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Advice Goddess



Love conquers owl

I've been living with my boyfriend for six months. His doctor's had him on medication for insomnia resulting from a depression when his girlfriend left six years ago. I thought he was improving because he let his prescription run out when I moved in, and slept regularly with me for three months (his longest stretch without pills). Now, his insomnia is back. Every other night, he'll just get up when he can't sleep, and I'm like, "Why don't you try harder?" He gets mad, saying the "experts" advise doing something like reading instead of just lying there. Perhaps partly because I associate his sleeplessness with the ex, I feel slighted when he spends another all-nighter on the couch, finally crashing at dawn. His insomnia doesn't affect his job (we both work evenings), but come morning, instead of having "quality time" together, I'm waiting for him to wake up. How can I settle down with a man who can't sleep at night? -- Tired Of It

"If you loved me, you'd lose consciousness exactly when I do!" This isn't the ultimate in unreasonableness. No, the ultimate in unreasonableness would be something along the lines of, "If you loved me, you'd get taller and be less allergic to cats." You aren't demanding that, but ... couldn't he at least lie awake next to you, twitching in agony all night long, to show how much he cares?

So, the guy's neurons schedule a pinball game every night at 2 a.m. He's excusing himself in the middle of sleeping next to you, not with you, as in, "Sorry to break away, Cupcake, but it's time for me to search the couch crevices for spare change." Perhaps you'd feel better if you focused on what you're actually missing at 2 a.m., such as the opportunity to read Chaucer in the original Middle English, or to make "three easy payments!" for one of those Jason from Friday the 13th-style masks to electrocute your jowls away.

Like a lot of women, you seem to see your love as a non-surgical form of "Extreme Makeover." This works fine when your insomniac boyfriend sleeps like a log. Once he starts sleeping like a log in a wood-chipper, down the chute go the smug notions about the transformative power of you. Sure, love is a wonderful thing, but your name remains unlisted as an insomnia remedy in Physicians' Desk Reference, as does that of the evil ex as a cause. Has your boyfriend seen a sleep disorders specialist? Along with depression, insomnia instigators include elevated cortisol (a stress-response hormone), sleep apnea (interrupted breathing), restless leg syndrome, too much (or any) caffeine, late-night alcohol or snacks, and (hmmm) working the night shift.

Refrain from suggesting new ways for him to count sheep, since, at this point, he's probably more interested in bludgeoning them. Instead, express genuine interest in his health and show compassion when he's suffering, and you might learn something, and maybe even have a little influence. Consider whether you're upset because you truly don't have enough hours with him or because he isn't awake when the happy couples in sunlit life insurance commercials seem to be.

For your relationship to work, you'll have to accept that he might never be a morning person -- maybe not even a noon person -- and he'll have to make a medically assisted effort to meet you in the middle (say, 10 a.m.?). Maybe if you stop taking this personally, you can shift to more lighthearted forms of man-torture, like, "If you loved me, you'd go to the ballet!" (Say it when he's still groggy, and he might believe you that it's just like NASCAR, except for the tutus and toe shoes.)

The company you bleep

Yesterday, a co-worker I've become pretty good friends with showed me his new girlfriend's photo. Whaddya know, it's my former booty call. We dated briefly last year, but didn't "click," so we just got together for sex until four months ago, when I met my girlfriend. Since it's in the past, do I have to tell him? -- Working Stiff

The next time he pulls out her picture, you could just ask him, "So, does she still scream 'Go, Daddy, go!' in bed?" No matter how hard you work to minimize your thing with her, that's what he'll be thinking is really on your mind. In other words, you're a creep if you tell, and a creep if you don't. Then again, you're slightly less of a creep if you don't. That's the rationale you give if he finds out down the road: You would've said something upon seeing her photo, except you didn't want to cloud his head with what amounted to a handful of casual dates. (And then, of course, there's the fact that you barely recognized her from the front with all her clothes on.)

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail (

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