What’s Wrong With Separate Bedrooms?


A couple of weeks ago I ruined an almost-date.  I was standing in line waiting to go into an event when a guy standing behind me, struck up a conversation.  We chatted for quite awhile and eventually got around to his divorce.  I don’t recall the details but I do recall his look of horror when I said something about wanting separate bedrooms if I ever got married.  He thought that was a terrible idea.  I was pretty sure he was going to ask he out before I said that, but he didn’t.  I’m not sure if my separate bedrooms idea is the reason he didn’t ask me out, but I have learned that talking about the appeal of separate bedrooms can elicit some pretty strong reactions.  Maybe I should have waited.
Anyway, that scenario reminded me of a few years ago, when a guy I was dating brought up the subject of marriage.  I kind of had a panic attack which I blamed on feeling like I was catching the flu.  Once I calmed down (and was safely home), I called my friend, Benilde.  As we talked, I tried to envision what it might be like to be married to him and I remember saying to her, “at the very least, we would have to have separate bedrooms” (and I’m thinking to myself “maybe even on separate floors”.)    I would really need to have my own space. Lots of it.
Benilde was very much against that, telling me that sharing a bed was one of the most intimate parts of marriage…not in a sexual way, but in a pillow talk kind of way.  She said “Some of a couple’s most important conversations happen in bed.  You can’t sleep in separate rooms.”  So I thought “Eff it, then.”  That was the only way this was going to happen.   I wasn’t giving the marriage  serious consideration anyway, but that little chat shut it all the way down.
Shortly after that, Oprah had a show with a perfectly lovely couple in their 30s (I’m guessing) who announced that they have a happy marriage…and separate bedrooms.  They have hidden this from most people because they didn’t want to be judged. People assume that if a couple is sleeping in separate rooms that there’s no sex and no joy.  For them, it is quite the opposite and they finally wanted to “come out of the closet” about their sleeping arrangements.  They are sure that having separate bedrooms has helped them  maintain a strong marriage.  I totally get that.
Dr Phil, who was guesting on the show, was squarely in the Benilde camp.  He was sure that separate bedrooms are not a  good idea, for reasons similar to Benilde’s.  Apparently not everybody agrees, though, because 1 in 4 U.S. couples have separate bedrooms.
And dig this:   60% of the new houses that are being built have two master bedrooms.  That means lots of married people are acknowledging (and acting on) what I’ve known for a long time: maybe separate bedrooms is just what some relationships need.    No restless nights because one partner snores, no fighting over the temperature in the room or whether there should be a TV in the bedroom (or whether it should be on while I’m trying to sleep).  And who cares if you throw your clothes on the floor because they’re not on my floor.  And, really, isn’t it just nice to have a room of one’s own?
Fortunately, when my guy brought up marriage it dawned on me rather quickly that separate bedrooms wasn’t really what I would have needed…separate houses was more like it.  And I guess that would be a whole ‘nother kind of problem.
What do you think of separate bedrooms for a couple?  Help –or- Hurt?


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39 Responses to What’s Wrong With Separate Bedrooms?

  1. Elyse Scott says:

    It’s funny…my husband and I did not get out of bed for the first 6 months of our courting…it was fun,sexy and a wonderful way to connect.We decided to spend our lives together because we enjoy many things about eachother.A 7 years of marriage,I have my beautiful,cozy room next to his…..we snuggle and read togeher but I prefer my own room.My parents have been married 60 years and they have seperate bedrooms and they love each other deeply still.Also what a luxury to have one’s own room??!! It’s a sign of wealth in many countries.

  2. Natalia says:

    Separate bedrooms? Why stop there? My fiance and I have separate homes and I see no reason to change that, even after we’re married. I’m totally serious. 🙂

  3. SuzyKnew says:

    Thank you for reminding what I need to talk to my builder about… a separate bedroom for my future husband…!


  4. Cindy L'Esperance says:

    I would definitely want separate bedrooms if I ever get married. A good night's sleep is very important to me, and sharing a bed is simply not conducive to this, especially if you're a light sleeper.

