Should Couples Sleep in Separate Rooms?

usCoverIf you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably read the shocking news about Donald and Melania sleeping in separate rooms.

It’s everywhere right now: NO PILLOW TALK FOR PRESIDENT! His marriage must be hanging by a thread!

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.

But I wouldn’t pin it on whether or not they keep separate bedrooms, because my marriage is doing just fine and my husband and I…

… have our own bedrooms too.

shocked.pngI’ve hidden this fact for a long time, for reasons the current media explosion is making obvious: I didn’t want people whispering about how my husband and I were probably having marital problems and were maybe even headed for divorce.

Because sleeping in separate bedrooms is strangely taboo. It makes people think your marriage lacks intimacy.

So I kept it quiet until the day I moved next door to the kind of neighbor who would march through your house, taking inventory, until she couldn’t help noticing two master rooms with giant beds in them.

She’s exactly the kind of neighbor I’ve desperately needed. The kind who knows everyone in the neighborhood: where they live, what they do, how they’re currently fixing up their house and what kinds of BS problems they’ve been having with the school district. The kind whose confident, direct approach could be the perfect Yang to my Yin-like ballet of barely grasping what color car anyone drives and fretting about how anything I might say could possibly offend someone. (Did I say ‘hi’ wrong? Did they just give me a weird look?)

Well, I respect that kind of of forthright honesty and couldn’t bring myself to counter it with a bunch of lies. We were going to be living next door to each other for a long time and I could tell we were going to be friends, so why start out with some Three’s Company-style charade?

That’s John’s room, and mine is upstairs…

She looked at me sideways until I told her, “He snores, and I’m an insomniac.”

And that’s pretty much how it happened, how I came out about our separate bedrooms deal.

How it all began

My husband and I never intended to sleep in separate rooms. We slowly evolved this peaceful arrangement after our bedroom had turned into a nightly battlefield.

You see, I’m a hardcore night owl, chronic insomniac and very light sleeper.  He, on the other hand, is a champion snorer who can wake you up through three closed doors, from a different story of the house.

He also considers his sleep utterly sacred. “Like a religion,” to quote him exactly, which makes him prone to extreme grumpiness whenever woken up in the middle of the night by my tossing and turning or because, say, I needed him to roll on his side because my ears wouldn’t quit bleeding.

I used to stare at him at 4:30 in the morning, irrationally resenting how easily he could just drift off like that and reminding myself how wrong it would be to shove a pillow over his face right now.

I felt horrible about being mad at him for something he couldn’t help, but I was just…

so    t i r e d.

insomnia cat
(My sleep-avenging insomniac superhero fantasy self)
We tried everything. Earplugs, nose-strips, even sinus surgery. None of it worked. Turns out, they’d have to reset his entire jaw to fix the problem and it wasn’t worth the risks.

It finally all came crashing down one night when I was pregnant, in that brutal late period of pregnancy where nothing is ever comfortable and you find yourself overheated, aching and flipping into broken starfish positions across your bed, trying against hope for a few sweet hours of oblivion as your baby keeps digging her foot into the underside of your ribs…

It was during these painful hours of sweaty exhaustion, when his spoon-in-the-garbage-disposal snore was pushing and pulling two inches away from my ringing ears like Satan’s own accordion, that I finally snapped:

“I’m sorry, but you have GOT to GO.” (Before I kill you, darling.)

Either pitying me or fearing for his life, the poor guy relocated to the couch.

Well, the couch kept happening until it turned into a futon that turned into the office converted into another bedroom. Then we ended up buying a house with a serendipitous second master bedroom and could finally stop pretending that this sleeping apart thing was a temporary deal.

Some unforeseen perks

Although my husband and I started sleeping in separate rooms for purely practical reasons, we’ve discovered the arrangement offers real  perks beyond being able to get a decent night’s sleep.

You see, one of the coolest parts of being single is having complete dominion over your own territory. Being married means companionship, but you can sometimes lose all of your personal space, which is probably why couples tend to carve out man caves and femme dens.

On the other hand, having your own room means:

 

unicorns
(My room)
You can express your decorating style without having to compromise with anyone. My bedroom involves a bathtub with peach curtains and chandeliers. I keep fresh flowers on my coffee table, next to a tea set and whatever fluffy indulgences make me happy.

My two daughters call my room the “girl clubhouse” and like to hang out on my flowery bedspread with all of our cats, purring in harmony around the throbbing pinkness of my rose-strewn monument to glittery estrogen. The whole place reeks of vintage movie stars and unicorn magic.

