Sleeping Apart

Sleeping Apart

A friend emailed, I’m working on a magazine assignment about couples who have separate bedrooms, and whether it is a good idea or causes trouble. I wondered if you had dealt with this problem in your years of marriage counseling and solutions. I’d like to interview you by phone. Karen

Pondering my reservoir of couples who had chosen to sleep separately produced a plethora of examples.  I emailed Karen with a time that would suit.

“What did you come up with,” Karen asked. “I recalled several, some involving hurt feelings, anger and resentment and as many based on valid reasons with positive results”, I replied. “But before outlining the individual situations, it would help your readers to keep three crucial umbrella considerations in mind before deciding on separate bedrooms.  Receiving adequate, undisturbed sleep is absolutely necessary for both; making time to maintain physical intimacy and last, negotiating an agreeable plan which may involve consulting a counselor/therapist".

Husband, a volunteer fireman, in and out of bed at all hours.  Wife, chose to use the guest room.

Wife, disliking being touched during the night, threatened to sleep elsewhere. Husband, cooperated.

Snoring problems are a major reason for frustrated partners scrambling to another bed.  Nocturnal bathroom visits often disturb light sleepers especially if a light is turned on.

Light sleeper versus deep sleeper--significant difficulty usually needing a counselor’s input.

Furry bed addition figures into serious sleeping and allergy troubles, causing angry flights to another room or couch and often requiring counselor-negotiated assistance.

Conflicting schedules manifested the popular solution of different sleeping areas, especially with the need for a loud alarm.

Disagreement on the weight of the blankets or in sharing. Some people admit they are blanket hogs.

One insisting on an open window, the other disliking the cold breeze and outdoor noises creates serious conflict.

Problems with reading in bed, especially if he/she snacks as well.

TV watching, even with low volume and flickering light that can’t be doused.

Partner objects to cell phone chats and noisy video games.

Insistence for white sounds or soft music; total darkness versus low light; closed doors to open doors, presents easier solutions.

A nursing mother needing a light during the night to change the baby presented temporary adjustments in sleeping separately. This list merely scratches the surface for reasons that sleeping apart lends to wise partnering.

Reflecting on our discussion, it dawned on me that this would also be a fun and helpful blog subject concerning those who were mutually in agreement as well as those who were adamant about having sleeping apart.

I queried friends and family who called in response to the Wheeling Not Walking blog, regarding their exposure if any to couples having different bedrooms.  I am including their suggestions along with my recommendations for arriving at amenable solutions.

H and I have slept separately for many years. He has active dreams, talks or yells in his sleep, snores and he can trash the immediate surroundings of his bed, it's not conducive to safe, restful sleep for me to share with him. There have been times I sleep with hearing aids in order to be aware of his sometimes unusually restless nights. Not desirable, but necessary. B

Medical reasons make the decision for us. Larry and I shared one bed for many years with the exception of the months he had to sleep in a lounge due to breathing problems. We both objected to sleeping separately, but we made the best of it by continuing our before-bed-prayer and chats at his chair, and I checked on him throughout the night.” A. They had no choice.

When our 3-year-old wakes up, afraid, especially if there’s a storm in progress, she comes to my side of the bed and naturally, I let her climb in” My husband complains that the child’s presence disrupts sleep. So, I moved to the guest room for her security and for my husband’s sleeping needs. Negotiating for agreeable adjustments in all these situations may involve a mediator.

Many angry discussions arise from extreme expectations and/or apparent selfishness. Premarital counseling recommends that bedrooms are for two things: sleep and sex; not an office; not TV.     Couples who began sleeping apart admit that getting more satisfying sleep helps them feel healthier, more energized and happier.

Sleeping apart is such an intricate matter that discussing it with a counselor is the safest way to guarantee agreeable negotiation. Focusing on understanding and appreciation of differing temperament preferences and employing communication skills in switching from the customary practice is the counseling technique that I prefer.  Introverts need special understanding regarding the effect of noise, disturbance and touch. Extroverted Heart-logic (Feelers) enjoy bedtime dialogue; Head-logic (Thinking) Introverts prefer quiet and sleep.

A young wife of six years said I can’t go to sleep unless S is by my side. I doze in a lounge chair until he’s ready to retire. I feel so much comfort with him there and it also gives me security.  He smiled.

Also, some couples may face a passive concern in the possible brow-raising from relatives or friends who fear sleeping apart to be the first indication of marital problems.”  Many people say their parents and grandparents always slept together.

Besides financial differences and parenting, some of the worst couples’ arguments, unkind words and threats are made over sleep deprivation.

I Cor. 13--the love chapter--often read at marriage ceremonies, is the attitude-foundation for all encounters.  Below is just a taste; read the entire chapter, over, and over and over.

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious…If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost…There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Cor. 13:4,7,13 (LB).

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col. 3:12-14 (NIV).