Keeping a marriage strong takes work. My wife and I do all the things that are commonly prescribed: we eat dinner together, go on weekly date nights, and take trips without the kids. We also do one thing that might raise eyebrows.
We sleep in separate bedrooms.
We’ve been married for eight years and are expecting our fourth child — and we still enjoy each other’s company more than any couple I know. I believe that our sleeping arrangements are a big contributing factor.
People are understandably skeptical. But it works for a lot of reasons, the most obvious being that we both get more sleep. I’m a restless sleeper, prone to snoring too. My wife gets much better sleep without me by her side — as she’s reminded every time we go on a vacation together.
A couple of years into our marriage, I confided to a friend about our sleeping arrangements. He replied, “So do you ever have sex then?” My answer then is the same I’d give now: We have the most active sex life of any couple I’ve spoken with on the subject. Let’s face it — lack of energy is a far greater threat to an active sex life than lack of opportunity. And we are better rested.
We also get a chance to miss each other. Our household is a little unusual — though less so than it used to be — because I work from home where my wife is raising our kids. That means we rub shoulders all day every day. We eat lunch together, pick up our children from school together, put them to bed together, and spend every evening together, just the two of us. We also text each other constantly throughout the day even though we are only rooms apart.
In this situation, nights apart are the only time we actually get to feel a longing for the other person. That longing results in a happy reunion every morning, a sort of “fresh start” button we push at the dawn of every day.
I’m also a night owl. So after my wife turns in, I have an hour or three to myself. I might read, go to the gym, write, catch up on work — whatever I want to do. This is often one of the happiest and most productive times of my day. My wife started to envy this personal time, so now I watch our kids after I’m done with work each day so that she also gets two hours of “me time” all to herself. Whatever benefits I get from our arrangement, she gets.
Separate bedrooms also allow us to wake up at different times. If you have small children like we do, someone has to wake up early. But my wife actually wants to be the one to get our kids ready for school, so why should both of us sacrifice shuteye? Every Saturday and Sunday I set my alarm early to wake up with the kids and let her be the one to sleep in. I’m so grateful for my five days of sufficient rest that I fire up the griddle and waffle iron and give her a hot breakfast in bed on her mornings off.
Because I have time and space to myself, and because I get the sleep my body needs every night, I’m a far more patient and attentive husband and father than I would be otherwise. I’m also much more productive at work and, I suspect, more enjoyable to be around than I would be if I was a tired mess all the time.
Separate bedrooms aren’t right for everyone. If you’re a couple that’s apart a lot, being together in the same bed every night might be incredibly important. Or if you’re one of those couples who actually sleep better when together, that’s great too. But for my wife and I at this stage of our lives, the nightly separation makes our marriage stronger.