Society dictates that couples are supposed to share a bed. Our parents did it. Their parents did it.
However, as relationship expert Dr. Gabrielle Morrissey reveals, many people actually sleep apart – the Queen and Prince Philip among them – and find their marriage is much happier for it, even if they don’t talk about it at dinner parties.
While the reasons people might have for sleeping separately vary, the driving force remains the same: to get a good night’s rest.
“Sleep is fundamental for your health and wellbeing and if you’re not getting enough, your relationship may suffer,” Dr. Morrissey warns.
There are many situations in which sleeping separately makes sense. Whether it’s due to your partner’s relentless snoring, bed hogging, or tossing and turning, or something more lifestyle-related, such as shift work, Dr. Morrissey says couples are increasingly open to experimenting with the idea of having their own bed space to avoid clashing over trivial sleep-related issues.
“Sleeping apart doesn’t mean you love each other any less,” Dr. Morrissey stresses.
“You can still be in love and sleep in separate beds; you just have to come to terms with the fact that it’s OK to do so.”
Change your mindset.
The first order of business is to ignore any preconceived notions about what a relationship should be. Traditionally, people have felt quite uncomfortable about sleeping in separate beds for fear of being judged.
“It was once assumed that if you were a couple you spent all of your time together and anything less would raise eyebrows, so people often shied away from revealing they slept apart, similar to going on solo vacations or having separate hobbies,” Dr. Morrissey says.
“What we’ve seen in recent times is a decline in these taboos and couples are now redefining their relationships and adapting to what suits them best, casting off rigid stereotypes.”
Dr. Morrissey says we’re entering an era in which it’s completely acceptable to be in a relationship and not feel like you need to occupy the same space night after night.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong in the relationship. It could be that one or both of you simply need more alone time,” she says.
Find a solution together.
If sleeping apart seems like the best option for you, it’s crucial both people are on board with the new sleeping arrangements – don’t just set yourself up in the guest room one evening and hope for the best!
“It shouldn’t come as a shock. Sleeping solo needs to be planned together slowly because it’s a major life change,” Dr. Morrissey says. “There’s a difference between consciously deciding to sleep in different rooms and not letting it affect the intimacy in the relationship and finding out that you’ve grown apart and want to have separate spaces.”
Have a frank conversation about what needs to change so both of you can sleep better and be clear that it’s not a form of rejection.
“Come to an agreement about how long you want to try it for and when you’ll discuss whether you want to continue or go back to sleeping together,” Dr. Morrissey advises.
Should you visit a marriage counselor?
Before making the switch to separate beds, you could consider getting the help of a couples therapist who can sort out the relationship issues from the sleep issues.
As Dr. Morrissey explains, some people believe sleeping apart will magically solve all of their marriage problems, but if you’re sweeping larger marital difficulties under the proverbial carpet – – it’ll only be a temporary fix and can lead to more serious trouble down the line.
“It could be that you’re more suited to talking over whatever the underlying issue is and staying together in the same room,” she says. “If you’re not sure what’s right for your relationship, a therapist can help you understand these matters more deeply.”
Prioritize pillow talk.
Just because you choose to sleep separately, it doesn’t mean your relationship will lose its spark. “Having a regular date night will ensure there’s romance in your lives and offset your alone time so you stay connected with your partner,” Dr. Morrissey explains.
Likewise, don’t completely give up on sharing a bed together – it’s still the perfect place for cuddling, pillow talk, and, of course, sex. “Some couples may reserve one partner’s room just for sex and the other to chat and unwind,” she adds. “They’re personal things to work through which may evolve naturally or can be negotiated.”
Other ways to enjoy each other’s company may include going for long walks, sharing a hobby, or meeting up for lunch. When you spend enough time together throughout the day, you may find you don’t need to be in the same bed every evening. And when you do get together to be intimate, the anticipation could produce fireworks!
Sleeping separately is only beneficial if both partners are doing it for the right reasons. It’s about improving the quality of your rest, nothing more. “It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing deal. It could be that you sleep apart one night and together on the remaining nights,” Dr. Morrissey suggests.
“Whether or not there’s a loss of intimacy will depend on how and why you’ve decided to sleep apart.”
It can be a big adjustment, especially if you’ve been together for decades, so it’s important to check in with your significant other frequently to see how they’re coping with the change.
Dr. Morrissey says, “If it’s going to be a permanent arrangement, ensure you have plenty of opportunities to create intimacy — not just for sex, but to spend time really listening to each other.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.