Offbeat Home recently ran a post about sleeping separately due to insomnia — this is a different perspective on couples having separate rooms.
It started six years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby. In early pregnancy, I suffered from severe nausea and morning sickness, which was made worse by anything that smelled like, you know, anything. And unfortunately, my husband Brian started to smell like something: his body exuded a pungent funk so repellent that I had to hold my breath when I kissed him for many months. Sleeping in the same room became akin to torture, so I took to the guest bed, dousing the pillow with lavender essential oils for months until the nausea faded.
Our daughter Robin joined us in bed after her birth and for awhile we were a happily co-sleeping trio. I believe in co-sleeping to my core: it just makes intrinsic sense to me that babies would want to snuggle their mamas. And before pregnancy, co-sleeping was a huge part of the intimacy we shared as husband and wife: we spent at least an hour “cozing” in the morning before we got up. Brian and I have always been a very snuggly couple. Why wouldn’t we all want to sleep together? Forever and ever?
As a kid, I often required company to relax at night, which was a time of high anxiety for me. I remember being eight and sneaking into my sister’s room during thunderstorms or after a bad dream. Company helped me relax, even if it was the company of my younger sis. As a teen, I sometimes slept on the sofa in my parents’ room for the same reason. I get why humans want to share beds. I wouldn’t deny that to anyone in my family — as long as we’re all sleeping well.
When our second daughter Holly was born, the king-sized bed that had once felt fairly roomy became impossibly cramped. By then, Robin was a toddler who demanded half the bed to herself and had the sharpest little feet imaginable. She also still nursed at night, and rolling back and forth between two kids all night sounded like a form of torture to me. Holly and I retreated to the guest bedroom again, and I started to fall in love with this quiet retreat. Holly was a much nicer bed friend than Robin had been (Robin simply likes her own space, we came to learn, and took to sleeping in her own bed pretty well once we moved and set up a bedroom for her). Snuggling up with my warm, sweet newborn in a dark, quiet room was a small antidote to the mounting stress in my life at that time.
At that time, I felt pulled in all directions trying to meet the competing needs of my baby, toddler, husband, students, and graduate career. Focusing solely on the needs of my infant, which were pure and completely understandable (unlike the mercurial and confusing needs of, say, a two-year-old!), was sweet relief. Brian and Robin shared the king-sized bed, and with more wiggle room (and her Dada), they rested better, too. (Or at least, no worse.) And we just stayed that way.
We bought our beautiful country home when the girls were three and one, and about six months after we moved we finally had the money and wherewithal to set up a bedroom just for them. As with any transition, it was a rocky start, but pretty soon they were sleeping in their own beds for most of the night, every night. Each night we have “tub time for tooter tots,” read stories, brush hair and teeth, and go potty. Brian reads in the big chair and I snuggle Holly until the girls fall asleep.
Our house is two-story, and the master bedroom is on the first floor. The girls’ room is upstairs, and so is the guest bedroom — which the girls call “Mommy’s room.” And which I should call “my room.” Because I sleep in there, alone.
Technically, we could set up a baby monitor in their room, and I could go to bed with Brian, and head upstairs if and only if needed. And now that Holly sleeps through the night at least some nights, that would be the logical thing to do, right? I mean, why wouldn’t I leap back into bed with my estranged husband? Right?
I love my bed.
I love getting into my big bed with the extra soft blanket and lying in the exact position I want. I love that I can stick my legs out. I love how quiet it is in my bed. I love that I can read with a flashlight. I love that I can look out my window for a while, at the stars over our tiny town, the dogs in my neighbors’ backyards. No one’s needs to meet but my own. That tranquility at the end of the day… I don’t want to give it up.
Brian asked if I thought we’d ever share a bed again. First, I said he had to stop snoring. Then I said, probably, someday. I think raising young kids has changed my own needs. As they move out of the young age of constant neediness — as they sleep more independently, as Holly gets ready to fully wean from nursing — I’m more aware of my own needs, of my own self as mattering in my family. And right now, I need solo time at the end of the day. I need to sleep alone. I want to sleep alone.
Behind every conversation about sleeping arrangements is a question about sex. People might ask, “OMGWFTBBQ AREN’T YOU RUINING YOUR MARRIAGE??!!!!” And the answer is… I don’t know, maybe? A lot of couples sleep apart, and studies are conflicting as to how much more (or less) sex you have if you sleep apart. Right now, in our life, good sleep takes precedent over everything, including sex, although we do OK.
Let me put it this way: we have about as much sex now as we ever did when we shared a bed. And we have more sex now than we did for quite a while when we shared a bed. I think sex has more to do with the dynamics in our relationship at any given moment than where we happen to place our bodies at night, to sleep. If things are good, if we’re well rested, if we want to? We find a way to make it happen. If we’re stressed, tired, angry, distracted? We won’t. Even if we spend 10 hours less than a foot away from each other. Honestly, bed-sharing with my snoring, hard-to-wake husband might inspire more resentment between us, more sleep-deprived fantasies of pillow smothering. I don’t think sharing a bed would save a failing marriage, nor do I think separate beds would destroy a good one. But what do I know? I’ve only been married for 9 years.
I don’t think it will be like this forever. If having kids has taught me anything, it’s that the way things are today is not how they will be forever. I love my husband and I’m sure that with some Breathe Right strips and two increasingly independent daughters, snuggling at night will reemerge as a way we stay connected. But for now? This queen-sized bed is mine all mine.