What to Do If Your Partner Hates Your Body Pillow

What to Do If Your Partner Hates Your Body Pillow

Ever since I got a body pillow last year, my husband and I have had a love-hate relationship with it. I love that it’s finally provided some long-sought relief at night for my achy hips, but since it’s one of those gangly, elongated jobs (like our upcoming top-pick body pillow for all-around support, the Milliard U-Shaped Total Body Support Pillow), I hate how lumpy and out of place it looks during the day atop our neatly made bed. My husband, meanwhile, hates how it’s become a physical (and metaphorical) barrier between us, and thus, he loves making fun of it by giving it such nicknames as “the third rail” and “your other husband.”

Because a bed is such an important, intimate, and vulnerable space, decisions like how it’s decorated, which side of it you sleep on, or how many pillows live on it can feel fraught. That’s why, after months of me frowning at the look of my pillow during the day and my husband taking potshots at it come bedtime, I decided to seek out some professional advice.

Jokes aside, even if the pillow isn’t interfering with my husband’s sleep, he likely has valid concerns about its presence, Wendy M. Troxel, PhD, author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep, told me in a phone interview, adding that it’s an issue we should acknowledge, unpack, and (hopefully) resolve together. “There’s your sleep, my sleep, and ‘our sleep,’ and that last one is often a really neglected idea,” Troxel said.

“Our sleep” isn’t just about sex; it’s about all the ways that sharing a bed with a partner might bring you happiness and fulfillment—and it might take a little work to figure out, since most couples have differing expectations and aren’t well-versed in talking about them. As Troxel explained it, “We think of sharing bed as this automatic thing that couples seamlessly fall into … but that’s not the case, and it’s often based on assumptions.”

Before I tackled that tough conversation, I thought an easier first move would be to improve how my body pillow looks. I turned to Anita Yokota, a therapist turned interior designer and author of Home Therapy: Interior Design for Increasing Happiness, Boosting Confidence, and Creating Calm. Her first suggestion was to simply move it out of sight until bedtime by stashing it in an under-bed compartment, a flip-top storage bench, or in a tall, lidded hamper that can live in an underutilized corner of the room or closet. (If storage furniture or accessories won’t work, try placing the pillow across the head of your bed, then arrange your other pillows in front of it. Voilà, it’s gone!)

Yokota also reminded me that whimsy can go a long way when you’re trying to solve a decor problem. “I would bring humor into it,” she suggested. “Instead of getting mad at how it looks, see how you can play with it.” This is the advice that worked best for me. I started making a game of it every morning, trying as many different configurations I could twist and turn the thing into. Can I spell the entire alphabet, one day at a time? Can I simulate soft serve or pull off a pretzel shape? Sometimes I take my pillow sculpting more seriously and try to mimic a Jeff Koons piece, or I’ll tie it into a knot for a chic, slightly nautical vibe. But however my daily attempt winds up, once I began leaning into the pillow’s inherently goofy appearance, it started making me smile every time I looked at it.

A gray, elongated body pillow, neatly rolled up on top of a bed.
Behold the author’s behemoth of a body pillow, rolled up soft-serve style. Photo: Rose Lorre

Unfortunately, my little art project wasn’t really changing my husband’s attitude toward the pillow for the better. We had to hash it out.

“You and your husband both come to the bed with a different set of values and expectations that change over time,” Troxel explained. “That can create challenges when we don’t have any practice in discussing those issues and finding compromises.”

She then talked me through some methods she employs for many couples she works with, no matter what their particular bed-sharing issue may be.

Listen before negotiating

Oftentimes, couples jump straight to the haggling phase of a sleep disagreement and try to grasp at a solution without first allowing each other the time and space needed to fully air their concerns. Troxel advised me to “try to listen in a nonjudgmental way until you get to the point where you can say, ‘Wow, this is about more than a pillow. I see now how this is about our connection.’”

Rethink what compromise looks like

Giving up my body pillow wasn’t an option for me, and thankfully, per Troxel’s advice, I don’t have to. Though other relationship issues sometimes require a more clear-cut give-and-take, the rules are different when it comes to sleep.

“Doing anything you can to protect your own sleep is good for your relationship. We’re all better partners when we’re well-slept,” she said. For me, the trick was figuring out what was motivating my husband’s complaints about the body pillow so I can find ways to address them while still keeping the pillow as part of my routine.

Talk it out in a neutral space

Lastly, Troxel said that we should discuss the problem in a low-pressure environment—that is, away from the bedroom, nowhere near bedtime.

So I brought it up in the kitchen one evening before dinner, when work obligations weren’t hanging over us. I told my husband that, since he didn’t have any complaints about the pillow hogging space (it lives on my side of the bed with me), I didn’t get why it bothered him. After all, we’d never been the type of couple to sleep all cuddled and intertwined together.

But that was just the thing. Because our sleep tends to be physically separate, he explained, those less frequent, incidental occasions where I rest a hand on his shoulder while falling asleep or he throws an arm across my waist in the middle of the night have always felt special to him, especially considering the dogs, cats, and child that have wedged themselves, uninvited, between us in bed over the years. In his mind, my body pillow was the latest impediment to those moments he loved.

It really wasn’t about the body pillow. It was, in fact, about “our” sleep—something I never thought was a thing, yet something that had long ranked in my husband’s mind as pretty important. I was surprised, flattered, and all too happy to prioritize what he worried about missing. In fact, his confession prompted me to admit that our routines had probably grown too isolated from one another. Normally, we each plop into bed at night and silently do our own thing (reading, crosswords, internet surfing) until we’re zonked, at which point we each turn away from the other and pass out. Nowadays, I try to remember to first turn toward him and check in. It’s become a moment to decompress and (hopefully) laugh off the day together.

The body pillow still lives atop the covers during the day and between my husband and I at night, but it’s no longer limiting our contentment. Instead, it reminds me to appreciate how wonderful it is having my husband there next to me.

Its new nickname is “the missing link.”

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This article was edited by Catherine Kast and Christine Cyr Clisset.


1. Anita Yokota, interior designer and author of Home Therapy: Interior Design for Increasing Happiness, Boosting Confidence, and Creating Calm, phone interview, January 24, 2023

2. Wendy Troxel, PhD, clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist, phone interview, January 25, 2023

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