Family life

My husband and I got a sleep divorce—and it's helped our marriage

It’s a bit out of the norm, but I think a lot of couples secretly yearn for our arrangement.

By Leah Rumack
My husband and I got a sleep divorce—and it's helped our marriage

Photo: iStockphoto

“What are you going to tell Ben about this when he grows up?” my friend asks, horrified by our situation and the potential psychological damage it might inflict on our two-year-old son. That this is just the way Mommy and Daddy like it?

My husband, Jason, and I have what we like to call an arrangement. It’s a bit out of the norm, but it’s something that I think a lot of couples secretly yearn for, but are too ashamed to admit. The truth is, we do it.

We have separate bedrooms.

It all started innocently enough. I’ve never been a great sleeper (read: have struggled with terrible bouts of insomnia for more than 20 years, and yes, I’ve tried frickin’ melatonin!). And Jason—there’s no way to say this nicely—is a snorer. An epic snorer, actually. As in, my sister was over once sitting downstairs in our living room while Jason was taking a nap upstairs.

“What is that noise?” she asked me. “Is something wrong with your furnace?”

Snorers and insomniacs don’t go well together, as it happens. During the first heady year or so of our courtship, the combination of adrenalin from a new romance combined with my expert use of sleeping medications and patented head-at-the-other-end-of-the bed-with-my-feet-in-your-face move kept the peace. (I could also intermittently escape to my own home to make up for Sexy Sleepless Nights Next to the Freight Train.) But once we were married and I was pregnant, all bets were off. The meds were out, and so was Jason. We set up a cozy little getaway for him in the basement of our rental. (What? It had carpets!) We would snuggle in his only-kind-of-sad little cellar room, listening to BBC radio shows like 80-year-olds, and then I would sneak away to my bedroom after he dropped off. How would I know he’d fallen asleep? Well, you see, it was the snoring.

And though I missed the idea of sharing a bed like a normal couple, I didn’t really miss the reality. Meanwhile, Jason would send me memes like, “I love you more than having the bed all to myself,” and ask me sleepily why I had to leave. We bought our house when I was four months up the duff with Ben, and we decorated two bedrooms: one for him, and one for her. (I got the bigger one, of course.)

“I wish I could have my own bedroom,” a friend’s husband confessed. And in small Toronto houses, the idea of your own space at all seemed like a luxury. But while being able to decorate each to our own taste—foil floral wallpaper for me; mod purple furniture for him—felt like the height of decadence, we didn’t realize the true extent of our evil genius until Ben was born. We would drag his little bassinet between our rooms, and while usually Mommy was on night duty at first, sometimes it was a Daddy night. As he got older and moved into a crib in his own room, we played hot potato with the baby monitor. And guess what? The other person got to sleep blissfully through it all.


Two years later, we’re still living our separate peace. I won’t say I don’t miss the intimacy that comes from sharing a bed with your partner (though the added benefit of being able to sleep in your own room after you’ve had a fight over whose turn it was to do bath time can’t be overstated). And yes, it bothers me when Jason tells me that I’ve been replaced by a pillow. But guess what’s worse for a relationship than not sharing a bed? Being exhausted and grumpy all the time because you’ve spent all night saying: “Honey? Honey? Can you turn over? Honey?” Jason also isn’t particularly moved by my explanation that putting a pillow (lightly!) over his face is a practical solution to an obvious problem.

But what about the elephant in the room, The Sex? Well, we still visit, and let me introduce you to our good friend the couch. I find it quite sturdy—almost good enough to sleep on.

A version of this article appeared in our February 2013 issue with the headline "A separate peace," pp. 32.

This article was originally published on Jun 16, 2021

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