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My Husband and I Sleep in Separate Bedrooms

At first, it felt like defeat

05.05.17

I had my own room growing up, but was indoctrinated to believe that when I married, my shared life with my husband would mean a shared bathroom, and a shared bed.

This set-up resulted in my husband using my brush when he had greasy product in his hair and swigging mouthwash from my bottle. I found my toothbrush wet on a number of occasions.

My husband likes to get up before the sun rises; and for years, his alarm, the lights and noise would wake me. I thought this was just part of the deal.

And then, he started to snore. I’m talking piercing, guttural sounds that could wake someone in a coma and smooth, heavy, breaths that annoyed like a drop of water hitting the same spot on your skin, over and over again. At first, I’d gently nudge him so he’d roll onto his stomach, which sometimes helped. But eventually, my light taps stopped working, and frustrated, I’d resort to yelling and even, kicking. This was obviously not an effective way to engage. Slowly, hostility built.

After being up for three or more hours a night, I’d wake, defending my behavior by reciting studies showing that sleep deprivation ensured moodiness and was used as a form of torture. But my husband thought I was being a bitch. Things were not going well. There was many a time we were already in a fight before we said good morning.

One day, I heard drilling. My husband, tired of my complaining and wanting to have a comfortable space of his own, hired a handyman to install a television in a newly empty bedroom down the hall. I must admit my heart lurched, my abandonment button pressed, because before we married, I used to say to him, I can’t wait until I can fall asleep in your arms every night and wake up with you every morning. Now, here we were 20 years later, separating. It felt like defeat.

My husband was embarrassed and reluctant to reveal that we were sleeping in separate bedrooms. Even though I’d come to see our new setup as practical, if not positive, I soon realized why he had been hesitant. Our friends looked at us sadly, and with judgment. They were making conclusions about us as a couple based strictly on the fact that we no longer slept in the same bed — a move that was indicative, it seemed, of a marriage on the rocks. It didn’t matter that he’d gone through a medical procedure (where extra-long needles were required) and participated in an overnight study to stop his snoring. It didn’t matter that I wore earplugs, bought a noise machine and took Ambien. There was little empathy.

It’s true that my grandparents, and my husband’s grandparents, slept in separate beds; in those cases, it was representative of marriages failed. After the sexual revolution, the marital bed came to symbolize something new, a blessed union full of spontaneous, hot, protected, monogamous sex. At the same time, we were spoon-fed the idea that our partner should be our “everything.”

We know better now. We’ve learned that couples need lots of people in their lives, and that no one person can be everything. Times change. Ideas change. And I’d changed, too. But that didn’t stop the judgment.

The-Life-Changing-Magic-of-Separate-Bedrooms-Marriage-Sleeping-Relationship-Man-Repeller_-03

Until one morning recently, when two friends sent me the same link from a Wall Street Journal article, The Secret to a Happy Marriage? Two Master Bedrooms, as if to say, look you were right. Or, at the very least, you’re not alone.

It turns out that as of August 2010, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 25% of couples sleep in separate rooms. Like vaginal dryness and herpes, the shame kept people from talking.

Honoring sleep doesn’t just affect married couples. A friend of mine is single. She and her partner have amazing dates and lots of great sex, but at the end of the night, they part ways, each choosing a good night’s sleep over an old convention.

I’ve learned to accept my circumstances. I don’t spend as much time as I used to lamenting what I don’t have. Sure, there are nights I’d like to fall asleep in my husband’s arms, or squeeze my frozen feet between his warm legs, but now I focus on, and am grateful for, the fact that I can watch Big Little Lies, Girls or what ever else I want, until whatever time I want, without having to take into account his schedule or sleep habits.

I watched an interview on this topic recently, and the reporter said, if someone is that hard to be with in bed, maybe you should find someone else to be with.

Really?

After decades of marriage, five children and six grandchildren, I should look for someone new to share my bed with because my husband snores?

I don’t think so.

Maybe I’m a trailblazer. Or maybe, just maybe, I really like it when I go to use my deodorant and there isn’t a kinky black hair curled across the top.

Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.

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  • Jennifer

    I love this! Thanks for sharing!

  • I totally love this! Although I totally think it depends on the relationship, in my relationship separate spaces have been great for us. While we share a bedroom, we’re lucky enough to have the space for separate bedrooms and offices. It helps mitigate a lot of stress in our lives when we have our own little spaces to treat as we like.

  • hollygoeslightly22

    My partner and I sleep in separate rooms and it works out well for us. We were met with the same judgement from our friends that something must be wrong with our relationship. However, he snores and I am a light sleeper. He sleeps in on Saturday morning and I like to get up early. Not only is it helpful for a better night’s sleep but I like having the identity of my own bedroom and having a personal retreat.

    • decoration of course is a good point 😉 !