  5. eleanore says:

    @Shannon: The “1 in 4” stat is from the NY Times and I believe the “2 master bedrooms” stat is from the American Homebuilders Assoc.” (Recalling from memory; don't have them handy at the moment)

  6. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I shared a bed for 16+ years and then his snoring problem grew worse. We tried several products,and he wasn't willing to go in for a sleep test to see if needed a breathing machine. You just can't make people do things even if it is for their own good. Accept it or argue- your choice. At some point, I was getting virtually no sleep so we've gone to seperate beds. It was his choice, he isn't willing for me to suffer as much as I was, but he says he hates the sleeping apart. Yet, he has remained unwilling to get tested. I didn't think I would like the sleeping apart, but I have very much. I haven't slept so well in years. If he ever gets a machine or another snoring product, we'll try again. I find we talk less at night, but communicate more during the day. The sex is less frequent, but the other night we rivaled our pre-kids marathons. Different seasons of life… I don't feel our covenant requires we share the same bed, just that we don't get in anyone else's:)

  7. shannon says:

    What's your source for the 1 out of 4 people sleep separately? And also the 60% of new homes are being built with 2 master bedrooms?

  8. shel says:

    my husband moved out of our bedroom after 8 years of sleeping together. i was very upset at first, but he knew his snoring had always bothered me, i wasn't allowed to use a fan to help me sleep, he was uncomfortable on the mattress i had chosen, and i felt pressure and anxiety every night that one of us would want sleep, the other sex and no one would be happy. i was very upset with the separate rooms, i thought it would mess up our kids, and cause us to grow apart. but it has been the complete opposite! the kids couldn't care less – i am sleeping better than i have our whole marriage, and so is he. and when we have sex it is a choice instead of a chore, and it's a lot more spontaneous since there is no “ground zero”. i love having “my” room. i go in at night and close the door and i am alone, and it is glorious. hooray for separate rooms!

  9. Deame says:

    I agree on separete bedrooms. My husband does not. I am awake nights because of snoring and him holing his breath while asleep. amunst other noises and smells. I resent having to share. no next marrage for me.

  10. Anonymous says:

    i work first shift get up at 5am. my wife works second, gets home around 2am. i feel horrible if i wake her just after she fell asleep. two bedrooms works in this loving marriage…

  11. Anonymous says:

    My fiance and I had a rough week or so, but after that, we both adjusted well to sleeping in the same bed. He thought that we should have separate bedrooms at first as well. At night we have a ritual where we cuddle for a few minutes and talk, then we both turn over to our own separate spaces. Having a queen size bed helps. A king would have been better but budgets demanded we use what we have. The benefit is that we can both keep an eye on the other in case of health problems. But with such a large bed and both of us being firm sleepers, we do well. But it is a matter of choice.
    Separate beds was the only way with my ex. His health problems almost killed me. Severe obstructive sleep apnea and a CPAP left me with only 4-5 hours sleep a night and not a restful one at that. So I can see both sides of this fence and know fully that it is a matter of choice.

  12. Stella says:

    Separate bedrooms is just sensible. Having always been an insomniac I used to annoy the hell out of my husband. . . until I'd go into one of the other rooms. Then we could both sleep. Now I'm completely useless, I usually spend most the night diagonally across the bed with the covers all hitched up around me.
    No one would put up with that- it'd be hard to find space for a cat in my bed let alone an entire man!
    I'm glad people are coming out of the closet and 'fessing up.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I love the separate room idea. However, even if I did have a separate bedroom, I would still sleep with my husband in either his bed or mine. I agree that the late night talks, or silent reading time, and especially the physical proximity that is created by sleeping in someone's arms is absolutely important. Overall, I like the idea of having my own space to escape to if need be. Not to say, it would prevent many needless (or not so needless) arguments or bickering. The separate rooms would also help keep some things fresh–if you go to a nice dinner you can each dress up in your own bedroom and surprise your husband/wife when they see you all done up,etc–a play up on the fun initial dating stages, and building on the attraction factor that is also important.

