My husband and I have been together for nine years.
Our first five years together were spent living apart, doing the long-distance-relationship thing.
After marrying, I realized we were incompatible when it came to sleep.
My husband and I spent the first five years of our nine-year relationship long-distance: I lived and worked in Wisconsin while Matt resided almost 600 miles away in Michigan.
When we saw each other, I was only vaguely aware of how incompatible our sleeping habits were. I initially found his propensity to throw sing-offs and dance-offs while dead asleep funny and endearing. His ability to quote movies while unconscious was hilarious. The fact that his lower body kicked and writhed and jumped in the middle of the night like he was auditioning for a lead role with Riverdance is surely something I can overlook, I thought.
Then we closed the distance and moved in together. Soon after I woke up to Matt quoting a scene from "Borat" in the dead of night, my sleep-deprived brain decided that the jig was up.
We'd been married for only a year at that point, but we've been sleeping in separate rooms ever since. It wasn't until recently I learned that in choosing to move to our guest room, I'd initiated a "sleep divorce."
More people sleep-divorced during the pandemic
Apparently we weren't alone. The pandemic gave rise to a phenomenon called the sleep divorce, where couples who were cooped up during quarantine decided to sleep apart for myriad reasons, ranging from anxiety to sleep disturbances to a need for space they weren't getting during the day.
A 2021 CNN report described findings from the National Sleep Foundation, FiveThirtyEight, and YouGov suggesting that "about a quarter of American couples sleep apart at least a few times a month and even more Americans say their ideal arrangement is not sleeping in the same bed as their partner."
Now that the world is returning to some semblance of normalcy, couples might be going back to spending their nights in the same bed again. However, I will not be following suit — nothing fills me with more dread than the prospect of attempting to secure a good night's sleep while sharing a bed with my husband.
I'm not going back to sleeping in the same bed
In fairness, it's not all on Matt. I'd always been a light sleeper, and I've been dealing with chronic sleep issues for the past seven years. I'd always resented my husband's ability to fall asleep on a picket fence in the middle of an active fireworks display. But Matt's talent for rapping, singing, dancing, quoting lines from films, and holding X-rated conversations while unconscious has led to the inevitable: My sanity relies on my not being anywhere near him when I'm trying to fall — or stay — asleep.
When we travel, we stay in places that have more than one bed — and, ideally, more than one bedroom. When we must share a bedroom, I wear construction-grade earmuffs to get me through the night — the best 30 bucks I've ever spent.
While I take comfort in knowing that many couples sleep separately, I'd always kept our arrangement under wraps because I was embarrassed; I thought other people would judge my marriage's strength and health.
But those who'd feel inclined to criticize know nothing. And while some may be taking this opportunity to share their beds again, the strength and health of my marriage truly rely on my spare bedroom.
Christina Wyman is a writer and teacher living in Michigan. Her debut novel, "Jawbreaker," is forthcoming with Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2023).
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