The Snoring is Only Part of the Problem
A couple’s power struggle for sleep, intimacy and health
DEAR FRAN, I have a problem I haven’t seen you address before, but I can’t believe I’m the only one dealing with this. My husband is such a loud snorer that it drives me absolutely crazy. I have to use earplugs because I cannot sleep next to what sounds like a freight train. And I don’t mean to seem cold, but the sounds he makes when he sleeps are disgusting! Plus, I am truly worried about his health, because I’m sure he must have sleep apnea or something. I have begged him to go to the sleep study that his doctor recommended, but he refuses. He says he knows they’ll just give him one of those machines, and he’d never wear “that contraption.” I feel like he is being really selfish. What should I do? – Rachel
DEAR RACHEL, I have several clients dealing with this issue. It sounds like you and your husband are engaging in a power struggle instead of working together and realizing you are on the same team. People who snore may not acknowledge this, but it can hurt to be told they are unattractive when they sleep. They may appear to be defensive but in reality are embarrassed or even ashamed. At the same time, people are sometimes afraid they will be told their sleep apnea is putting their health at risk, so denial seems to be an easy escape.
If you can demonstrate to your husband that you are on his side, it may help lessen the power struggle. Show him compassion. Let him know you understand that it must be difficult to have a condition that is not his fault, but that it is really impacting your sleep and desire to be with him at night. Apologize if you’ve ever hurt his feelings by making him feel criticized for something he doesn’t do on purpose.
Also, let him know that sleep apnea can be dangerous but is easily treatable, and you want him around for a long time. Then I’d ask him to please have sympathy for you also, because the situation makes it difficult for you to sleep with him, though you want to. Remind him that no one can force him to use the machine, but he deserves all the facts so he can make an informed choice.
If he still refuses, I’d tell him that you understand the situation is difficult, but ask him to please continue to consider it. Counseling may be necessary if the situation doesn’t improve so that you stay connected to your husband. But hopefully a little more compassion will go a long way. – Fran
Fran Marmor, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist for more than 20 years. Though changing some details, she writes of actual cases for BOOMER from Fort Collins, Colorado. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.