What happens when couples start sleeping in separate rooms? Is it that big a deal?
It’s Monday, the day that I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it.
One reader recently wrote:
Personally at the moment I am not sleeping with my husband as I feel estranged from him due to porn abuse, his alarm waking me up in the morning because he ‘snoozes’ it for an hour and he snores which drives me crazy so I don’t sleep, get tired and irritable and this exacerbates an already fragile situation, so I’ve removed myself to the spare room and far from missing sleeping next to my husband I now don’t want to go back to sharing a bed (if things improve between us) as I love having my own space and a good night’s sleep. Is this wrong?
I used to love sleeping together as I found it a special thing that you only do when you’re married and share that really special space and time together so I feel very conflicted now.
I was shocked a while ago to learn that my in-laws have separate rooms and I was really sad for them but maybe this is normal?
And finally, I was talking to a married friend with 2 young children, her husband sleeps in their spare room as her children often end up sharing the bed with her so she can feed them so they don’t cry and wake her husband up in the night. I also felt really sad about this but I don’t really know why.
Can you offer some wisdom on whether sharing a bed is important or not?!
Okay, let’s try to flesh this out a little bit.
Why is the couple sleeping in separate rooms?
Sometimes you really don’t have a choice. If one spouse snores a ton and keeps the other awake (or causes them not to sleep well), then for health reasons they may need to sleep in separate beds. (Here’s a website with some info on snoring solutions, to see if that may solve the problem). When my husband was on call and would repeatedly be paged at night and have to make phone calls, we sometimes would sleep in separate rooms on those nights so that he didn’t disturb me.
I’ve written before on couples sleeping in separate beds when the issue is something like that–along with some thoughts on how to maintain intimacy even if you have to part at night. I think it’s an important one to read!
But when it’s not an issue about quality of sleep that can’t be helped, and there’s something else at play, then we really need to look at the underlying reason.
Sleeping in Separate Rooms to run away from intimacy is dangerous
It’s really quite simple: If you’re sleeping in separate rooms because you feel distant, you will only increase the distance.
This woman is having some marriage problems–her husband has been using porn–and so she feels distant. Add to that the difficulties with alarms and snoring, and she likes being in a separate room better.
Now, the snoring and alarms may legitimately drive you away, but be very careful that if you do sleep in a separate room you do it well–turning in together, snuggling together, reading a bit together before you separate into separate rooms (as I said in my post on separate bedrooms).
But let’s say that the issue isn’t snoring or alarms. It’s really only the porn use. Then is it okay to separate?
I’d say yes if he is unrepentant and unwilling to get help or accountability (but I’d also say that you should take further steps to mend the situation, by talking to a counselor, having an intervention, or drawing very clear boundaries. Just running away won’t help it). You can see more about that in this post on not being an enabler of sin in your marriage.
What if he’s trying to stop the porn, he does have accountability–and you’re still hurt. Then what?
I can understand wanting to sleep in a separate room the night you found out. But be careful of continuing that separation.
This month we’re talking about good marriage habits as part of our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge, and I’ve asked you all to read The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. And one of the habits that Shaunti found in her research was this:
When [happy couples] are in a season of being at odds with each other–when they are experiencing friction or hurt feelings–they solve it by spending more time together instead of less… When we have hurt feelings, anger, or discord, the last thing we may want is to be with our spouses. But ultimately, it appears that that is what we need most.
Think about that for a moment. When you’re hurt, your instinct is to retreat–to head to that separate bedroom where you can be alone with your thoughts and pour out your brokenheartedness to God and nurse your hurts. But that’s exactly what your marriage doesn’t need. What helps is if you still act like a team–act like two people who believe, “we will get through this–together.”
Be careful of letting children kick one of you to a different bedroom
You think you’re being nice.
And for the first few weeks of a baby’s life that may have its merits.
But to continue it long term is really dangerous. We’ve already talked last week about how hormones when you’re nursing often cause many of us to lose our libidos. Add sleep deprivation, and many of us enter survival mode, just trying to get through. And so we push our husbands away, devote ourselves entirely to the babies, because we figure, “he’ll still be here later. It’s the baby who really needs me.”
What the baby needs is for his or her parents to be rock solid.
Do not neglect your marriage. We think that it’s natural to stay together, so we shouldn’t have to work at it. But that’s wrong! It’s natural to drift apart; staying together takes work. If you don’t put in the work, you and your husband will drift.
You need time alone to be intimate–and that usually means the same bedroom
And I don’t mean just sex when I say intimate. I mean talking quietly while lying in bed. I mean cuddling while you fall asleep. I mean putting your hand on his arm and praying for him before you drift off. I mean having him kiss you goodbye if he leaves in the morning while you’re still asleep (or if you leave).
If you start sleeping in separate beds because of convenience, it’s easy to stay there. And we don’t always realize what we’re missing until months or years have gone by and we’re just not as close anymore.
So as I said, sometimes a separate bedroom is necessary because of physical difficulties sleeping together. But if you do go that route, do it deliberately well. Still cuddle together at night. Still spend time together before you separate. Don’t just drift. That’s dangerous; and our reader instinctively senses this. Stay together. Truly.