Ask Una is a satire column in which we ask those burning wedding questions we know you’re thinking about but are too afraid to put in writing. So we did it for you. Seriously (we’re not serious).
My new husband isn’t usually very emotionally forthcoming, so I’ve been relieved that lately we’ve been having amazing talks at night. Our conversations are so deep and poignant that someone could film us and it would basically be exactly like the meet-cute scene in an indie rom-com starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (the young versions, not the now versions). The only problem is, during these intense heart-to-hearts—my husband is asleep. Like dead-to-the-world, splayed-out, mouth-breathing, NyQuil coma asleep. And when he wakes up in the morning it’s like they never happened—WTF?! How can I get him to listen when he’s out cold?
—Pillow Talked Out
Some people—especially men—can be emotional werewolves, only letting their true feelings seep out under a specific set of circumstances. The best talk I ever had with my husband, for example, took place the night my parents announced they were divorcing, which also happened to be the night someone at a party offered my not-yet-husband a not-insignificant amount of cocaine. We stayed up until dawn, bodies entwined, sharing our deepest secrets—but in the light of day both of us knew that, unless I wanted to have my family implode every day or he wanted to turn into Robert Downey Jr. circa Less Than Zero, it could never happen the same way again. Now, most nights, I fall asleep listening to a podcast while he reads on the couch. It’s better this way.
You, however, are stuck in a much more maddening cycle. Like the fabled shoemaker visited by Project Runway-caliber elves, you experience magic every night…but then, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you wake up to the same old Sonny and Cher. Your husband clearly suffers from somniloquy—the Shakesperean-sounding name for sleep-talking—but his affliction is your (at least, temporary) gain. You get a deep sense of emotional connection, and he gets in a solid eight hours—that is, assuming his mouth-breathing isn’t a sign of sleep apnea, in which case he should see a doctor ASAP. But is anything you say penetrating the frontal lobe, or is the movie you’re re-enacting less Before Sunrise and more Weekend at Bernie’s?
To find out, I suggest you try an experiment or two. First, try to suss out if the things he says during sleep are genuine thoughts and feelings, or simply a string of random Tourette’s-like outbursts that you have bent over backwards to ascribe meaning to. Next time you’re “talking,” you could ask him to list every friend of yours he’s fantasized about sleeping with. Then, throw a dinner party with all of those women (and men, as the case may be—don’t judge!) in attendance and suggest a game of strip poker. Watch your husband for signs of arousal, such as dilated pupils and increased blood pressure (see if you can surreptitiously slip a cuff on him while the ample-bosomed unpaid intern from your office cuts the cards). You’ll either be instantly reassured that your subconscious marital bond is intact, or end up naked, eating leftover queso—which, let’s be honest, is hardly a consolation prize.
Alternately, you could say something intentionally shocking and false to see if he remembers it in the morning. Confess that you once spent a passionate night with Carrot Top, or that when you said you were going to Nashville for a business seminar, you were actually in Düsseldorf being trained as an international assassin. Repeat as often as needed over the course of a week; if he doesn’t bring it up at breakfast, or develop a sudden and inexplicable aversion to redheads and/or German beer, then your pillow talk is—and forgive me this pun, it’s just too delicious to pass up—nothing but a sham.
The good news is that, even if your husband isn’t hearing you, you’re hearing him, which could be a potentially lucrative arrangement. If anything he says is remotely funny, you’re looking at a popular Twitter feed, at minimum. Work hard enough and you might even have enough fodder for a hit podcast. You know—the kind a woman could really fall asleep to.
Una LaMarche has written four young-adult novels, Five Summers, Like No Other, Don’t Fail Me Now, and You in Five Acts, as well as a comic essay collection, Unabrow. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Allure, and Parents, as well as online at the Huffington Post. The New York Times has called her writing “surprisingly seductive,” which she plans to use on her tombstone.