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I LOVE this! Honestly this is the thing that scares me most about being married- sharing my bed. I am currently single and one thing I love is getting into my bed after a long day – alone. I like being able to spread out and use both pillows, I like that I don’t have to deal with anyone’s snoring (except the guy’s in the apartment below mine – seriously it comes through THE FLOORS!) I personally have always thought that one of the keys to a happy marriage is PERSONAL SPACE. You don’t magically stop needing that once you get married and I think a lot of couples twist themselves into knots about their togetherness in the home because of social convention. I say- separate bedrooms and bathrooms all the way!

    • Olivia AP

      YES! And I think that I would like two separate rooms not long after I’m married. Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep and what the other person does becomes annoying. Or sometimes I want to go to bed early because I had a long day at work. Sleeping well seems like a luxury these days and when you get to do that you don’t want to go other way it affects your mood all day.

    • Lil

      Yessss!! We’re conditioned into thinking that two really must become one. When in reality, no matter how extraverted one may be we’ll always need some personal space to recharge and relax!

  • Abby

    My husband and I frequently sleep apart, partially due to his snoring and partially due to our vastly different sleep schedules. He sticks to the couch though. A lot of the time he’ll fall asleep down there and then come upstairs an hour or so before I get up, so there is a teensy bit of sleeping in the same bed each night.

  • Kay Nguyen

    Since the ancient time, people have always been sleeping in separate rooms, which actual is beneficial for your healthy. People didn’t start sleeping on the same bed until the industrial era, since there are too many people in the cities with a little space.
    I personally like to sleep by myself, with my cat at most. Even a slight movement wakes me up so it’s another reason for me to support this <3

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Claudia

    Even in high school I jokingly told my mom that I think my ideal future relationship/marriage involves my husband living in another room or apartment and then he can just come visit me all the time so I can still have my space. Now my current boyfriend of 3 or 2 years (we don’t really know) live in the same apartment building but on separate floors and we have a great sex life but when it’s over we sleep in our own beds and its perfect! I’m sure eventually we will move in together and share a bed. We just both really value our sleep!

    • One of my close friends has the same setup with her boyfriend and they love it! It honestly sounds amazing- they spend as much time together as they want, but they still get to own and decorate their separate spaces.

  • Jessica

    This made me smile. Go you! Be that trailblazer. My parents are disgustingly happy and in love and they have had separate bedrooms for almost 10 years now. They’ve been married for 35 years and still act like teenagers in lust (it is TRULY gross to me, but as an adult I’ve come to appreciate it). Happy sleeping!

  • Blythe

    My husband and I used to fight about division of covers ALL THE TIME. I’d wake up in the middle of the night freezing and he’d be rolled up in the comforter or vice versa. I finally went out and bought another comforter, so we each have our own. It’s been a game changer and I’m mad I didn’t think of it earlier.

    Kudos to you for bucking tradition in favor of what actually works for you and your family.

    • Leslie Price

      Two comforters is very important.

  • Suzy Lawrence

    One of the worst relationship I was ever in was when he way over romanticized sleeping in the same bed, yet didn’t have any empathy in regards to his snoring or 5:30 AM wake up calls. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out and the freedom to pursue personal comfort without judgment is now on my list of “musts.”

  • My parents haven’t slept in the same bed since I was in middle school for all of the reasons you listed. Dad snores and wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every day. And they seem much happier for it. My boyfriend’s mother and stepfather had separate rooms from the outset of their marriage, and they’re still disgustingly cute together.

    My boyfriend and I still sleep in the same room, but it’s only been two years. Who knows what ten more plus two cats and kids will do? That bed will seem mighty full.

  • Jeanie

    This is all good, but don’t over look the snoring! Snorers can be at risk for many health problems. It’s something worth talking to a doctor for for sure.

  • I’m so glad that more and more people are okay with talking about this! There is nothing wrong with married people not sleeping in the same room – and there are so many reasons why it is better for both people (work schedules, snoring, sleepwalking, night terrors, teeth grinding, etc.).

    I say if you’re healthy, happy, and well-rested, you’re probably a million times better to be around anyway. My husband is a terrible snorer, and I’ve always had a wacky work schedule. Sleeping in different rooms sometimes means we can be better spouses during our waking hours. I’m not bothered by his chainsaw mouth, and he’s not bothered when my alarm goes off two hours before his…or two hours later…depending on the day.

    Hell, I don’t ever remember my grandparents sleeping in the same room, and they’re one of the happiest married couples I know. They’re a couple of 70-something horn-balls who still flirt with each other constantly. So there must be something to it, right? 😉

  • Ariela

    Growing up I was always panicked that my parents were on the brink of divorce because they slept in separate rooms. Turns out they’re just insanely practical and the forgo the traditional setup for a good night’s sleep. Can’t say I wouldn’t do the same.