Meanwhile, my husband can put up that monkey-drinking-booze poster that that he finds hilarious without me giving him crap about it. His place is one big Testoster-oni treat of electronic wires, open closets, spread-out zombie comics and tiny hair shavings.

He can leave his underwear on the floor or refuse to change his sheets until they don’t bend anymore if he wants to and I don’t have to care, just as he doesn’t have to deat with having a thousand throw pillows in his way.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 5.40.32 PM
“Hold on… I need a sec before we get started”
We don’t have to watch each other clip our toenails or nose hairs, because we have separate, private places in which to do these things. Kind of like when we were dating and didn’t have to watch every nasty step of each other’s transformation. We can still pretend to just wake up like that.

Having separate bedrooms doesn’t mean we can’t still visit. Or even stay a while.

But it’s not a given. You’re on boy or girl territory with a temporary visa.

Maybe that sounds cold, but it’s actually fun. It keeps you courting… you can’t juse scratch your butt before Dutch-ovening your partner while knowing they’ll have to put up with it. Unless neither of you minds, I guess.

Keeping a little mystery can bring dating excitement back to the marriage. You still have private territory. Your own identity. Your own refuge to think or read or do whatever without having to entertain anyone else. 

Maybe we should rethink the separate bedrooms taboo. It may not be right for everyone, but it doesn’t obviously mean a marriage is falling apart.

So stop being so judgey, people. You just made me defend Donald and Melania Trump.

 

 

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38 thoughts on “Should Couples Sleep in Separate Rooms?”

  1. My husband and I ended up doing this for my son’s first year of life! My husband has zero tolerance for sleep deprivation, so he had to move into a different room and I took care of the kiddo during the night. We recently moved back in together and while I love it because I freeze during the night without him, he isn’t so fond of me having to get up multiple times a night to go pee because kidney stones and my pregnancy were unkind towards my bladder.

    I don’t think it is weird at all to have separate rooms, and you know, it can even be fun in a “your place or mine?” sort of way. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Your place or mine way”- I love that! I was trying to express that when talking about how it feels a little like dating.

      My husband and I can still fall asleep next to each other if we want to, but there’s no longer so much pressure.

      You’re a trooper dealing with your son all night. I remember those days… my younger daughter just turned 3 so we don’t get the middle of the night calls very often, but those were rough days. I wonder how many couples start sleeping apart around pregnancy & newborns, just because sleep becomes a huge priority. Probably more than people think!

      Sorry you had kidney stones, ouch!!! I had hip pain and flipped around a lot, which was bad enough without throwing kidney stones into the mix.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a bit jealous now! Snoring, totally different bedtime routines, stealing the covers… if we had a house with two master bedrooms I think we’d have made the same decision. But the messy room with posters on the wall would totally be mine!
    But defending Trump and Melania? I hope that’s a one off!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a fluke that we got the two rooms! The original owners added a second master with a bath. They lived in the house for a long time and kept tweaking it.

      Haha, see, you could put your posters up and keep it as messy as you like. My husband’s also fond of decorating with spent cartridges and grenades (he was in the Navy) and has a place to keep all that now.

      And yes, I can’t imagine myself defending Trump on much else, since I can’t think of anything else about which I’ve agreed with him. I’m surprised the separate room issue has blown up here, given all the other obvious criticisms… like the new health care plan currently being voted on.

      Like

    1. I think a lot of couples sleep apart, but no one wants to admit it because there’s so much judgment.

      I do a lot of writing late at night and I’m guessing you do too. It’s rough when your partner is more of an early bird, but it’s no one’s fault… just makes everyone happier when we can all sleep.

      Like

      1. For some reason, I’m both. I used to go to sleep at 12 am and get up at 5 am to go to work. Now I wake up at 7 am so I can get my kids to school. Maybe I’ll get a job someday, so I have to wake up at 5 am again.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. But that sounds like it’s out of necessity and I feel your pain… I’m a natural night owl. No matter how many years I had to wake up early for work and tried not to sleep in on weekends, I still have a rough time falling asleep and then waking up.

          My daughter, though, LOVES to be up early and will wake up at 4 and start bugging me. I tell her it’s dark outside. You aren’t allowed to get up when it’s still dark outside. This has been an ongoing deal and she’ll now leave me alone until sunrise, at least.

          But I still don’t LIKE it. Burns the candle at both ends and all that.

