This morning when my boyfriend tried to spoon me, I told him he was too hot and needed to return to his side of the bed; he obliged with a dejected roll. Later in the day, he remarked that I had been the temperature of earth’s molten core (his words), and that my accusation was in fact projection. I told him that may have been true, but what was the difference, really? If I am hot in bed and he touches me, thereby making me hotter, then he is, in a way, too hot, is he not?
I’d call it simple logic, but our nocturnal rule of order is more complicated than that.
Every night, the dark, muggy space between our mattress and duvet cover becomes a world unto itself, complete with its own language, norms, and social constructs. We are a drowsy population of ill-tempered bodies, siphoning each other’s warmth or coolness for physiological gain. We are fashioning random thighs into knee rests, gently punishing errant feet, snuggling warm necks for personal fulfillment. We are debating the best frequencies of white noise (“airplane cabin” is currently winning), expressing ourselves with affectionate hair sniffs, respecting each other’s peacefulness via light tip-toes to the bathroom. We are overstating space equality (me) and understating snoring (him) for the health of our out-of-bed relationship.
Some long-term couples don’t bother with any of this. They prefer to remain two sovereign nations during sleeping hours: different rooms, different beds, different worlds. Sometimes, I think this sounds nice. I’d love to spread my limbs out in an empty bed every night, right knee pointing north-east, left foot dangling south-west, miles of cotton dunes between them. And in the morning, I’m sure Avi would appreciate not being exiled to the kitchen simply because I couldn’t pick the right pair of pants. (No one can be in my presence when I’m sartorially indecisive; this is a house rule.) And in the evening, if we could telegraph our needs for solitude with gentle shuts of our respective bedroom doors, that would save us from communicating it out loud. And that wouldn’t be half-bad.
I wouldn’t actually choose to have a separate bedroom from my boyfriend, though—we believe in the benevolence of our little constitution. But I do get the appeal, and respect the decision completely. I’m not surprised more and more couples are making it. A friend of mine just moved into a two-bedroom apartment with her fiancé because she refuses to share her personal space, knowing it’s a critical element in her mental health maintenance. Big media sites are touting the benefits of “sleep divorce”; others are reassuring couples it doesn’t spell relationship doom. In a personal essay on Man Repeller about sleeping in separate bedrooms, supportive commenters came in droves.
It all makes sense to me. Sharing a bed is a chaotic variable in the pursuit of sleep; personal space is important in the pursuit of love. The dissolution of this taboo—that “sleeping apart” necessarily has nefarious connotations—feels like an important component of a postmodern love ethos founded on personal agency instead of obedience. Of building relationships that work for rather than against us. Still, it’s early days, and I’m sure many are put off by the idea of long-term monogamy not necessitating co-sleeping.
Which is why I’m curious: Would you do it?
Graphic by Madeline Montoya.