In TV shows and movies, couples are, like, never shown sleeping in separate bedrooms—not even in I Love Lucy, where the two main characters sleep in separate twin beds in the same room (because…the ’50s). In the rare case that onscreen couples do sleep apart, chances are someone’s on the couch as a consequence of a major blowout. Truthfully though, catching zzz’s in a different bedroom than your S.O. is something one in four married couples do—and it’s not necessarily because the relationship is rife with issues.
Getting enough sleep is a major cornerstone of living your healthiest life ever—and crucial for ensuring your mood isn’t constantly awful. “There are all sorts of reasons why sleeping separately can be better for someone’s health, whether it’s because someone snores, is sensitive to light, or the couple has different sleep schedules,” says relationship therapist and Sex Without Stress author Jessa Zimmerman. “Getting enough sleep is crucial, and you need to make that decision for you and your health. As long as having separate rooms is for that reason, I think it’s a good idea.”
Being well-rested is blissful, but what happens if the arrangement starts to make you feel like you and your partner would be better described as roommates than as a couple? Sure, it’s normal for the initial passion of a new relationship to fade over time, and sleeping in separate rooms can amplify that feeling even more. But Zimmerman says it doesn’t have to—and she has plenty of tips to make sure it doesn’t.
1. Spend your evenings and mornings together
“Advice I give to all couples—whether they sleep in the same room or not—is to keep their bedroom a romantic place to be,” Zimmerman says. “Make the effort to cuddle together either before bedtime or in the mornings, and then get up to go to your own room.” Some of her clients even schedule the occasional sleepover, spending either all or the majority of the night in bed together.
“Advice I give to all couples—whether they sleep in the same room or not—is to keep their bedroom a romantic place to be.” —Jessa Zimmerman, relationship therapist
She also says it’s important not to start using the separate rooms as space where you spend the majority of the evening. “Don’t go in and start reading or watching TV in your own room,” she says. “You should still be spending all the time up until bedtime together.”
2. Don’t use it to avoid talking about a bigger issue
Sleep issues are a legitimate reason for keeping separate rooms, Zimmerman says, but being honest with yourself about whether that’s really the impetus for the arrangement is key. Is it possible that you’re using the snoring as a convenient way to ignore a bigger problem? “I think it’s important to ask, ‘Is there an issue with our sex life and this just serves as a nice cover?'” Zimmerman says.
If there is a deeper issue, it’s important to deal with it head-on by talking about it—and sticking to one bedroom. “Generally, both people are aware of the situation, so it’s not exactly a surprise to bring it up,” she says. “Start the conversation coming from a good place, assuring the other person that you want your relationship to be the best it can be.”
3. Bring the heat back slowly—not all at once
If you’re already in a spot of feeling like your partner is more your roommate than anything else, Zimmerman recommends taking baby steps toward heating things up again. “If you haven’t had sex in 10 months, I don’t think the solution is to just dive right into the deep end.” Instead, she recommends chatting about prioritizing the relationship to make it as good as it can possibly be.
Sleeping in separate rooms by no means has to be a romance killer—it’s typically not the real reason a couple starts feeling like roommates anyway.
After using just words, figure out how to reintroduce physical contact, perhaps by cuddling or exchanging massages. Then, slowly work toward building back that fiery connection.
But, just to reiterate, sleeping in separate rooms by no means has to be a romance killer, and Zimmerman says it’s typically not the real reason a couple starts feeling alarmingly platonic. “The idea that two people who are in a relationship but feel like roommates can happen even if they sleep in the same bed.” The key, she says, is keeping couple time and intimacy strong, and maintaining good communication. Then, your relationship will be as deep and energizing as your sleep game.
Speaking of relationship problems, these are the most common ones—and how to overcome them. And this is why trust is so crucial.
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