I would rather sleep alone. I would like to be able to turn on the light at 2 AM so that I don’t stub my toe on the way to the bathroom. I would love to turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees in February without giving my husband pneumonia. Most of all, I would love to sleep through the night without his snoring flare-ups, flutter kicking or early morning workout alarm. My dirty little secret? Half the nights of the week, I actually do.
I have slept in the same bed with the same man for a quarter of a century. Our bed has expanded and contracted over these years. It has been heavy at times with novels and running magazines, cuddly at others with scared or sick children. The mattress has been filled with regret over a long, drawn-out fight or brimming with satisfaction after a round of good sex. Even after all these years, I still think the perfect date consists of resting my head on my husband’s shoulder when we watch a movie in bed. In the dim light of the television, with his hand in mine, there is no place I would rather be.
Our sleep divorce started more like a sleep separation. Although we took vows that promised to honor one another in sickness and health, we have never been one of those couples so entwined that we would share virus-filled French kisses. In the beginning, our goal was simply to spare one another a tissue-laden bed, contagious linens, and late night coughing bouts. In those days, our nights apart would amount to about a week or two a year. Considering we had fifty more together, it was really no big deal.
As our bodies grew older and our lives became more complicated, so did our nocturnal habits. For me, it was up-all-night worrying. Bigger kids with bigger problems. For my husband it was growing his business. We were marathoners who ached and pained weekly from running distances far longer than our bodies were ever built for. Little by little and without our acknowledging it, we added more time to our night-away regime. Sometimes, one of us would wake and leave at 1 am with twitching legs, other nights a hard day would denote it was not even worth trying to sleep together. Our separation was never out of anger. Deep down, we both knew that being apart was a better option because neither of us wanted to take the fall for a cranky, sleep-deprived spouse.
I recently read an article about his and her bedrooms. The request for this type of arrangement in new construction homes has been on a steady increase since 2007. The same article quoted a sociologist. She stated that the separation has nothing to do with sex or love, but is a result of life getting in the way – snoring, children and early-morning alarm clocks. The same small things that drive my guy and me to opposite bedrooms.
When I asked my real estate guru husband about separate bedrooms, he told me that many modern houses are now adding a snore chamber to the master bedroom. Replete with a lamp, a twin bed, and a door to close, the snore room is located off the master bathroom, away from any primal noises that can unhinge a rock-solid marriage.
When I was in college (and could pretty much could sleep through a building burning), I spent my spring breaks with my grandparents in California. It wasn’t until I started having sex that I realized how odd their matching twin beds looked so neatly against the wall, literally a nightstand away from one another. They were in their late seventies and I just assumed that they had stopped having sex. To me, sex was all about being tangled. When a guy slept over, it was validating to have him want my body heat all night long. It wasn’t just about the act; it was about all that came after.
And I still believe in that kind of intimacy, I just don’t want it all night long. I still desire candlelight dinners and surprise birthday gifts. I yearn for a trip to Napa Valley and dream about picnic lunches. I still love sharing every aspect of my life with my husband and my feelings toward him have deepened as I have matured. All of this aside, I am not giving up my few nights away. We will continue to part ways a few nights a week, our own little sleep divorce, so we can come back together in the morning rested and whole, like two people in love should be.
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