  • Stacey

    Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you are sleeping better. Terrible night sleeps (night after night) are really challenging. I’m glad you and your husband found a solution that works.

  • Kimberley Boehm

    Lucky are the people with the same sleep patterns and habits. My husband and are mostly on the same terrain, but we are also deeply aware that sleep matters. If one of us is restless, we get up and leave the room.

  • Teri Giese

    Just had our 25th wedding anniversary and I ABSOLUTELY feel no shame in having my own room!!Although,I feel a tad selfish that I have the master and he shares a bathroom with our 19 year old,lol!Hoping to win The HGTV SMART HOME;has basically 3 masters!!!Next house will TOTALLY have 2 master suites!!

  • Make sure he gets evaluated by his doctor for obstructive sleep apnea. That is linked with multiple health issues, like high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. It seems like he may need a CPAP/BiPAP, and that would be a great health benefit in the long run!

  • shalems

    As a fellow sufferer of sleeplessness as the result of a snoring husband, I totally get this. I’ve done the sound machine, sleep aid, ear plugs, nudging/pushing, etc. If I make it to sleep before him, we are golden… if not, then I’m usually streaming CSI: Miami into the wee hours, listening with ear buds through the Roku remote. After he has a few drinks, forget about it. He out right offers to sleep on the couch (we don’t have a spare bed or room for that matter.) I often sleep better those nights but I miss him in my bed. Regardless, I don’t think that a happy marriage = sharing a bed. I read an article years ago about couples who had completely different homes and were really happy. So, it clearly works for some. However, I have no issue with sharing a bathroom or toiletries with my husband. I think there is a certain intimacy about this. I don’t care that he knows what I’ve just “done” in the bathroom and vice versa. We don’t use each others toothbrushes but we dip our (clean) fingers into the same vat of coconut oil for oil pulling and when I couldn’t find my comb, I used his. We share the mouthwash and if my deodorant is kicked or I’m having an extra sweaty day, I’ll swipe his on (and wouldn’t care if he did the same.) Maybe we are boundary less but we are pretty happy nonetheless.

  • Erika

    I KNEW IT! I knew it! I’ve always known it. I’m currently trying to talk my boyfriend into the separate bedroom thing, and as soon as he gets back from the grocery store I am totally showing him this article.

  • My boyfriend and I sleep in the same bed but with different blankets (apparently I’m a hog). When we started living together he was a pretty quiet sleeper but lately he’s been starting to snore a little bit. Usually it’s only when he’s sick/congested but I’ve slowly been noticing it more. It’s not bad enough for me to sleep in another bed yet but I’d do it if it really becomes a problem. Getting a good night’s sleep is important!

  • Esther Levy

    Absolutely love this Corie! The wet toothbrush – I can relate. Xx

  • Alma Lovela

    Algunas amigas y yo hacemos esto, y estamos felices, pero nuestras parejas no tanto 😦

  • ita darling

    It’s funny that when I was younger and moved in with my first serious boyfriend- it was a major drama trying to share a bedroom when we visited my conservative parents.

    Jump a bunch of years and now when me and my current SO visit my parents – we take BOTH of the spare bedrooms! My SO &I even designed our own house to have separate bed and bath wings. The contractors really did raise a lot of eyebrows but we are happy with the arrangement.

    We both have sleep issues and different schedules- but I love it when he comes in in the morning with a cup of tea and lays down with me as I wake up.. we cuddle for a minute or two and then we are good 🙂

    And having a good Sex life has nothing to do with sleeping anyway. Our dog actually takes turns sleeping with us !

    Even when we go on holiday we try to get an AirBnB with two bedrooms or sleeping areas as we can absolutely ruin a trip by both being cranky and not rested (and rest and relaxation is what our vacations are all about!)

  • Rosie

    Me and my bf occasionally sleep in separate beds. We have not revealed this to any of our friends, because as you say people judge – people assume that it means something is wrong. But we have been together for 3 years and we are both blissfully happy.

    I am a heavy sleeper; I can fall asleep within ten minutes of getting into bed, but he is a light sleeper, and takes a while to nod off. I like to get up really early, and he likes to sleep in until midday at the weekends. He steals the covers, I “breath loudly”. He has broad shoulders and sleeps in the middle of the bed.

    I think, you really don’t have to commit to separate bedrooms forever – there is a middle ground. We sleep separately if we are both tired and have not been sleeping well, but then most of the time sleep together, so we get the best of both worlds, I suppose.
    So you could always try it out for a night or two, if you’re not sure.
    Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

  • PCastillon

    My parents sleep in different beds — because they both snore and they can’t stand each other’s snoring. They’ve been doing this for the past 32 years (my life span). Their marriage (and their mornings) is fine.

