Do you send your husband a message with your choice of sleepwear?
I used to—only it turns out I wasn’t sending the messages I thought I was.
For years, I wore a t-shirt and underwear to bed, with an occasional variation. Although my t-shirt and underwear routine had begun during my teens, over time they became a sign of my resistance to sex.
It used to be that my sleepwear sent not-too-subtle signals regarding my sexual availability—and much of the time, I was keenly aware of that fact.
The occasional flannel nightgown said “don’t touch.” Sweat pants signaled “trespassers will be rejected.” My attire of t-shirt and underwear had transformed from regular life to something imbued with a message. The messages my nightly uniform definitely did not send were “love me” and “come here, Big Guy.”
As I began to work on sexual intimacy, my sleepwear transformed. T-shirts and undies turned into pretty nightshirts and undies. Eventually I ditched the underwear, and then I changed from nightshirts into pretty nightgowns. At some point, even those were gone.
As my nightwear began to disappear, I was quite aware that it was symbolic.
The symbolism had a major effect on my husband and an even more profound effect on me.
Big Guy could see and touch me whenever he wanted in the middle of the night. The option spoke volumes to him. In being more naked physically, I was allowing myself to be more vulnerable. What I wore to bed was a tangible reminder of the state of our marriage and the state of my heart.
I do occasionally wear something to bed when I’m feeling physically unwell or I just forget. On those rare occasions when I do wear something to bed, Big Guy assumes that I’m mad at him. He still interprets the signals I used to send, even when no signal is being sent.
It has been a long, long time since I’ve worn something to bed with the intention of sending a message.
This past weekend, my husband and I had an argument like we haven’t had in several years. It was hurtful on both sides. I was raw from it for several days.
We have a solid relationship now, and I know Big Guy loves me deeply. I have no desire to send Off Limits messages to him.
But at bedtime that night when I was still freshly shaken by our argument, without even thinking about it, I reached for a t-shirt and opened my underwear drawer.
As soon as I realized it, I paused, wondering if I was reverting to my old self to send my husband a message. I stopped myself and took a deep breath, searching my heart for my motive.
Am I trying to send Big Guy a message? He’s going to think I am, but am I truly mad at him? I didn’t even realize I was reaching for a t-shirt and underwear, but here I am holding them in my hands. What do I do? Why am I doing this?
I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat on the bed and thought back to the years when our marriage was difficult. Although our arguments weren’t usually as bad as the one we’d had that day, they were quite frequent. I had dreaded bedtime.
As I sat there wrapped in my blanket, I realized that my dread hadn’t always been about avoiding sex. I dreaded bedtime because I didn’t like to shed my clothing. I didn’t like being naked–even when I knew my husband wasn’t around to see me. I liked the feeling of wearing clothes.
After prayers and a lot of tears, I realized something: my instinct to wear something to bed was because I needed a tangible reminder of emotional security.
I wasn’t mad as much as I was hurting. The argument had shaken me; I felt unstable and needed to regain my sense of security. Just like babies like to be swaddled, being covered instead of naked helps me feel calm and recover my sense of equilibrium. I was hurting so much that I needed the physical sensation of comfort right next to my skin—and since my t-shirts aren’t as loose as nightshirts and nightgowns, they do a better job.
The times I feel most emotionally insecure are when I have allowed a separation between God and me. I thought the other night about how I have always dealt with our arguments. My response is usually to be defensive or focus on my feelings instead of trying to see my husband’s heart. I try so hard to emotionally protect myself that I not only don’t see my husband, I also don’t allow myself to see God during those moments. I’d been true to form in dealing with our argument that night.
I’ve often thought how weird it must’ve been for Eve to wear clothes after being without them for her whole life. She wore her first garments as a result of her shame and sin. I was glimpsing that a little bit myself. I had allowed a barrier between God and my heart during our argument—just as I had done throughout so much of my marriage.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I sat on my bed. I’ve seen spiritual growth in myself as well as growth in my marriage–but I didn’t know what to do. The thought of going to bed with no coverage at all was sending me into panic mode.
As much as I wanted to be mature and brave and just jump into bed naked, I didn’t have it in me to do so.
I knew that our relationship would be okay and that my shaking feelings of hurt were temporary. I was sad to think of how many years I had felt these same feelings after a difficult interaction in our marriage during a time I hadn’t known that we would be okay. For several years, I was feeling these things on a daily basis—not because of difficult interactions but because I had allowed my hurt to wall me off from a true sense of security in the presence of God.
I’d sent messages with my bedtime attire, all right, but I hadn’t been sending the messages that either my husband or I thought I’d been sending.
The messages weren’t just “don’t touch” and “seriously, dude, you don’t have a chance.”
The messages were deeper and more subtle: “I feel shaken,” “I am hurting,” “I am in need of comfort and security,” “I feel unlovable,” and “I am feeling completely unloved.”
I’d been sending messages from a desperate heart, yearning for my husband to reach out and love me and help me regain my sense of emotional security.
Wrapped in my blanket, I had a better understanding of what I was feeling and why I’d instinctively reached for my t-shirt and underwear. I felt a bit calmer—but I still didn’t know what to do.
I wanted to honor the woman I have become. I now understand that my husband matters. My marriage matters.
But I matter, too, and I needed to honor the reality of my hurt. This was a doozy of an argument, and I needed a bandaid to help me recover from the initial shakiness enough that I could begin to heal.
Out of respect for the work I’ve done and the woman I’ve become, I closed my t-shirt drawer and chose a pretty nightshirt instead–one that Big Guy gave me for Christmas several years ago. But because I was a little bit mad on top of the hurt, and because I’m not as mature as I like to think I am, I wore underwear, too—my least attractive pair.
And yes, Big Guy noticed.
What I wear to bed is still a tangible reminder of the state of my heart.The next night, my sleepwear was back to normal.
As you prepare for bed tonight, think about what you are wearing (or not wearing). What does it say about the state of your heart in your marriage?
Working through my dilemma of what to wear—or not—had been a powerful reminder that heart problems can be disguised.
Big Guy and I thought for years that my bedtime attire was sending him a message of rejection. It turns out that it was sending out a beacon of hurt.
Does your sleepwear send a message to your husband? Is it the real message of your heart, or is it another message in disguise?
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