  14. Separate bedrooms all the way. I've spent most of my life sleeping alone in my bed. I can't sleep when there's someone else in the bed. If they toss and turn, or snore, it's even worse.
    I think it's the little things that make people resent each other, like having the TV on when your partner is trying to sleep, or if you like sleeping with a light on, or you like having the window open, or you leave your dirty socks on the floor, etc. Those kinds of things drive people crazy if one person likes them and the other doesn't. If one person has to compromise on things like that, they eventually start to resent the other person. It's much easier for each person to just have their own bedroom.

  15. Tina D. says:

    my parents have separate bedrooms and it works just fine. it's kinda cute – my dad, who stays up later than my mom – tucks her in every night. sometimes they'll nap together in his room on the weekends. maybe the concern over separate bedrooms is that you'd have separate lives, which does not a marriage make. so, we're talking methodology, not necessarily theory. if it's a sign of less intimacy, you'd have to look at your relationship. but, it also may be a sign of greater intimacy because you're being honest with each other, and willing to work practically for the sake of the relationship.

  16. Rhona says:

    Nothing is wrong with single bedrooms. That is the only way I would ever agree to marrying someone. I HATE the thought of seeing someone day after day. UGH!!!

  17. Anonymous says:

    During a mini-trip to Toronto last year, I took a tour of the castle/ mansion Casa Loma and was surprised to learn that separate bedroom suites (AND BATHS) were the norm for the wealthy elite. Everyone was surprised, some women were envious, I just wondered in which suite the son was conceived. Seriously-how would it work? You go from one question (Tonight?) to two (Tonight? Whose bed?)!

  18. I don't think that separate bedrooms would work for me, but I don't think I'll marry again.
    One of the reasons for having a man in my bed is for the cuddling, the closeness–even when we're on separate sides.
    But, the crucial issue here is that it's a personal matter between 2 people. I'm betting that older couples are more likely to choose 2 bedrooms over a younger set.

  19. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I have seperate bedrooms. He claims its because he cant sleep in there because he smells mold. Trust me there is no mold in my home. We have slept in seperate beds since Sept 2010. I have to admit our relationship is rocky and has alot of great moments. But now as i think about after reading this story. My husband and i sleep sometimes together in his room and when we go on vacation and our relationship becomes stronger. I think we need to go back to the same bedroom or we may have bigger issues.

  20. I think it's good to at least have the option! Hey people have different sleeping needs and isn't it better for the relationship if people are well rested? Plus, just because you have separate bedrooms doesn't mean you always have to sleep there. Bring back the fun of sleepovers!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I remember I took a tour of a Victorian era house. There were two separate adjoining bedrooms for the husband and wife. I asked the tour guide about it and she said it was very common for married couples to have separate bedrooms, and only “lower class” society slept in the same bed. I guess it was considered respectful to let your spouse sleep in privacy. The couple would come together for sex, then return to thier sepatate rooms for sleep.

    So separate bedrooms is not a new concept. Just one that is being brought back.

  22. Anonymous says:

    If ever I marry for the 3rd time I am going to insist on separate bedrooms. It is the ideal situtation for “keeping it fresh” – the relationship, your bedroom or whatever 🙂 And I who snores like a train when I don't wear my CPAP machine and look like I'm off to space when I do, do not necessarily want to subject someone to that all the time. And anyway, we all pretty much slept in separate rooms when we were growing up, didn't we?

  23. Smokie says:

    And I don't care about separate bathrooms. We have 2 full baths and 1 half bath in the house. We share one of the full baths, and as long as he has his vanity area, I'm fine. We're both neat and respect each others privacy in the bathroom, so one works for us.

  24. Smokie says:

    Different strokes for different folks. Ya know? If it works for them, great. But as for me and my husband, I don't want to sleep in separate bedrooms. I like having him in the same bed and bedroom with me. I slept by myself for 34 years. It wasn't incredibly appealing then and it's sure not now.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Separate bedroom and bathroom a must. With regular get togethers and sleep overs. LOL

  26. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with the separate rooms thing, and honestly am more a fan of the separate houses/apartments thing. I'm someone who just can't have another person in my living space 24/7, much less someone sleeping in my bed every night. Just the thought of that makes me shudder. (Guess that's why marriage has never really held much appeal for me!) Love that his/hers cottage arrangement! That would be ideal.