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          1. Yeah, I always loved the night. It’s quiet and most people are asleep and no one bothers you. You also don’t feel like you have to be responsible and that is pretty freeing. You are free to think and do things you want, as long as you don’t wake other people up.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I know of some family members that do it and my wife and I have done it a few night. I couldn’t do it every night because I like feet to fee contact. I know I snore and some times it rubs off on her. Different strokes for different folks. I don’t see it as weird at all. I keep my stuff in the other bathroom anyway so I’m half way there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Touching feet? That’s cute 🙂

      Yeah, I think there are advantages to both arrangements. Unfortunately, we just can’t get enough sleep in the same room, though we tried and tried. But I think many couples sleep apart for that reason and stay quiet, worrying what it means about their relationship when it’s really about the need to get enough sleep, lol.

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  4. First of all, I haven’t been on WordPress in a long time, so coming to your new (maybe new? maybe it’s been here a long time?) page was quite a shock to the system! It’s so bright and colorful! 😀 Love it.

    Second of all, I’m totally with you on this one. My parents have slept in separate beds for years, and it seems to do the trick for them. I’m not married, but the idea appeals to me because I’m a bit like your husband – not a snorer, but really love my sleep and will have murderous thoughts about you if you interrupt that. And honestly, to be fair to the other person, I’m also a pain to sleep with – I keep about 17 pillows on the bed, and I’m quite the cover hog. It’s just best for all involved if we have our own beds 🙂

    PS – I love the mystical and magical vibes of your bedroom!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re back! I was hoping you’d come back. Figured you were busy setting up your practice.

      I did just change the look, glad you like it! Wasn’t sure if it was too much, but thought I have a silly, whimsical feel going…

      Since admitting we sleep separately, I keep finding more and more people who also do. It’s weird how we expect people to go from lots of personal space when single to NONE after getting married. It is nice to be close to someone, but we really do need sleep too. Constant long term sleep deprivation wasn’t helping our relationship at all…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am back! March is super crazy, but I’m hoping that once things settle down, I’ll be back to my old blogging routine 😀.

        I’m a big fan of maintaining some personal space. It’s funny how we give it up so willingly in the beginning of a relationship, when spending time with them and feeling close is more important than sleep, but you’re right – that can’t continue forever, and it shouldn’t. I’ll be much nicer and more patient if I’m well-rested and can get some time alone. Ideally, couples could live in separate houses that are next door to each other. Not sure how that’d work with kids though – maybe an underground tunnel that joins the two? Heck, even I would find that fun! 😂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, well I’m glad you got enough of a breather to jump back on. Hope things calm down soon!

          I agree. It’s strange how we (socially) expect an all or nothing attitude about going from being single and having total autonomy to bring in a serious relationship/married and suddenly aren’t supposed to have any personal space from there on out. Then when anyone wants a little, it’s a red flag.

          Haha, I think most early relationship behaviors would burn anyone out after a while… not eating, not sleeping, staying up all night to talk… the idea of having a house next door from your spouse cracks me up, though. I’m picturing spouses spying on each other from next door, holding binoculars and hiding.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. A great article that I’m sure resonates with many couples. My husband and I have slept separately for nearly 12 years now – 10 of those married. When he moved into my house we lasted one week in a bed together because of his snoring and vastly different bed times. It was a shock to us realising we would need to sleep separately, but obviously we have made it work, as have hundreds of thousands of other couples across the globe.

    The reactions I received when I shared our arrangement, and then countless conversations with people who wanted to do it or were doing it but were too embarrassed/ashamed to admit it, led me to write a book on the subject – ‘Sleeping Apart not Falling Apart: How to get a good night’s sleep and keep your relationship alive’. My two goals for writing the book were to first, help couples struggling to share a bed find a solution to get some sleep, and secondly to take away the stigma of separate sleeping. Our Western culture is so caught up in sharing a bed as a sign of relationship success – it’s an interesting social construct.

    Health should be a priority for every couple and sleep is the cornerstone of good health. If you have to get your sleep by doing it alone…. there shouldn’t be any judgement. The good news is that the practice is becoming more discussed and more accepted, which I think is just fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I will have to check out your book because we’ve obviously struggled with the issue… mostly because of the, as you put it, Western cultural construct of needing to share a bed. It can be tough to shake that off and not feel “wrong” when sleeping separately, even when you desperately need to because you’re both exhausted.

