Confession time: My partner and I don't always sleep in the same room. I'm a light sleeper who struggles with insomnia, so there are times when I can't get comfortable, or my partner making any noise in their sleep will wake me up. So, at least a few nights a week, I sneak off because it's the only way I can possibly hope to get some rest. Makes sense, right? And yet, I still felt ashamed of it, as if it was some dark secret. I often wonder: Is it normal to sleep in separate beds sometimes? Or is not physically sleeping together going to ruin the relationship?
While I knew why I was making the choice to sleep on my own and felt like it was justified, I still couldn't help feeling self conscious about what people's perceptions might be of our relationship if they learned how often we sleep separately. I tell myself that it's no one's business but ours, but still, that shame lingers. Which is why I was really interested in speaking to relationship experts about whether or not it's OK to sleep apart, and when or if I should be worried that in doing so, it would put my relationship in danger.
While there are situations where choosing to sleep separately is perfectly fine, there are other instances where you should be concerned. “It’s fine in the short term,” Fran Greene, dating and relationship coach and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting, tells Elite Daily. However, she warns that “continuous sleeping apart can have a negative impact on the couple’s relationship. It should not become a habit because sharing a bed is reserved for lovers. It’s the most private space for two people in a loving relationship.” Greene acknowledges that sleep is essential to your health and wellbeing, so you shouldn't sacrifice it completely, but instead find a balance. “Just like any other differences, this is one that should take priority in figuring out a solution so you don’t miss out on the coziness, connectedness, and closeness that sleeping together creates.”
Winter adds that it should also be a cause for concern if only one the two parties consents to the sleeping arrangement. For example, if “it was an agreement you made to please your partner — but now makes you miserable,” or if the separate sleeping arrangements “mirror the distance between you and your partner,” then it’s time to address the issue before it becomes an emotional distance and not just a physical one.
If you sense that sleeping apart is either a sign of or creating issues in the relationship, then Greene says it's time to address them head on. She advises bringing the subject up with your SO. “If sleeping together is difficult, talk to your partner about ways to compromise what you need versus maintaining the relationship,” says Greene. She also suggests that you look for creative compromises, like “try sleeping together on the weekends, or every other night.” 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.”
If you're not sure where to start, or you suspect that sleeping in different rooms is actually a symptom of a larger problem, then Greene says you can always turn to the professionals by seeking the assistance of a couple’s counselor. “Often there is something that is triggering the desire to sleep alone,” she says, adding, “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!”
Confronting or even admitting that there are problems in the relationship can be really scary, but it will be worth it on the other side. Also, remember that sleeping apart can also be completely fine and healthy so long as you both are on the same page. Because what really matters more than where you catch your Zs, say the experts, is what you do and how you connect when you're awake. Phew, what a relief.
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