You’ve got embarrassing, tricky, bizarre, and otherwise unusual life questions, we’ve got answers. Welcome to Is This Normal? — a no-nonsense, no-judgment advice column from HelloGiggles. Send your questions to email@example.com and we’ll track down expert advice you can trust.
Dear Is This Normal?,
My boyfriend still sleeps in the same bed he’s had since childhood…including the mattress. His dad (who died when he was a teenager) made it for him, so he’s super attached to it. But we can’t really fit it in together, and he has crazy bad back problems from the old AF mattress. What should I do?
— Surly sleeper, San Francisco
Girl, this situation sounds rough. Not only would you be smushed onto that tiny mattress if you ever wanted to have a sleepover (“Do It On My Twin Bed” style — ugh!) you’d need a two-bedroom apartment if you ever wanted to live together, just to house his childhood bed. And trying to pay for a two-bedroom place in the Bay Area? You can go ahead and hand over your first born right now.
You don’t have to live like this, though. And you’re not going to ruin your relationship if you try to get your boyfriend to loosen his grip on the past (at least a little bit).
Dr. Sue Varma, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone, thinks y’all can overcome this hurdle. She says your boyfriend’s attachment to his bed is reasonable, but “at this point, some transition is required to respect the new relationships being formed.”
Dr. Varma suggests asking him some open-ended, non-judgmental questions (because we know you don’t want to hurt his feelings!). Try, “What did this mean for you?” and showing empathy, concern, and validation through statements — “Losing him at that young age must’ve been so hard, I’m really sorry. I can’t imagine losing my dad at that age.”
Phrases to avoid? “Grow up” and “throw it out.”
“Ask him for interesting suggestions. Let him take the lead on what to do with it. Hopefully, if he doesn’t feel pressure, but rather your love, concern, patience, and respect, he will see that you are also looking out for him and have taken him into consideration,” she says.
Together, you could ask a relative to store the bed if you don’t have a spare room for it. Or, if that’s not possible, he could take a token from the bed — a piece of wood, perhaps — and turn it into something else, like a picture frame. Honestly, he might not go for it at first. But let the idea simmer for a couple of days or weeks, and see if he doesn’t reconsider.
Says Dr. Varma, “When a person feels heard, seen, validated, and understood, they blossom to new ideas.”
Stay strong, babe! Come at this from a loving, understanding place and he’ll hear you. And soon, you’ll be snuggling up in a luxurious California king (or at least a double, whatevs).
But please, find a way to get rid of that mattress. No one needs to have a soft-fiber object from the ’80s or ’90s kicking around.