be a danger sign that you are too independent. You need to keep your sense of individuality within a relationship. Many people overstress togetherness, but it’s equally important to do things by yourself and be happy spending time by yourself.”