Fear Of Intimacy: No, You Can’t Spend The Night

Welcome to Fear of Intimacy week at TheGloss. Learn more about it here, and feel free to e-mail me at Jennifer [at] TheGloss.com if you feel like writing a piece on your own fear.

You’d be surprised at how many men expect to spend the night after you’ve slept with them for the first time.

Now, to be fair, I guess they generally have some reason to expect that. I’m far too awkward for one night stands, so we’ve probably been dating for some time. And we’ve expressed some sort of affection for each other. I have probably even told him that I like him and find him attractive – I’m sappy that way, like a Hallmark card. Which may be why, approximately one minute and thirty seconds after we’ve finished (I watch the clock), they look surprised when I say one of the following:

1) Gosh! That was lovely. There’s an all-night diner up my street, why don’t we get dressed and go there? (And then you should go back to your apartment).

2) Well, I’d love for you to stay the night, but I just have so much work to do. At 3:00 in the morning. Which is when I like to work. (I’ll just be sitting at my computer playing Civilization III which is all I ever do at 3:00 in the morning. Empire building is my job).

3) I’m sorry, I just have to get up really early for a thing. A breakfast thing. So, it’ll be best if I sleep alone. (Please don’t quiz me on the “breakfast thing.” I’ll make up something super insane if I’m put on the spot like “It’s with the Dalai Llama!”)

4) It’s such a shame that you have to start work so early. Though it’s great! I really admire how hard you work. You know, the northeast corner across from my building is usually the quickest spot to get a cab.    (I would offer to drive him, but, New York).

Or simply:

Such a pity you can’t spend the night. (Because presumably we live in a nightmare world where no one ever spends the night anywhere, ever).

There are some people who know me well – hi, Mom! - who assume I don’t let gentleman callers sleep over because I’m just being considerate. I’m a terrible sleeper. While I’ve finally conquered my early childhood sleepwalking, and no longer awaken to find myself under my bathroom sink, I still have night terrors and periodically wake up screaming. On occasion I’ve been told I also emit a low keening wail that reviewers have called “freaky,”  ”scared the shit out of me” and “you realize you sound like a zombie?”  These tendencies are good, completely understandable reasons why someone wouldn’t want to spend the night with me. But they have nothing to do with why I don’t want to spend the night with them.

They do make for a good excuse about why I hate sleepovers, though. Even with warnings about my zombie wail, screaming, and general awfulness to sleep with, I am eventually talked into spending the night. Sometimes I do this because I feel like I’ve run out of excuses. Sometimes I do it because my gentleman friend’s apartment is located next to my favorite bakery. Either/or. When I do, I lie on a separate level of sheets from the other person and sleep fitfully, waking myself up every few hours, wandering around the apartment, usually resigning myself to sleeping on the sofa which I can excuse by saying I was “twitchy.”

Ultimately, this behavior leads to a conversation about how I’m “just like a guy!” because of the way I “hate to cuddle.” I guess they think it’s quirky, or cute, as though I really loved watching football games or drinking beer or hunting elk. Because hunting elk is the most adorable thing you can do as a girl.

Now here is a secret: I love cuddling.

It’s pretty much my favorite thing.

Do you remember  in When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal turns to Meg Ryan to discuss how women like to cuddle all night and men cuddle thirty seconds? When he says, “How long do you like to be held? All night right? See, that’s the problem. Somewhere between thirty seconds and all night is your problem”.

No, screw you, Billy Crystal, you are wrong. I do not want to be held all night – I want the cuddling to go into the next morning. I just want us to spoon and then when we get hungry I want us to rise to our feet, still spooning, and scuttle like Siamese twins into the kitchen where we’ll get – nothing, there’s no food in my refrigerator – and then scuttle back to the bed. And then nap. Still spooning. And I want it to go on like that forever. And ever. Until we starve. Or order take-out.

Do I like cuddling more than sex? In the post Sex-and-the-City era suggesting that you like anything more than sex makes you a little unwomanly, doesn’t it? And I do like sex. I like it a lot. But I don’t find it makes me feel vulnerable - I find it, ideally, a fun activity, sort of like a more pleasurable version of tennis. But since I spend a lot of the time flipping through a mental rolodex of Cosmo tips, sex isn’t something that makes me feel exposed. But when I’m sleeping in someone’s arms? I’m completely, totally vulnerable. And I will say that after relationships end what I miss most isn’t the sex. What I miss most is feeling so safe and warm napping with someone on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Cuddling, when it happens, makes me feel like a jerk a lot of the time. Because unless I steel myself and rise every few hours and eventually sleep on the sofa, I cuddle, literally, unconsciously. Periodically I wake up and find myself lying on top of someone, like a cat. Mostly, though, I just grip the man through the night like a spider-monkey. And then I wake up and see some perfectly nice guy staring at me as though I’ve let him in emotionally and, no, I haven’t. And I feel like my body has just told him a massive lie.

