In slumber, we are clearly at our most vulnerable and do not have the ability to put on pretenses or control our behavior or appearances. Neither does our bedmate.
You’ve seen them on TV, those FBI profilers and behaviorists that can take one look at a person and tell if they’re being honest. Do their eyes shift to the left when they talk? Liars! But it doesn’t take a scientist or a CIA operative to read the body language between two people in a relationship. Any casual onlooker can point to the obviously new lovers, still in the honeymoon period, who can’t take three steps without going in for a kiss. Sadly, it’s also painfully easy to spot the couples on the other end of the spectrum, the ones you look at and think to yourself ‘life is too short, why are these people sitting across a table from each other?’ Then there are all the subtle signs in between those extremes, a couple sharing a knowing glance, giggles from an inside joke, a roll of the eyes. Body language tells the world who we are, who we’re with, even who we want. Body language is a huge part of our everyday communication.
But what about our every night communication? What does our body language say when our bodies are at the mercy of our subconscious, the most honest part of our make-up? In slumber, we are clearly at our most vulnerable and do not have the ability to put on pretenses or control our behavior or appearances. Neither does our bedmate. So what if you cozy up to your sweetheart in the middle of the night…and he groans and pulls away? Is he really, literally, trying to get away? Is it over? Is he cheating? The imagination can run wild when you lie sleepless in bed. Are your fears founded?
According to Body Language Expert Patti Wood, “Sleep positions offer valuable insight into the intimate feelings in your relationship.” But before you start packing your bags or change your relationship status on Facebook, there are a few things you might want to consider. For example, has your partner’s sleep position changed gradually, or suddenly?
Not surprisingly, studies show that couples in the first stages of romance engage in more intimate sleep positions, like:
Just like it sounds, one partner lies on his or her side, facing the edge of the bed, and the other lies behind, with his or her entire front connecting with the other. Studies show this position reduces stress and increases intimacy in the relationship. It also is an early indicator to your partner that you are ‘giving yourself’ wholly, that you feel secure being at your most vulnerable with this person.
The Honeymoon Hug
Again, just like it sounds. The partners lie on their sides, holding each other, face to face, touching heart to heart, toe to toe.
As a relationship progresses these sleep positions will likely change and adjust to new elements of the partnership. For example, if children enter the relationship and one or both of the partners feels clung to throughout the day, the Spoons position may loosen up to the point that the partners are side by side, but not fully touching, leaving space to breathe and move, but still often connecting at the feet or maybe even holding hands.
Depending on the changing power plays that every relationship experiences over the years, the extremely intimate and symbiotic position of the aptly named Honeymoon Hug might morph into what Wood calls the Royal Hug, in which one partner is lying on his or her back (the confident protector), the other curled up into the first person, almost in a fetal position (theoretically, this partner wants to be cared for, protected). This happens over time and develops as a result of gradual and natural changes in the relationship. If your partner suddenly distances himself from you in bed, it might be worth reaching out to him and asking why, letting him know how much you enjoyed the closeness you had before he moved away from you.
He might have a reasonable answer that has nothing to do with that cute barista at his office building. In fact, beyond the idea that your partner has fallen out of love or is cheating, there are other factors to consider if your partner does suddenly move away from you in bed.
Is it hot out? In summertime, you might not even know my husband and I were married if you happened upon us sleeping together. There are only two reasons I can deal with the onset of cold weather in Fall, one being I get to wear my favorite boots, another being that my husband won’t inch away from me in bed all night. If your partner is kicking off his covers along with you, temperature might be at fault.
Do you talk in your sleep, grind your teeth or, God forbid, snore? I had a roommate who could hear me grinding my teeth from the next room. I can tell in the morning if it was a teeth grinding night if my jaw hurts, and if my husband is dangling off the opposite side of the bed trying to get away from me.
Did your husband tweak his back at work or at softball practice? In the search for comfort he might be forced to sleep in a new position. How about you? Do you think you’re going to want your husband draped all over you when you’re going through menopause? Word on the street is those night sweats are best experienced solo.
Body language is a fascinating tool and the temptation is there to turn the microscope on your own relationship to decode what is going on. Sleep positions can be red flags, but your gut feeling is always going to be more accurate. And if your gut thinks something is up, don’t set up a camera in your bedroom (not for spying, anyway!) to analyze your partner’s sleep patterns. Why not just have a talk?