Personally, I find it completely odd if a loving compromising selfless couple find it necessary to sleep in either separate beds or separate rooms. The majority of the conversational intimacy happens as you both settle down for your night’s sleep, and sometimes that conversational intimacy can spontaneously lead to making love. It’s the only time in our busy days that we can actually be a ‘couple’ without the extra forces of our lives – work, kids, extra-curricular activities, families, friends and finances, can interrupt. It’s a sensual time of mind, body and spirit, and a couple’s bed is their safe haven of personal togetherness space.
So why are the statistics as high as one in four American couples sleep in separate beds or separate rooms? Is that a crisis of denial that their marriage is over? A crisis of not being able to cope with each other’s personal bed habits, i.e. snoring, bed hogging, tossing & turning or blanket hogging? Or is it a mutual acceptance that the intimacy is out of their relationship but they are only ‘just good friends?’
I guess this comes off the blog I wrote about ‘how good are the years?’ I read a discussion thread of people who say that their parents have lived in separate bedrooms for years and have been happily married for 40 years. But is that what the children see and accept that their parents are ‘happy’ and their parents are very good at covering up the sad reality of their marriage from their children? Or should it be accepted as face value?
I read other discussion thread excepts that say that couples sleep apart most nights, but when they have guests over, they sleep together as ‘not to be found out.’ Are they hiding something from their friends that they aren’t coming to terms with within themselves? Why should they need to hide it if they are happy with the arrangements?
Psychologists agree that the marital bed should be treated as their sacred place, so when they separate their marital place of worship, there is something not working in the relationship. Dr. Willard Harley, author of Love Busters: Overcoming the Habits That Destroy Romantic Love, says “Whenever I see a couple wanting private time—they want to be alone, they want their own friends, they don’t want to feel like they’re joined at the hip—my immediate question is, ‘What is it about being together that bothers you?’” Dr. Harley and some other psychologists feel that sleeping together is an integral part of any couple’s relationship, and it’s a necessary negotiation. Furthermore, demanding separate sleep space can be just a sign of people being self-absorbed and afraid of commitment. Marriage requires sacrifice and togetherness, and they see sleeping separately as the ultimate selfish indulgence. Some therapists look for underlying reasons that a couple might choose to sleep separately, such as if one party has a problem with sharing or compromise. Sleeping apart can be a sign of emotional distance.
As a real estate copywriter in my day job, I do see a lot of ‘separate bedrooms’ and separate beds going on, and there is definitely a trend of building the ‘family home’ with two master suites – generally one upstairs and one downstairs, and it is usually discussed that the homes are designed this way to accommodate flexibility in the family needs as the family grows. For instance, couples prefer to sleep close to the children upstairs as the children are under six or seven, so that they are able to reach them quickly throughout the night, but as the children get older, the parents will retreat to the downstairs bedroom to have their own space, and the upstairs becomes a complete children’s domain area, and the old master suite becomes the guest bedroom. Or the downstairs master suite serves well when grandparents move in temporarily or permanently so they don’t have to worry about stairs. But when a couple who sells their home talk about their ‘separate bedrooms’ it is usually a sign that their marriage is over, as they are actually selling the home because they have come to terms with ending their marriage and are ready to split ways.
I know every marriage is different and our concept of togetherness is changing as our lives become more busy and put more demands on ourselves and our finances. But the concept of love and intimacy have been around for centuries, and most marriage vows include words to the affect of honouring each other, being there for each other in sickness and in health, being there for richer or poorer, love and comfort and to remain faithful. How can a marriage be honoured without finishing the day and starting the morning embracing their vows with each other in the same space? It truly is the selfishness of not finding out ways to compromise in their marital bed, by using earplugs to mask the snoring, using separate blankets to stop the blanket hogging, to learning to enjoy the cuddling in bed if someone takes over… if you can’t make these compromises in your bed, then how can you make compromises in your day to day life? This is what tears the institution of marriage apart! And maybe those who do sleep separately, and have never been able to do so, should seriously think if their marriage was ever compatible in the first place.
Your wedded partner should be as comfortable to you as slipping on your favourite pair of slippers. It just feels right, in any particular circumstance that you’re in, you know that those slippers will always make you feel good. And your partner, in any particular circumstance, should feel that right as well. If you can’t sleep in the same bed and enjoy the intimacy that that mutual union represents, you should really take a step outside your marriage and look in to see what is really going on, and work out what really isn’t right.