My husband and I are happily married. We enjoy spending time together, we are affectionate, we get along swimmingly. But we do have one little thing we do in our marriage that might be considered unconventional. We often don’t sleep in the same bed.
I love him. I do. But I need my space. And the feeling is mutual. It’s not every night, we do sleep in the same bed sometimes, but more often than not, my husband will retire to his space and I will spread out on our queen bed alone – at least until I am invaded by our five-year-old.
This isn’t a new thing to our marriage. We have been married almost thirteen years, and we have done this for most of them. I became pregnant with out first shortly into our marriage, and insomnia was a huge problem for me. Complicating this common pregnancy annoyance was snoring from my husband that could rattle the windows.
He had snored like this as long as I had known him, but what was once an easy fix by me falling asleep first, became a real problem when I simply couldn’t be the first to nod off. And even if I did manage to fall asleep at a decent time, my hourly trips to the bathroom became a battle to fall back to sleep over the sounds of the jack hammer next to me.
After a few weeks of poking and jabbing and yelling at him all night, we decided something had to change. At the first sign of a snore, he moved to another room. Hallelujah. We both slept better – me not competing with the noise, him without my elbow in his ribs.
When the baby was born, he never slept. Ever. I ended up sleeping in the baby’s room to try and catch whatever uninterrupted sleep I could.
By the time the baby slept through the night, and my husband’s snoring was taken care of by a CPAP machine (always check for sleep apnea!) we were used to this sleeping apart much of the time arrangement. We have acknowledged that we are both people with a strong need for time to ourselves.
For a while, I saw it as a weakness. Was it a warning sign? Did it mean our marriage was not as strong as it should be? The standard is for married people to sleep together. Article after article stresses the importance of that intimacy. Should we be forcing it, even at the expense of sleep quality and mental health?
I no longer worry about the optics. I accept this as something that helps keep our marriage strong, not as a threat to its well-being. We still hang out together in the evening. We’re both night owls, and we will happily watch TV or hang out together for hours, then retire to our separate beds. We usually end up texting each other from our separate quarters throughout the night, staying connected while sleeping apart.
Maintaining a good relationship without physically being in the same space is also not new to us. For the first year and a half of our time together, we lived in separate countries, seeing each other in person every few months. Before that, we spent five years talking online as friends. We have become very adept, in our twenty years of friendship and more, at remaining close while apart. Sleeping in another room is nothing for us.
We both thrive having that time late at night to do our own thing. I write, he plays on the computer. We both watch TV shows the other hates. When we feel like spending the night in the same bed, we do. When we don’t, we don’t. And that works for us.
The lesson in all this is to not base your marriage on “shoulds.” There are a lot of preconceived notions about what a healthy marriage looks like, when really, all that matters is what works well for both parties. If that means that the “marital bed” is a fraction, so be it!