Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing by Paul C. Rosenblatt is a very detailed look at very ordinary human behaviors. Bed sharing is so common that Rosenblatt finds that it has been invisible to researchers, and taken for granted by most of the adults who participate in the practice. Rosenblatt believes there is deep meaning in the customs, rituals, and learning necessary to share a bed with another, and that this very intimate and private social system impacts and is impacted by larger social structures.Rosenblatt reviewed the literature of sleep in sociology, psychology, medicine and other disciplines and found that researchers treated sleep as an individual phenomenon, although many adults sleep with a bed partner during much of their lives. Sleep problems were exclusively treated as individual problems in the literature, although the culture abounds with references to sleep being disturbed by a partner who snores, walks or talks in their sleep, or has other sleep disturbances.
[...] Several members of the couples interviewed expressed the view that to go to bed angry with their partner was They felt that sharing a bed symbolized a connection and solidarity that did not fit with their current angry feelings. This illustrates the levels of meaning uncovered by analyzing ordinary behavior. Going to bed with someone is not simply about the need for sleep or even sexual satisfaction. It says a great deal about whom you are as an individual and who you are as a couple. [...]
[...] In each case, the couples established a set of rules that allow them to continue to share a bed while feeling true to themselves. Eventually the conflict is resolved. The couple is advised by society to “kiss and make but Rosenblatt found that couples almost invariable talked rather than touched to re-establish friendly relations. Touching was not felt to be safe until the cease-fire had been declared verbally. This was especially true for the female member of the couple. Conclusion I had not previously thought of gender and other differences being played out in such a rich way in the couple bed. [...]
[...] In addition to the ritualized content, couples often retreated to the bed to talk about upsetting matters. This again relates to the symbolism of the bed in regards to the couple's unity. While the bed is usually considered a place for rest and relaxation, the act of having one's deepest worries heard by a partner demonstrates the depth of caring that exists. While not necessarily restful, pouring out ones heart to a partner is restorative and in the privacy of the shared bed reassuring touch (which may sometimes lead to sexual intercourse) is readily available. [...]
[...] Perhaps the practice of “bundling” (sharing a bed with a board or blanket divider during courtship) in Colonial America was a way of determining sleeping compatibility before committing to marriage (Wikipedia, 2007). While a couple is awake to discuss or non-verbally communicate preferences in sexual activities, sleeping compatibility and learning takes place at a more subliminal level with both waking and non-waking states being involved. In my current work setting with dialysis patients, fatigue is a common complaint. I am not aware of any studies that deal with sleep issues in chronic kidney disease and failure, although there are many symptoms that could negatively impact sleep for both patient and bed partner. [...]
[...] There is a fragile stability in this system as it may be disrupted by illness, work schedule changes, children and many other factors that may be outside the control of the couple. Each couple develops a network of rules that govern how they will share a bed. These rules are influenced by individual preferences and conditions, previous bed sharing relationships, household income, family composition and societal expectations. One might think that a bedtime routine in the privacy of a couple's home would be uninfluenced by others but it appears this is not the case. [...]
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