If your partner decides to sleep on the couch instead of in bed with you, you two might be in a fight, one of you might have a cold, or you both might simply be not in the mood to sleep next to each other. All of these situations are perfectly normal and don't spell serious trouble for your relationship, but if your partner regularly sleeps on the couch, it could mean something is potentially amiss. According to experts, there are several explanations for why your SO could choose the couch over your bed every night, and luckily, not all of them are bad.
For instance, it’s possible you and your partner aren’t compatible sleepers. While some people prefer to be human blankets and wrap themselves around their partners all night long, others would much rather sleep unaccompanied and unbothered. And while it’s fine to want some personal space, it’s important to ascertain the motivation behind your partner sleeping on the couch. If they’re doing it out of courtesy or to meet their own needs, then you probably have no reason to worry. But if you’re not sure what your partner’s motivation could be, then here are some possible explanations.
Your Partner Could Be Trying To Get An Edge
If you and your partner just had an argument or are mid-fight, one of you sleeping on the couch might actually be a good thing. However, relationship counselor and author Dr. Brian Jory believes a person's motivation for sleeping on the couch during an argument is key. "If your partner is doing it to get an edge in the argument, as a power play to punish you for disagreeing, that’s a bad sign," he says. "You want to be with someone who uses their words and ideas, persuasion and reasoning, to come to win-win solutions, not someone who wants to win the argument at your expense and is willing to use tactics like withdrawal and coercion."
As New York City relationship expert Susan Winter previously told Elite Daily, you can usually tell if your partner’s decision to sleep on the couch is motivated by bitterness or spite. According to Winter, if you feel like your separate sleeping arrangements “mirror the distance between you and your partner,” then it’s possible they’re trying to send a message by choosing the couch over your bed.
Your Partner Could Be Avoiding Conflict
Another possible motivation for sleeping on the couch: avoiding an argument or brewing conflict. "It’s also a bad sign if your partner sleeps on the couch as a way of totally avoiding the conflict, sweeping it under the rug, and waking up the next morning like nothing happened," Dr. Jory says. Yes, putting some distance between you and your SO during an argument can be beneficial, but not if they’re using that distance as an avoidance technique.
According to Fran Greene, dating and relationship coach and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting, wanting to sleep alone rather than with an SO may be a symptom of a larger issue. “Often there is something that is triggering the desire to sleep alone,” she said. “When you are having a problem with your partner, you do what you can to be away from them as much as possible, and that includes sharing a bed.” If you suspect your partner is choosing the couch in order to avoid you, then it may be time to question their behavior.
Your Partner Could Need Space
Everyone needs space every once in a while, even during REM, and if your partner decides they need some space from you (especially following an argument), that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re pissed. As Dr. Jory says, "In a healthy relationship, both individuals come away from a conflict with a new perspective and a deeper understanding of one another. Needless to say, this kind of health takes time and space. It doesn’t happen in one little talk. So, sleeping on the couch can be a good sign if it means your partner is creating space to reflect and mull things over."
Though Greene previously told Elite Daily that “continuous sleeping apart can have a negative impact on the couple’s relationship,” a little break and a little space can provide an opportunity for you and your partner to clear your heads. After spending a night apart, you can come back together with a fresh perspective on the issue at hand.
Your Partner Could Be A Light Sleeper
Let's say your partner is a super light sleeper, and you are a big-time snorer. Or perhaps your partner takes a long time to go to sleep, and you’re out like a light the minute your head hits the pillow. Dr. Jory believes that sleeping with your partner is primal and intimate, which means that differences in sleeping styles can cause relationship problems. So if your honey is having trouble sleeping next to you, they could be retreating to the couch simply to catch some Zs.
“If sleeping together is difficult, talk to your partner about ways to compromise what you need versus maintaining the relationship,” Greene previously suggested. She also said that — if your partner is a light sleeper — you should look for creative compromises, like “try sleeping together on the weekends, or every other night.” According to her, the key is to “come up with a plan that feels good for both of you,” and adds that you should “talk about it so neither of you feels rejected or neglected.” Investing in a white noise machine or a foam mattress could also help you SO nod off more easily.
Your Partner Could Be Trying To Help You Sleep Better
Couples with incompatible “circadian rhythms” — night people and morning people — usually have a hard time sharing a bed from the beginning. If your boo stays up later than you, then they could be crashing on the couch to help you get a better night’s sleep (and to avoid potential conflict). According to Winer, sleeping apart is OK as you both “decided to do so for reasons that make sense for your relationship.” For example, she said, “If your partner works a night shift and you need to get up early, having separate beds and or separate bedrooms can be a blessing. Especially so for light sleepers.”
If you and your bae are simply incompatible when it comes to sleep, there are plenty of other ways to build intimacy in other aspects of your lives. "Every couple finds their own ways of being intimate — there’s no cookbook for perfect intimacy," says Dr. Jory. Consider taking the time to connect physically — holding hands, hugging, and cuddling — can help you feel connected to your partner. Whatever works for the two of you to help you feel close, intimate, and connected will help make up for a fitful night's sleep, and if all else fails — remember that sleeping on the couch every now and then isn't such a terrible idea. Sweet dreams!
Dr. Brian Jory, relationship counselor and author
Susan Winter, New York City relationship expert
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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