Battleground Bed: The Seat of Power in Every Relationship

Love and Sex

Battleground Bed: The Seat of Power in Every Relationship

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

We moved in together recently. My partner and I.

What they don’t tell you about moving into an unfurnished house is that once you’re done paying the piper, you’re only left with enough to set up a makeshift bedroom and a kitchen that can produce morning coffee and store the free plastic cutlery that accompanies Chinese takeaway.

Our bedroom was furnished with a questionable mahogany bed and an old cupboard of his. We made a makeshift lamp from a bottle that still carried the last dregs of cheap wine and fairy lights that were bought for mood lighting but seldom used.

Nevertheless, heightened pheromones mixed with the heady quality of “young love” perpetuated our desire to continue playing house. And the other night we found ourselves discussing the “decor” of our living room. I stress on the word “decor” because all we had so far, was a carton full of shoes and a swimsuit calendar stolen from work.

You could tell who was right or wrong in a fight or who had decided to take the high road that night.

As we dreamt of an eclectic sofa bed that would perfectly set off the DIY shoe rack, he asked offhandedly, “Who will sleep in the living room after a fight?”

It was a vital question. War strategists will tell you, retaining control of the seat of power is integral to winning. You need to have a stronghold over the capital, which, in this new cohabiting arrangement was our bedroom with the queen-size bed – the most comfortable (and expensive) piece of furniture that received maximum air-conditioning and was equidistant to both the kitchen and the bathroom.

The bed, in a domestic arrangement, always becomes the battleground and the winner is the one who gets control.

I knew I had two choices. One, make a joke and brush it aside. Two, say something adorable while also making clear that I ain’t the one sleeping outside. I chose the former, we laughed, and the conversation shifted to more important issues like our fear of correcting the maid’s cleaning technique and the frequency with which one should defrost the refrigerator.

But the question remained.

In a relationship that does not involve cohabiting, fights are resolved after a “time out” or passive-aggressive behaviour is displayed over text or through a tirade of drunk phone calls at late hours of the night. There is always an escape and distance usually helps – it doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder but the need for attention mixed with paranoia usually makes people resolve fights, and pretend to move on.

But we didn’t seem to have that option anymore.

We didn’t each have our own spaces that we could retreat to, and watch Bill Hader sketches while constantly keeping a check on the blue-tick-to-last-seen ratio. We were sharing the “war zone” and relinquishing control in favour of wanting space could lead to an extended period of not having the coveted “upper hand”.  We were, at what you would call, an impasse.

When in doubt about domestic situations, I always look upon my parents. They would fight sometimes and afterwards, my father would sit alone in the living room pretending to read the newspaper (re-reading it late in the night because they didn’t have Instagram). I also remember my mother relenting and walking up to him after 10 minutes or so to make banal conversation – like nothing had happened.

You could tell who was right or wrong in a fight or who had decided to take the high road that night. Often, my father would give up his attempt to read the paper and go back to their bedroom, usually, with a glass of water – like he had simply stepped out to get it from the kitchen and it was normal that it took him 15 minutes to finish that task. If it was my mother, she’d bring him the water or some random piece of news that has no bearing to it being the middle of the night. The glass of water or piece of random news was the olive branch of peace. No matter which one of them went for it, the fight always ended like the adage, “You don’t go to bed angry.”

Is this how the scenario would play out in my new house? Would he bring me a glass of water to signal the end of the fight? Would I complain about the weather and pretend like nothing happened in the hope that he does it too?

It’s a tempting idea but one that I don’t want to perpetuate. It’s sometimes wiser to let the sun go down on a fight in the same bed, even if it means sleeping in a huff. Muscle memory and the virtue of sharing the same blanket can sometimes make you inch closer until you’re nestled together. And when dawn comes, all fragments of the fight are forgotten.

I think that’s what we will do. For that is the memory I’d want my children to have.