Dilemma

this week's problem

The noise of Rosemary's husband's snoring often drives her, resentfully, into the spare room. He either laughs it off or denies he snores, and when woken gets angry and refuses to move into another room himself. If he does move, he sulks, and says it's just a way of her getting at him. If she suggests separate bedrooms, he says it would be the beginning of the end of their marriage. What can she do?

Snores, like cold cream and curlers, are not sexy. They are an embarrassment to the snorer and a torment to the snoree, if there is such a thing.

Snores are the subject of music hall jokes. It is not a subject to be tackled in the middle of the night when everyone is tired and frazzled and tempers aren't easily curbed. And, clearly, Rosemary's husband himself is not one to be tackled in the middle of the night either, since, sleepy though he may claim to be, he's not too sleepy, at 4am, to add to his wife's misery by a series of cruelly manipulative insinuations.

First, he delivers a piece of psychobabble about her complaints being some kind of subconscious aggression towards him. Second, when he does go to the spare room on his own, he sulks and makes a scene. Third, he complains that her suggestions of separate bedrooms is the beginning of the end of their marriage. Talk about "Responsibility, nein danke".

For some reason known only to himself he is hell-bent on putting Rosemary into the position of playing aggressor and making her feel guilty for what, in fact, he should feel guilty about - not tackling his snoring by going to see his doctor as well as offering gracefully to sleep in the spare room every other night. Women are so often accused of being the manipulative sex that we forget that some men are past masters at making us feeling guilty and wrong.

I think it is his manipulation of her that is getting Rosemary far more wound up than his snoring. Tape record the noise? Of course. But where would it get her? Every solution offered would have to be initiated by her and almost certainly groaningly and grudgingly accepted by him as if it were a punishment. (And, indeed, he would have a point, since all snoring remedies read like tortures from the Spanish Inquisition: a cork sewn into the back of his pyjamas to oblige him to sleep on his side, tape on his lower jaw to keep his mouth shut, special pillows with excruciating hollows in them, bits of plastic to insert into his nostrils to widen the airways, making the room freezing cold or boiling hot, putting bricks under the top of his bed to keep his head up, drastic dieting, giving up smoking and drinking, wristbands that give mild electric shocks when they detect a snore, laser operations ... )

And would this selfish man use these cures against her? You bet he would.

Separate bedrooms must be initiated right away. He will accuse her, of course, of either abandoning him or pushing him out. Whatever she does will be her fault. But, in fact, far more happy couples than admit to it have separate bedrooms these days, because they find nocturnal togetherness too claustrophobic or because one twitches in bed or the other likes to read late or one is hot and one is cold.

After a month of proper sleep, away from his resonating snores and manipulative vibes, perhaps Rosemary might feel enough of her own person to start to resist his insistence that she is his persecutor and start becoming sensible and practical instead, requesting that he see his doctor in case he suffers from sleep apnoea - a nasty condition that needs treatment. No doubt he will find a way to receive this kindly suggestion as another form of abuse, but perhaps Rosemary will by then be sufficiently rested to shrug off his accusations.

readers' responses

Why should a normally sane person be found sitting in front of a word processor at 2.30am, when the rest of the world is asleep? It is because I snore. All my married life I've been informed by my wife that she couldn't sleep because of my snoring. I didn't believe her until I recorded myself one night with a voice-activated recorder. In the morning I was horrified by the volume of noise from that tiny loudspeaker, and the variety of tones. They stretched from a gentle burble of a stream running over rocks, to a trumpeting that would not have been out of place at Jericho. There was one telling part where I could quite easily believe someone was being strangled. An action, I hasten to add, that my wife had threatened on more than one occasion after a sleepless night.

We have tried everything but nothing works. And it has been a constant bone of contention. I say she should wake me when my snoring gets too much and let me be the one that has to shift, but she insists on making a sacrifice and letting me sleep on unaware of the disturbance I am causing. So it goes on. Snoring is something you have to live with if you want to stay married, otherwise it takes over your life and makes it impossible.

Martin Russell

Tyne and Wear

I am very well acquainted with Rosemary's feelings since, in our house, it is I who am the culprit. My wife and I have happily and mutually agreed that separate rooms are the absolutely right way to overcome the frustration felt by both of us at nights broken for her by unpleasant and, at times, alarming sounds, the only cure for which has been shown to be surgery. (We are also incompatible in the bedroom for reasons of body temperature during sleep - hers plummets, while I react to jacked-up central heating.)

Separate bedrooms are not the beginning of the end of a marriage in which true love and consideration lie, and they need not put an end to those intimate activities in which couples engage. In fact, there can be added spice in an invitation - spoken or implied - to join one's partner for a happy and mutually understood purpose.

David Miles

Hampshire

Sleeping apart is not half as damaging to a relationship as not sleeping at all.

Piere Pup

London

Four years ago my wife was suffering the same problem as Rosemary. Every night her sleep was interrupted and resulted in one of us, invariably me, moving into another room. Hotel holidays became a nightmare: we had to book apartments to have the option of an extra room. The likelihood of permanent separate bedrooms being the answer galvanised me into action.

An ENT specialist prescribed a nose and throat operation. Simultaneously, and fortunately, my son bought a book, How to stop snoring, by Liz Hodgkinson.

I have found that although excessive alcohol can be a contributory cause, there is no doubt that body weight is the most important factor. I am six feet tall. At 190lbs I was snoring. When I shed 8lbs I stopped.

Of course, until Rosemary's husband acknowledges that he is snoring there can be no solution short of murder.

George J Nicholls

Cheshire

Get a tape recorder hidden near that snoring pig's bed, and then play the tapes loudly and unexpectedly when he is feeling cosy and relaxed - during a meal, say, or his favourite TV programme. That should put a stop to the denials, and maybe give him some understanding of your exasperation. You could then introduce the idea of seeking medical help, which can sometimes help to rectify this serious problem.

Jacqueline Simpson

West Sussex

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