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A bad mattress can lead to resenting your family

Extra firm.

I never dreamed those two little words would cause me to despise my husband, bicker with my parents and spoil countless family vacations.

But I'm here to tell you - a bad mattress can ruin your relationships.

When my dad first purchased the discount-priced, queen-size mattress for his guest room, I assumed it would be fine. But 10 years of sharing it with my 6-foot-2, king-size husband has made me so miserable, I'm finding myself cutting my visits short just to get a decent night's sleep.

I wonder how many relationships have gone south simply because of bad bedding? A random polling reveals a few common gripes:

"They expect me to haul the whole family to Des Moines every year and cram all four of us into a musty basement with a lumpy double bed they got at the Salvation Army in 1982."

"I can't take another Christmas sleeping on a cheap sofa bed with a bar in my back. If her sister's kids want to watch Sponge Bob at dawn, let them sleep in the living room."

"Just because I'm the youngest doesn't mean I should be relegated to the air mattress. I'm a 27-year-old married woman, and I'm not taking my vacation time to sleep on an inflatable bed."

My first battle of the mattresses began in the early years of my marriage, at my in-laws' house. I grew to dread the Friday nights when, after working all week, hubby Bob and I would fight the traffic and make the four-hour trek to his parents' home, arriving just in time to hit the hay in the saggy double he got for his 10th birthday.

While he spent the night sleeping peacefully, firmly ensconced in the 18-years-in-the-making Big Bob pit in the center of the bed, I was left with about six inches of mattress on either side of him.

Eight hours of clinging to poly-nylon stars-and-stripes sheets, trying to claw my way out of the trench, left me fuming with resentment at him and his entire family for making me so miserable.

Sleep deprivation is a common torture technique for prisoners. In hindsight, I can see that my own tormented nights cast a pallor on every visit we made to Bob's parents' home. Sadly, my in-laws have long since died, and I now realize that if I'd spent 500 bucks buying them a new mattress, we probably would have enjoyed each other more.

They say every hostess should spend the night in their guest room. I agree.

Many parents complain that their grown kids don't visit enough, and siblings often lament that they never see each other. Perhaps it's not a lack of love that keeps family members away, but horrible sleeping arrangements.

As gratifying as it to have all your grown children in the house together, if you're asking adults to sleep in wagon wheel bunk beds, they're probably not going to visit that often.

If you want your sister's husband to be nicer at breakfast, try providing a bed that's longer than he is.

I know everyone can't run out and buy a Heavenly Hotel bed for their guest room, but there are a few things you can provide. Decent sheets, curtains that block the light, extra drawer space, empty coat hangers, a clock and, if you can manage it, a bed that your guests can actually fit in.

As for me, my birthday is coming up and I'm treating myself to a brand new, king-size, soft and comfy mattress, shipped straight to mom and dad's. I've decided I love my parents too much to be cranky when I visit them.

And the best part is, when this princess shows up for the family weekend, there won't be any peas under that mattress.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.forgetperfect.com.