      It’s reassuring that more people are talking about it and it’s gaining acceptance, because it’s hard to never get good quality sleep. It’s also nice to have a room of one’s own, at times. I’m glad you are working to help remove the stigma by writing books like this. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post. I’ve been married for 34 years as of next month and we’ve always slept together. However…we have had discussions about creating some distance for the sake of more quality sleep. I am not surprised to learn other couples either have already made the “jump” or are pondering it. Lots of folks are trying to cram as much living as they can into each day and need to regenerate overnight. Quality sleep is a priority now more than ever…perhaps indeed a religion of sorts. We have personal space in other spaces so if the decision is made to issue temporary visas the concept won’t be so foreign.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! We’ve only been married 6 years so far, but life got easier after we slept apart.

      That sounds weird, but it’s truly tough to deal with ongoing sleep deprivation and hard to not become resentful, even though it’s no one’s fault. Yet our society can be so judgmental about spouses sleeping apart, so people feel guilty about that too.

      But yes, “temporary visas,” lol. My husband and I still fall asleep next to each other on occasion, but sometimes relocate a few hours later when his snoring wakes me up. At least it removes the expectation to struggle through it, no matter how exhausted you are.

      Since writing this, I’ve been surprised by how many people have admitted that they, or someone they know, sleeps apart from their partner for practical reasons. It must be more common than we think.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! I love your humor on a potentially touchy subject. Great descriptions, especially: “Satan’s own accordion”! I think people need to be reminded that each spouse of royal couples always had their own rooms! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you! I’m convinced many couples struggle with this issue but are afraid to admit it because of the taboo. We can’t be the only ones, at least. Sometimes, people just need sleep, especially when dealing with newborn babies and/or other exhausting stressors.

      I was hoping that a little humor would make it more comfortable- it’s not always a serious issue, signaling that a marriage is in grave danger. It can be practical solution.

      I love your observation about royal couples! I think it’s healthy for married people to have the space they need.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think people make a big deal of sleeping in separate rooms. I would quite like it if I’m truthful and it was the thing to do not so many years ago. It was when houses got smaller, with fewer rooms in them that the marital bed was more commonly used and man and wife would sleep together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People really do make a big deal out of it. There must be many couples out there who would sleep better alone but are afraid to do it because we collectively think it means you don’t like your partner. But we need sleep too!

      That’s interesting about smaller houses. I think you’re into something there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The smaller houses this is what I picked up from somewhere. I’ve been thinking lately that other people and society make a big thing about anything different. We all need to chill… Its like a big school playground and it’s often not nice.
        How have you bern Erin? 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree. Society can be very judgmental, maybe because it makes people feel better (“if we sleep in the same bed, then our marriage is going great”). Or maybe people are just curious about what other people do behind closed doors and what it means.

          Oh I’ve been good, just busy lately and I keep falling behind on my blogging! I need to keep back on it. How have you been, Simon?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think society has its rules and values and anything different is weird.
            I know how you feel… Life gets in the way. I’m tired and stressed right now. I need a break and there isn’t one coming.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a LOT of couples regularly sleep apart while not having official separate rooms because of the stigma. Since i wrote that post, so many people have admitted to sleeping apart or even just secretly thinking they’d sleep better alone.

      People can snore, or toss & turn, or need the light on to read… it’s hard to function with chronic sleep deprivation and having guilt about how couples are SUPPOSED to sleep next to each other only makes things worse. Maybe people are starting to talk about it, though.

      Aw, thank you for featuring my blog! 🙂 I’ve been busy lately and fell behind on the blog, so I’m just now reading this. That’s really cool and I will check it out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. With you all the way Erin. My wife and I decided on separate bedrooms as soon as our daughter moved out to set up her own home. Various reasons, none of which should concern anyone other than the two of us. We’ve never looked back, and the sheer bliss of stretching out without elbowing your partner in the face is just one of the many benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Peter! I’m convinced that many, many couples sleep separately but never talk about it because of the social stigma. Quite a few have come forward since I wrote this article.

      People make a huge fuss about it, but sometimes it’s simple: we need to sleep! Months on end of terrible sleep will drive a person crazy, even if you love your spouse a great deal 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I think you’re onto something there! You have to wonder how many people get divorced because they think marriage should be like it is in the movies, where you always want to be around the other person and rarely argue, lol. If people are allowed to have the space they need, I think it’s easier. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Eh, I’m feeling quite old-fashioned about it too, if we’re being honest. Love and marriage is so idealized in Hollywood romances that I think people end up thinking everything should naturally work out without even trying, or something is wrong. Marriage can be a day-in, day-out marathon… which is normal. No reason to give up the moment the glitter and novelty wear off. I think people’s expectations about romance can be unrealistic, which makes normal discomforts feel abnormal, if that makes any sense. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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