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Sleeping with the Enemy She found her ideal man. But he snores. Loudly. Leah Rumack searches for a way to get some shut-eye.

Illustration of a frustrated woman covering her head with a pillow in an effort to muffle her partner's snores.

He won’t stop. He is ruining my life. I’m going to build him a tree house and lock him up in it. I’m going to cut off his nose to spite his face. Or rather, just to get some sleep.

It appears that in the ultimate vicious moment of schadenfreude, willed into being by—I’m convinced—the spirits of multitudes of vengeful ex-boyfriends, I have found myself dating a snorer. Not a “cute” snorer. Not a sniffle sniffle snorer. A snorer who snores so loud that I bolt up in bed because I think he has screamed my name.

People think it’s sweet. People think it’s funny. A charming wee problème. So Fred and Wilma. But as I stagger into work with black circles longer than my hair under my eyes for the third time in a week, my colleague admits that even if she could date Brad Pitt, if she had to do it on the average two to four hours of sleep I’ve been getting in the presence of my melodious new beau, she would have to seriously ponder her options.

The first night after we…kiss and stuff…I curl up next to him to drift off to sleep, congratulating myself on a job well done. Ten seconds later, the bomb drops. I bolt upright. “Oh, no, you don't,” I say aloud, horrified. (Naturally he can’t hear me, because, well…). Having struggled with various degrees of insomnia and noise sensitivity for years—I used to shrivel in dread over potential beaus with the unfortunate attribute of living on the rumbling streetcar line—I can’t believe my luck. Now I have a boyfriend who comes equipped with his own internal streetcar. Now that’s gold.

For the first month or so, the headiness of the new romance and its attendant services distract me from the mounting toll that B.I.S. (boyfriend-induced sleeplessness) is taking. I start to develop a rotating arsenal of snore-avoidance techniques. One or two nights a week, I dose myself into a stupor with sleeping pills so I’m too deeply drugged to be fully disturbed by his serenades. Other nights, I sleep with my head at his feet, which engenders the sweet (yet somewhat pathe­tic) spectre of him nuzzling my kneecaps in the middle of the night. Some nights I just suffer and pretty much stay awake, praying that endorphins will get me through my morning meetings. Trundling him off to the too tiny, uncomfortable couch in my living room isn’t really an option, but during a night at his place, I kick him out to his couch.

“Did you go?” his friend asks him incredulously, when we recount this tale.

“Yup,” Boyfriend says, “because I’m a bitch.”

The charm, however, starts to wear thin. It slowly becomes the noisy thorn in the side of our burgeoning relationship and casts a grim, growing shadow over any potential snuggly future. If he snores like this now, can you imagine him at, oh, 40? I’m dead meat.

One night, I wake him up weeping. I’m so desperately tired, and every time I start to fall asleep, he snores loud enough to terrify the cats. I start to carefully weigh the benefits of his visits: Should I let him drop by at 11:30 p.m. when I know it’s going to ruin my whole next day? He keeps boasting that his dad is a psychotherapist and has hypnotized him out of snoring once before and can do it again, though this conjuring session somehow never materializes. I buy him homeopathic remedies (they don’t work) and fantasize about the magical soft-palate-zapping operation that some chron­ic snorers subject themselves to.

“All I want is a good night’s sleep,” I moan miserably one morning.

“See? A few months ago I bet you were saying: ‘All I need is a good deep dickin’,’ ” he reasons with me cheerfully.

The bad nights, however, soon became shared. The more angry and less early-relationship sweet I get, the more I poke, prod and roll him in an effort to keep him quiet, which means we both slowly get more and more strung out.

“Well, that was fun,” he says after one particularly bad night. It takes at least until midafternoon for us to stop hating each other, and we don’t see each other for three days after that.

I go to an audiologist to have custom earplugs made. I sit in a booth with headphones on while he blasts me with various pitches to test my hearing—it’s all too fine, apparently—and then I have to bend over a desk and let him pour wax goop into my ear. “I hope he appreciates this,” I mutter to myself, as the gross mold sets. When I tell the doctor I need the plugs to guard against Snorer Majesticus, he asks reasonably, “Have you considered smothering him?”

The expensive plugs, I soon discover, do an excellent job of blocking out high frequencies like, say, a butterfly shouting, but not so much on the snoring. I should have tried smothering instead. Cheaper.

Take two.

I buy a new bed—perhaps he’s allergic to my old one? All that does is set me back over a thousand dollars. This boy, he’s getting expensive, and we’re getting desperate.

One morning at brunch, after yet another near-sleepless night, we are snipping at each other over napkin placement. My friend takes one look at us and says, “You guys have to fix this sleeping thing. It’s a problem, and it’s the only problem.”

“Are we going to break up over snoring?” I ask him.

“That’d be pretty funny,” he says glumly.

That’s it. He’s so out of here.

“How big a couch do you want?” the Ikea salesman asks me pleasantly.

“Big enough to put a six-foot-one-inch man on!” I snap.

When the couch arrives, I am reminded of the time my friend and I tried to convince her puppy that her personal cush­ion was just as good as the bed. “Oh, Lady,” we gushed, “Lo-o-o-k­ at your PRETTY cushion!”

“Oh, baby,” I smile brightly, gesturing wildly. “Lo-o-o-k at your new couch!”

“Yeah…” he says. “Uh-huh.”

“Do you like it?” my sister asks him.

“I don’t like what it represents.”

Apparently, none of his previous girlfriends ever struggled with his special skill as much as I have. And the pangs of guilt he at first felt when watching the effects of his nighttime howling on me seem to turn slowly into exasperation and an under­lying vibe that I just need to learn to relax. But he does little to help the situation, like take decongestants; he insists they won’t help, and they’re “toxic” for your body. Or undertake the miracle hyp­­nosis session he promised; he’s claims he’s too busy. And surgery, which I admit is perhaps a bit much for a new girlfriend to de­mand, is completely out of the question; he hates modern medicine in general because it is, of course, “toxic.”

So while, clearly, it is my fault for choosing to date, once again, a hippie in man’s clothing, I figure that a girl’s got to do what a girl’s go to do. So out to the couch the bad dog goes.

After a week or so of being sent out to the living room, where he seems to enjoy yelling, “God, this is SEXY!” at bedtime, I appreciate him a lot more because I am awake enough to notice him. He, however, is underwhelmed by this arrangement.

“It’s better, isn’t it?” I ask hopefully.

“Well,” he says, “It’s different. I feel really far away from you on the couch. It’s not the same.”

He’s right. It isn’t. It isn’t the same.

We can’t rest curled into each other. We don’t have the casual intimacy that is rolling over lazily in the morning to fall back asleep in some ridiculous configuration of knees and crooks of necks. And not to mention losing the proximity-easy molestation benefits (mostly his). But I do miss it. I do miss him, and the potential cumulative effects of this tear in our daily closeness worries me. Having him on the couch makes it feel like he’s my pervy, distant, diddling cousin rather than my boyfriend. But I don’t miss being so exhausted that I was on the verge of giving up a man who could roast a mean chicken (and stuff it!), build a house, fix a bike and charm my mom, all to score a mere good night’s sleep.

So for now we slumber away in our tenuously brokered peace—him in his “bed,” me in mine.

I didn’t build him a tree house. But at least I didn’t kill him.