Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Yeah, I see the Grinch on my shoulder. He follows me wherever I go.

My husband and I don’t sleep in the same bed. We haven’t slept in the same bed in years. No, our marriage isn’t over. No, our sex life isn’t over. And no, we don’t feel like roommates.

In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of all of that. Deciding to sleep in separate beds probably saved our marriage. Fuck probably, definitely. Because I knew that if I had to spend one more night listening to the proverbial freight train that was my husband’s snoring and getting kicked in the shins by his restless legs, I was going to divorce him.* He knew that if he had to hear me complain about his snoring and restless legs one more time, he was going to divorce me.

As compatible as we were during the day, we were polar opposites when it came to our sleep habits. I liked to stay up late and sleep in as long as possible. My husband tended to go to bed much earlier than me and was a morning person, even on the weekends. I’ve always had trouble falling and staying asleep. Even in the most perfect of conditions—complete silence except for my white noise machine, earplugs in my ears, lavender misted on my pillow, Melatonin, NyQuil and two glasses of chardonnay in my system—I still struggled with sleep.

My husband was snoring within seconds of his head hitting the pillow and could snooze through anything. I’m not exaggerating when I say he could fall asleep standing up, outside, naked, in a hailstorm.

Yet despite all this, we kept on sleeping in the same room for the first few years of our marriage. Although we both secretly craved our own sleeping space, neither of us wanted to suggest it, at least not back then. Sleeping in separate beds as a married couple seemed, in some way, wrong. We’d been indoctrinated to believe that sharing a life together for better or worse also meant sharing a bed together for better or worse.

Then my husband’s schedule changed. He began working the early shift. Every morning his alarm would blare at 3:30 a.m. He never hit the snooze button. He never made any noise getting up and dressed. But it didn’t matter. As soon as that alarm sounded, I was up too. Soon, I began resenting him for waking me up, and he began resenting me for resenting him.

That’s when we made the decision that it was separate beds or separate lives. OK, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but we did start sleeping in separate rooms. And it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Our situation is far from unique — Nearly 1 in 4 couples sleep in separate bedrooms or beds, according to a 2015 survey by the National Sleep Foundation. Yet, I’m still wary of telling people about our set-up. (Until now, obviously.) There’s a stigma attached to married couples that sleep in separate beds. People automatically assume your marriage is over just because you don’t spend eight hours a night in the same bed.

If I accidently forget to close the guest room door when we have friends over and someone notices the unmade bed, they’ll typically make one of two snide (not to mention, sexist) remarks: “Looks like someone’s in the doghouse!” or “She kicked you out, huh?”

I get it. It’s easy to joke and make assumptions. Some couples can’t fathom a world in which they do not sleep in the same bed as their spouse. If that’s the case for you and your spouse, great! I’m happy for you. But if your significant other snores, chases squirrels or emits enough body heat to warm your entire house and your sleep is suffering, it’s probably time to consider separate beds. If your lack of sleep is causing you to feel moody or irritable the next day, or making you resent your significant other, it’s DEFINITELY time to consider separate beds.

Believe me, getting a good night’s sleep makes everything seem better. So instead of screaming at your spouse for not emptying the dishwasher in the morning, you may just send a passive-aggressive text message. I know that since I’ve been sleeping better, the world seems a little kinder, a little gentler, and the sounds of my kids’ voices, a little less irritating. And yes, the absence of my husband in my bed really does make my heart grow fonder.

*For the record, Russ would like me to note that I also snore. It just doesn’t bother him.


5 Replies to “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”

  1. Unfortunately, all of those things must run in the family. It took me 10 minutes to write this post because I kept falling asleep, standing up.

  2. Love it!! As soon as one kid moves out I’m taking his room over!! Glad I wasnt dating jack when him and Russ were roommates I may have smoothered one of them!!

    1. Thanks,Anne! There have been many nights that I’ve wanted to smother Russ. Sleeping in separate beds seemed like a better option though.

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