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Bed Frenemies

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You love your spouse, but have trouble sleeping alongside him in bed. Do you dare venture into the unchartered waters of “separate beds?” Will he feel threatened, abandoned, or relieved? Will your marriage be labeled as “troubled” if you sleep separately? Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night trying to peel your way out of the octopus-like grip of your clingy spouse. Maybe you find it impossible to go to sleep while the reading light blasts through your pinched eyelids. Maybe your spouse’s bedtime snacking (you know it; the slow, methodical crunching of chips or the slurping noises that make you secretly fantasize about snatching the cup and pouring it over his/her head) make you wonder if you’d get better sleep in the bathtub. Maybe it’s just the snoring that’s keeping you awake or the tossing and turning. It could be any myriad of things making your otherwise quiet and peaceful night of sleep seem like a myth … always referred to, but never actually proven to exist.


On the one hand, your bed partner is your “friend” when you’re feeling frisky. Although sex can be had, and enjoyed, anywhere, the bed seems to be its home base of operation. No one wants to muddy those waters. But on the other hand, when you’re trying to sleep … let’s face it … you just want to be alone, and your bed “friend” can quickly become your sleep “enemy.” No hand-holding. No cuddling. No breathing in my ear (this is my no. 1 pet peeve…breathing near my face will only instigate my hellish torment of anticipating every subsequent breath.) No snoring. No cover hogging. No anything! Just blissful sleep. Please!


Until the Industrial revolution, couples routinely slept separately. In fact, it was a sign of prosperity. But once the movement into industrialized areas began, space became an issue. Combining two twin beds into one full bed was more efficient. So began the trend. However, the idea of separate sleeping is beginning to flirt with us yet again. We are realizing that being compatible in our sleeping arrangements isn’t a prerequisite for compatibility in marriage. We’re wondering if it’s ok to bring this taboo topic up with our spouses. Some marital partners will be threatened by this idea … others will be thrilled and relieved. Studies show that your partner’s response will depend on the stability of the marriage. If he feels secure in the marriage—no impending problems—it may be a non-issue for him. However, if he feels there are already issues within the marriage, this can be threatening and seem like a precursor to divorce.


Doctors insist that a good night’s sleep is more important to a healthy marriage than sleeping together. After all, once asleep, does it matter if you’re in the same bed? An average of 7.5 hours of sleep is recommended for optimal rest. Proper rest brings more energy to devote to quality time with your spouse while awake. This will, in turn, lead to a happier, more connected marriage. After a long day of work, kids, and chores, we all need to be properly recharged before the next round. Without that “much needed” sleep, guess what becomes the path of least resistance for neglect … our relationship with our spouses. Kids, work, bills, chores—these won’t stand for neglect. But time for connection with our sweeties … now that will give without our awareness. Before you know it, the marriage suffers. If the marriage crashes, the others will soon feel the waves and separate beds will be your new normal after all.


Every couple should find what works for them. No two are the same. But don’t confuse marriage stability with sleep. Lack of sleep is not well tolerated while trying to keep up with the challenges of our multi-faceted lives. Sleep is the one selfish thing we should do for ourselves, for the sake of all who have to smile politely while we flash our mentally and physically exhausted “devil” face at them. It seems, though, that one flaw has been overlooked for us not-so-morning people. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that the alarm is screaming in your ear. Your spouse doesn’t respond, as usual. You now have to wake him. With one bed, you can reach over and punch him in the arm with minimal movement. But if you’re in separate beds, you can’t reach him. Now you have to, dare I say, drag yourself out of bed for that punch. Hmmm, does he prefer one bed and a punch to the arm or two beds and an alarm clock to the face?

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