  27. jodie says:

    Several years ago I read a response from Dan Savage in his column that included a couple keeping separate apartments and being happy. The response was to a question from a reader who thought that having separate bedrooms (something someone suggested to them) was horrible. Basically Dan was saying for some people separate rooms and maybe even houses is what's going to work for you. I felt great that there was someone else out there who saw things as I did, that having ones own space is important. But what's sad is it still isn't accepted. I was in a relationship where I just couldn't sleep in the same room with that person, they were noisy and disturbing in their sleep, when people found out that I slept in the guest room 6 nights out of 7 I got lots of pitying looks and offers of advice on how to fix my relationship. It was annoying to say the least. Got me to realize that living with another person is the last thing I'd like to do again.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I am all about it… I didnt used to be, but then I was in a relationship with one man for 4.5 years, and another, who I briefly married for 6.5 years, and since then, many others. All snore-loudly. For 11 years of my life (total with those 2 guys mentioned), I rarely slept.
    I got rid of a guy back in the fall because I found out with the first sleepover that he snores like a train. I just cannot take it. I am a light sleeper, and my sleep is very important to me.
    And just for the record: all of those things sold on the market that are supposed to 'help' the snoring person DO NOT work.
    So.. IF I ever got married (again), unless the guy does not snore, separate bedrooms it is.

  29. Denise says:

    Separate bedrooms separate lives does not a marriage make. But I agree with anonymous about separate bathrooms which should be mandatory.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I would totally go for separate bedrooms…or, better yet, separate houses! No decorating conflicts, plenty of personal space and quiet time…yeah. I am one who will always need my space.

  31. Janine says:

    I'm not sure why a compromise is not suggested here (maybe it's implied?). I fully support the separate bedrooms idea. Would've come in handy at those times I broke up with a guy and we were still stuck in the same house and bed together for months. Yes, seriously.

    And every couple has a different dynamic going on – not all reserve “special time” for bedtime.

    However, I think having your own space is important for many people too, a retreat. So I support the OPTION of a second bedroom – you just wouldn't use it all the time. Weekdays, maybe?

    My grandparents had separate bedrooms for as long as I remember. It worked fine, although you could sure tell who “wore the trousers” there – Nan's room was massive and ornate, Pop's was tiny with a single bed. That used to crack me up! But Pop also had his artist studio out the back – a retreat. So all was fair, now I think about it.

    Couples should just stop being so horribly dependent all of the time. I'm not even in a relationship and I feel suffocated by the couples around me who can't even seem to go to the dunny without their partner. Independence. Space. Good things. Not bad things.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I thought that being neighbors with a significant other would be a great idea. We could have sleep overs all the time, but if I wanted to let a family member stay with me for a while, same goes for my spouse, it would not create any hard feelings. It isn't financially possible to run two households, but I can dream.

  33. Molly says:

    I'm married and separate bedrooms is not for us. I agree with the “pillow talk” theory and feel like we'd miss some of the special moments and good conversations we have. Fortunately, neither of us has issues with snoring, blanket stealing or tossing and turning.
    That said, I wouldn't judge a couple that prefers separate bedrooms. In my opinion, whatever works and whatever keeps you both happy is the way it should be.

    On the issue of separate bathrooms however…..now that's a must for us!

  34. My husband and I have separate bedrooms and it's great. We married at ages 41 (for me) and 45 (for him). We'd never been married before and he was/is a terrible snorer. He protested the idea of separate bedrooms, but I asked how I was supposed to sleep with his snoring. I knew I needed my own space and my own bed. Even if he'd been the ideal quiet sleeper, I would have wanted separate bedrooms.

    I'm candid about this whenever it comes up in conversation. I explain that when a spinster and a bachelor get married, you need some extra space. Four years later, I adore my husband and know we'll always happily have separate bedrooms.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Ditto, Anonymous!!!!! But I also like the idea of separate bedrooms…or maybe even 'adjoining' condos. I have never appreciated the idea of 'sleeping' together–I need my own separate sleep-space. Maybe this means I just have issues…so what!!! I like my issues!

  36. Anonymous says:

    I don't know about separate bedrooms, but I do know that for me a must have would be separate bathrooms.

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