But mostly I just don’t want to be my most vulnerable self with someone who I don’t completely trust to see me that way.

I’ve never regretted having sex with anyone. But I’ve regretted sleeping with plenty of people.

So, in the end, when I point men to the taxi stand all I’m really saying is, “I can have sex with you if I like you a whole lot. But if I’m going to spend the night curled up in your arms, clutching you like a marmoset, subjecting you to my sweet, sweet zombie love call – well, we had better be in love.”

Awesome picture from Memegenerator.

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    • Lauren

      I have only slept with a guy that I didn’t love once. It was a disaster. I still blame that sleepover on the demise of our relationship. My rule after that episode became “If I will have sex with you without shaving my legs, you can sleep in my bed”.

    • Eileen

      This is why you go to his place. It’s much easier to leave without spending the night than it is to kick someone out at 3:00 in the morning. First encounters are never in my bed or at my house at all, for that matter.

      For the record, I’m not a bad bed-mate (once I’m asleep, I’m out, and unless I have a cold I make no noise). I just like my own time and my own space. You have to be pretty special to me for me to want to be with you more than I want my own time and my own space.

      • Jennifer Wright

        Yes, you COULD go to his place… but what if he’s a secret serial killer? And his doorman and everyone in his building are in on it? Because, I don’t know, their building is in nightmare world? Then he’ll kill you and get away with it. At least in your own apartment the residents are presumably on your side (this is the main reason I make pleasant conversation with people in the lobby. In case I bring someone home and he tries to kill me).

      • Eileen

        You just might have stopped me from having sex, ever. My father, mother, and grandmother thank you, at least until they realize that the consequences will involve my never having children.

    • Saskia

      So true. Sleeping next to each other, or in each others arms for that matter, just makes things way more complicated than just having sex and walking Home.
      Especially if the guy blames you to want a relationship (I don’t) and then asks you to spend the night and all ever happens is cuddling.. Who does that??

    • chris

      Great article, Jennifer. I’ve heard it said before that actually “sleeping” with someone is more intimate/romantic that just having sex with them, and I’d have to agree.

    • katie

      i like sleepovers i dated a bunch of boys that we just cuddled no sex at all. if filled my cuddling quota so i could have sex with other boys without feeling slutty

    • A

      I “slept” with a guy for a 2 months without ever kissing or having sex, just the cuddling/hand holding. I tell you it hurt more when we stopped “seeing” each other than it would have if we were just having sex…..sigh

    • M

      I side with everyone who says that cuddling can be far more intimate than sex. Especially with guys who Want to Talk [dun dun dunnnn].

      In a similar-but-not vein, a semi-related issue has been following me lately: after you share an incredibly painfully emotionally vulnerable moment with someone, what happens next? A couple friends of mine [who were not exceedingly close friends before this] have gone through some major crises lately, and the past couple months have involved a lot more holding and soothing crying people than most people probably do in about ten years [unless they have kids but maybe not even then]. With one of them it’s been fine; we’re both physically affectionate and not particularly inhibited by nature and he’s gay so we’ve pretty much continued being comfortable and touchy-feely-whatever with each other [albeit with less tears] since neither of our boyfriends mind anyway. The other is much more conservative, and straight, and not generally a feelingsy kind of guy, and while he’s expressed appreciation for all of us who have been there for him I don’t think he’s figured out how to make things.. Not so awkward? I think he feels like we’ve seen him naked, except worse. And he isn’t entirely sure what to do with that.

    • Michele

      i agree, sleeping with someone is most of the time, more intimate than having sex.

    • Myra

      Yes, it’s heartbreaking to look up at him in the morning with adoration in your eyes and all he really wanted was a warm body for the evening…one evening a week for 2.5 months. Sigh. Great article, Jennifer! It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels the need to get up and sleep on the couch instead.

    • SoapBox

      I think it can be a nice, casual thing provided he’s a nice guy. It makes the sex more like a marathon, rather than a one and done and just changes the vibe. You can have round one and round 2 at night (preferably with some herbal enticements in between) and then begin the next day with a little morning sex. If the guy’s a cuddler, cuddle, but if not just sleep on your side of the bed.

      But with some guys, the one’s who are just plain assholes and only just a good f*, you gotta get out of there.

    • Ashley

      First off, Jennifer, you are an excellent writer, and secondly, I want to thank you because I don’t feel like I’m the only person that feels that way anymore. Having sex and sleeping overnight in the same bed are completely separate! I have felt this way for years!
      I will only sleep with someone overnight in their bed if I love them.

      I guess from now on, I can say that I have a fear of intimacy. Another excuse for me sleeping alone.

    • Ginger

      I love this article!!! Cuddling is the devil, avoid it whenever possible as it either leads to relationship confusion or just hello awkward. I try and I try but sometimes you just fall asleep and end up in spider monkey hell. o.