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"You've made your bed..." is a ridiculous saying

(14 Posts)
Anniegetyourgun Fri 19-Aug-11 09:14:53

This is kind of a natural AIBU but I thought I'd put it here, because it is used mostly in the context of relationships and that is where it does most harm.

"You've made your bed, now you must lie in it." This is one of a number of platitudes trotted out by the older generation (ie anyone who appears higher up than yourself on the family tree) and even some people who are young enough to know better, when they get wind that someone is thinking of leaving their twunt partner. A lot of the sayings I can take issue with in context ("do you want your children to come from a broken home" being one, "families need fathers" another, and "it takes two to tango" being fair enough in some situations but extremely annoying in others). However the bed-making one is the only one that makes no sense at all, either as a metaphor or as straight out fact. I challenge it whenever I see it on a thread, but it's so bad it should have its own thread to shame it and put it to, aha, bed for good.

Think about it. You make the bed one day but for some reason you've made a pig's ear of it and it's all lumpy. You're really tired so you lie down anyway, but you just can't get comfortable. What is wrong with getting up again and pulling the underblanket straight? Isn't that the sensible, logical thing to do? Even if you made it in a literal sense with a hammer and a few planks of wood, if it turned out wonky you'd take it apart and have another go. If the worst comes to the worst and you're really too tired you can go and spend the night on the sofa. Would your mum really tell you that you mustn't sleep on another piece of furniture because you own a bed, even if it's broken? If she did, wouldn't you think she was a bit barkin'?

Now for the metaphorical sense. Supposing your affectionate, supportive, hard-working fiancé turns, after the knot is tied or after the first baby comes along, into a violent, alcoholic cock-lodger, or after vowing faithfulness spends every night out chasing skirt and brings home some lovely diseases. There's all too much of it about. So tell me why it makes any sense that a woman who has been deceived in this way should be expected to stand by her decision? She made a bargain, but he did not keep his end of it. However, because she "made her bed" - ie invited him into it - she is supposed to try to hold up one end of the bargain forever. Please explain to me why she should lie in this bed when the other party keeps messing it up.

Lastly, neither people nor relationships are pieces of furniture. People are much more complex and changeable, whilst a bed does not change unless somebody or something changes it. Plus you can actually chuck out a bed; it's neither so easy nor, usually, decent to do it to a person. Relationships are not a "thing" at all - they're metaphysical, an expression of the interactions between human beings, infinitely subtle, infinitely malleable. You remake a relationship every time you talk to your spouse, every time you call or don't call your parents, every time you cuddle or reprimand your child. It's developing all the time, for good or ill. It doesn't just sit there like a lump of wood, waiting to serve you. You have to service it, nurture it, even when it's easy and nice. It's more like a pet or a plant than a bed.

The point they are probably getting at, or their wise old granny was getting at when she used the phrase to them, was that if you take on responsibilities you have to see them out. That, of course, you do. They don't let you take your baby back to the shop if it isn't sleeping as well as the one you ordered. But it's no bloody help to say "well you wanted to have that baby, tough"; a decent relative or friend would come up with some helpful suggestions, refer you to sources of advice, or even offer to mind the baby for a few hours while you flake out. There's nearly always something you can do to improve a bad situation, and as human beings, we have both the capacity and, I would argue, duty to do so. If the first cavemen had flung down a few flea-ridden furs and said "there you are, that's the bed, lie on it", we wouldn't have sprung mattresses today.

There is no need to suffer in silence. There is no need to lie on that uncomfortable bed. Get up and do something about it, as you wanted to in the first place, and be damned to those shrill voices telling you to lie still and pretend to like it.

SirSugar Fri 19-Aug-11 09:23:17

Had this said to me once after more upset with my abusive H.

since he died, I've got myself a 'new bed to lie in' and its now luxuriousy and deliciously comfortable.

Wamster Fri 19-Aug-11 09:27:03

Great post. I hate the saying: 'you made your bed'. So women have to tolerate an abusive spouse because they got married? What a load of bollocks.
OK, giving up at the first hurdle isn't a good idea if your problems come from outside the relationship i.e. job loss. Perhaps I wouldn't have much sympathy for a person who left their spouse because of this, but if that spouse beats them, cheats, or is otherwise abusive, I would have sympathy with their decision to break free of it.

