I Want to Be Alone: When Couples Stop Sharing a Bed

I grew up with parents that not only had separate beds but they each had their own room. I, at some point, realized that this wasn’t normal. All my friends’ parents seemed to share not only a room but a bed. I never thought much about it. After all, I Love Lucy had the Ricardo’s sleeping in separate beds. Maybe that’s just what some parents do. Occasionally, there would be an excuse thrown out about back problems that one of my parents was experiencing. I didn’t come from a very affectionate household and in fact, it could be deemed as repressive. So no one in the household ever really talked about it. It was just the way things were.

I personally can’t imagine not sleeping in the same bed as my husband. I love resting next to him, waking up to him playing, playing footsie in the middle of the night. I just like his energy to be there even if we aren’t sleeping completely intertwined. As a therapist, I have had clients who for one reason or another do not share beds or rooms.  Surprisingly many of them are young – in their twenties and thirties. The culprit many times is having kiddos that need to be soothed in the middle of the night so, that one parent or the other has to sleep with them. I’ve seen this begin when a child is an infant and continue well into school age. It seems that being a parent trumps being a couple. And I know plenty of you out there would agree with that statement.

But in my office I see issues of disconnection; lack of communication, lack of empathy and lack of intimacy in these couples. I can’t help but believe that the distance between spouses at night has something to do with all of those other issues. My point is that it’s difficult to be the best parent you can be if a) you are not taking care of your own needs sufficiently and/or b) you do not have a healthy sense of couplehood. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of survival; food, water and shelter come before self-actualization.

I’m not going to say that it is never appropriate to not share a bed; but there is a bigger issue within your relationship if it becomes a pattern with no other reason to sustain it self other than to avoid one’s partner. If this physical and emotional distance is beginning to happen to you, there is no need to start an argument over it. Just see it as a red flag that something may be amiss between the two of you. Then discuss it like the adult couple you are. Often a single discussion can help attend to whatever is brewing below the surface. You can find away to make sleeping together a sanctuary away from the day’s storms and strengthen your relationship as a result.

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 is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.

© Copyright Dr. Kathleen Van Kirk