  • JennyWren

    My husband and I sleep in separate rooms 2 or 3 nights a week. We are both sprawlers, he is a light sleeper and a late riser, whereas I need three blankets and get up reasonably early even on the weekends. We also have two cats that want to share our blankets, so it gets a bit crowded. The worst part is that we can’t afford another bed right now, so he often ends up on the couch. As soon as we can we are converting the spare room into a “guest bedroom” that will probably be used by one or the other of us multiple times a week.
    I think it’s not just a case of sleeping well, although that’s very important. Even in the best of marriages it’s nice to have some privacy and some “me time;” I don’t want to have to think about how my snoring or pillow triage is annoying someone else! It’s an indulgence and if you can do it it’s a wonderful way of treating yourself.

    • Julie

      we just use a big, queen size blow up mattress that we got from target in our spare bedroom. it’s definitely not as comfortable as the mattress in our bedroom, but it’s not horrible for thirty some-odd dollars and is definitely better than the couch!

  • Caro A

    I love this but the thing that is my favorite is that it it written by an older ManRepeller reader. (20 years of marriage, five children) Awesome.

  • CityMaus

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love my husband, I love my married life, but I do not love sharing a bed with a blanket hog/intrusive snuggler/diagonal sprawler who likes a warm room and a thin quilt. I want a cold room, a down comforter, silence, darkness, and no touching. I know, I’m a terrible person 😉

  • Alice

    Just mentioned this to my husband yesterday as he is a pre-5:00 am riser and no matter how much he tries, I can still hear him tip toeing around the bedroom, carefully opening his closet and drawers. Thank you for showing that a healthy marriage can look many different ways and is certainly adaptable to the different needs of the spouses.

  • Engels_Beard

    My husband and I have always slept in separate beds. It’s awesome. He snores like a beast and I’m a very light sleeper. Anyone who would suggest that sleeping in the same room is a crucial element of a relationship doesn’t know much about sleep or relationships.

  • Julie

    my boyfriend and i sometimes sleep in separate rooms for a variety of reasons. it’s mostly due to the fact that our schedules don’t always line up (he doesn’t want to be woken up at 4:30 when my alarm goes off for the gym if he’s been at work until 2am just like i don’t want to be woken up at when he turns the light on to change and get ready for bed after a night shift). i also snore. he is also a total blanket hog. so, maybe 20% of the time or so, we sleep apart and are both totally cool with it.

  • Jessica

    I think there is an underlying assumption that couples that don’t sleep in the same bed aren’t having sex, hence some of the shaming. I can honestly say me and my husband frequently sleep apart, while still having sex 3-4 times a week. And we’ve been together for almost 18 years. I guess being well rested gives us the energy to make sure we’re also pleasantly satisfied.

  • gwendomouse

    If your friend is single, why does she have a partner in the next sentence? Isn’t the definition of ‘single’ that you don’t have a partner?
    What amazes me most about this article is not people wanting to sleep in separate rooms, but that they actually have the space to do that.

  • Yay, that’s definitely the future of couples !
    I’m 29 and the condition for buying and appartement with my BF was that we each had our bedrooms. So that he could play video games until whatever time he’d like. And I could watch tha Kardashians without shame 😀
    AND so we would actually have missed each other from a night apart. So now we set a day (monday cause this is when the Kardashians (and Girls) hit Europe 😉 when we force ourselves to sleep seperately.

  • Sarah Lati

    Love this article! So honest and unapologetic!

  • Jessie

    I cannot love this article enough. I have been talking with my husband about all the points Corie made. I even sent him the same article from the WSJ. And honestly, it’s no one else’s business what someone and her partner’s sleeping arrangement is!

  • Rebecca Lippert

    I love this. I currently sleep with earplugs which has made things SO much better. Although I love the idea of separate sleeping and washing places, my husband would surely believe it means doom and would never agree to it.

  • Kay

    YESSS…!!

  • lt1002

    Yup- me and husband have been in separate beds for about 2 years. Our bedroom is sectioned off by walls from the previous owner so we’re in the same “room” but not the same space. It has been so so helpful, and we make sure to take romantic/intimate time together before sleep so we aren’t just avoiding one another!

  • Clatterbuck

    I’m glad I found this article. I’m so tired of being embarrassed because my husband and i sleep in separate bedrooms. He snores like a chainsaw. One time we went on vacation with another couple. Their hotel room was next door to ours. Their headboard and our headboard were against the same wall. They couldn’t sleep because they could hear my husband’s snoring thru the walls. We’ve been married 35 years now and are still in love. We’re also happy and well rested.

  • Ελένη Κυρίτση

    my parents have been sleeping separately forever. they both like to watch tv before they sleep, and I mean different shows. me and my brother never worried about this -sometimes, when the bedroom door was closed, we knew they were sleeping together and/or having some action. they are still in love after 20+ years of marriage, they openly talk about love and sex, and they support each other in every possible way. they just value sleep and a good ol’ series marathon when they’re tired from work. thumbs up for this article!