Anniegetyourgun Fri 19-Aug-11 09:37:43

I agree with you, Wamster, and would add chronic illness and child-rearing problems (eg DC with SN) to the list of things you should see through together. You may not have signed up specifically to deal with those problems but they have to be dealt with. If you marry a man with a great income, then he loses his job, it's how you handle it as a team that matters. (Of course if you only married him for his income then I suppose it would be a deal-breaker, but that really is treating people like pieces of furniture.) But when you're not handling it as a team, that's when it all breaks down horribly.

Anniegetyourgun Fri 19-Aug-11 09:38:29

Oh, and congratulations SirSugar on your new bed wink

overmydeadbody Fri 19-Aug-11 09:42:10

Great post, and I agree. Ridiculus saying.

DontGoCurly Fri 19-Aug-11 09:53:00

I fully agree.

ImperialBlether Fri 19-Aug-11 10:42:32

I never took it to mean that, actually. OK in the past it might have, but now I take it to just mean "You made your decision, now you have to live with the consequences." It can be applied to anything, not just relationships. And of course you can always make a different decision at this point.

notsorted Fri 19-Aug-11 11:26:05

Agree with Imperial and I'm afraid I've used it for ex ... you chose abuse rather than rational argument in search of a solution, you chose to run away rather than face problems, you chose to have an affair. Consequences are effect on DCs, less involvement etc.
I reckon, though, that the other version ie remake lumpy bed is true to. Each decision has consequences, how you deal with them ie remake lumpy bed or chuck it out the window and get a new one is up to you.
Ooh I sound like my dear departed Dad, who was quite Victorian in some ways in his strictness, but was also quite a radical too.
In a relationship, you both make the bed and can remake it too

Anniegetyourgun Fri 19-Aug-11 13:18:18

"Man (woman?) up and take the consequences" is fair enough, I agree, although "you reap what you sow" might have been a better saying for your ex, nortsorted! The thing about lying in bed is it's a passive state, and the implication is all too often that because you did that thing in the past - moved in with the guy, had a baby - that's it for ever and ever. That's what I take exception to.

babyhammock Fri 19-Aug-11 13:50:53

yup..hate it too...esp when its applied to an abusive situation..
and 'told you so'
and 'you must have known what he was like'
and 'well he can't have been that bad or you wouldn't have stayed for so long' being the worst for me...

Sorry I digress :-/

garlicbutter Fri 19-Aug-11 14:07:03

Oh, well said, Annie!

Picking up from another thread here today (sorry), I'd also offer "You are responsible for your own relationship". Surely both members of the relationship are responsible for it. I remember feeling like "I was the only person in my marriage" ... That should have been my cue to leave, but I had a badly-made bed to lie in, with unilateral responsibility for my relationship confused

Another close relation of the unmade bed: "I'm staying for the children." OK, so when your children are in their twenties and realise you sacrificed your youth, opportunities and happiness for them, how are they going to feel? Even worse, you tell them the bullying family they grew up in isn't normal, they should have had a more secure childhood, and they need to do their relationships completely differently (with no experience of the 'right' way.) Not sure they'll thank you for giving them a bunch of problems "for their sakes".

TeachMySelfBalance Fri 19-Aug-11 14:49:38

This grinds on me, too.
I agree with the above opinions-take responsibility for your choices and the belief that we have the freedom to make more choices. I feel devastated for the women in cultures where they are not so free.

There is another layer of irritation for me when I hear it. It is as though the speaker is taking an opportunity to score superiority points at my expense-ridiculing me when I am stuggling instead of offering empathy or, God forbid, any real help. It is a judgement and makes me angry thinking about it.

babyhammock Fri 19-Aug-11 18:13:03

From TeachMySelfBalance 'There is another layer of irritation for me when I hear it. It is as though the speaker is taking an opportunity to score superiority points at my expense-ridiculing me when I am stuggling instead of offering empathy or, God forbid, any real help. It is a judgement and makes me angry thinking about it.'

Exactly...its such a pointless unhelpful thing to say to someone wanting empathy at the very least.

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