Living Together with Separate Bedrooms: Good Idea or Bad?

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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 when the opportunity came, 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.


Photo by Posh Living, LLC. (Flickr)

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 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 it 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 hid 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 was quite the opposite and they finally wanted to "come out of the closet" about their sleeping arrangements.

The couple was 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 one in four U.S. couples have separate bedrooms. And dig this: 60 percent 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? Would they help or hurt a relationship?

Eleanore Wells is the author of The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree, which was named after her popular blog, The Spinsterlicious Life. The book is a spirited, clever, page-turning take on her happily single life in a "married is normal" world.

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