Jeoffrey and Renée Powell

One of our friends interviewed a famous actor fifteen years ago about his career
and outlook on life. One of the questions, since his current marriage had already
lasted more than a decade (as compared to several past marriages that hadn't
gone so spendidly), was the obvious inquiry: "How have you made this marriage
work when the others didn't?"

He didn't have a chance to answer. Without hesitation, his wife exclaimed,
"Separate bedrooms!"

It wasn't the heartwarming, inspirational answer our reporter friend had expected,
but he was enthralled as he listened to the reasons both the actor and his wife had
for their living arrangement. As he related these comments to us recently, we
thought back to the many times we've heard of similar stories during our research
interviews all over the globe.

What we've found is that sleeping in separate bedrooms (SISB) seems to be more
and more of a trend for all ages, especially among older couples.


We've heard many reasons. Here are the top seven that we've heard:

This seems to be the number one reason for SISB. In an ideal world, a couple
would go to bed at the same time, sleep all night, never snore or bounce around in
the shared bed and always wake up at precisely the same moment. Right? With a
show of hands, how many couples can honestly say that's the way it is at your
house. Precisely! In a non-ideal world, separate bedrooms allow for different
schedules, irregular bathroom breaks and disturbance-free sleep.

What's worse than a night-owl married to someone who begins yawning at
sundown? How many times does it seem that one person in the marriage enjoys
getting up at the crack of dawn, warbling the tune to "What a Beautiful World"
while making coffee and catching up on the morning news, while the heavy-lidded
spouse tries to ignore the whistling early bird, craving that extra half-hour of sleep?
Whether you are on separate sleep schedules or simply want to leave the light on
to read in bed or watch television until you fall asleep, separate bedrooms can
help you to avoid disturbing your spouse. In fact, many SISB enthusiasts place
this reason and its liberating effects, at the very top of the benefits list.

Watch almost any "House Hunter"-type program on HGTV, and it becomes
apparent, that members of the female gender often claim most of the closet space
in the master bedroom, while the male counterpart gets "just-this-much" leftovers.
With separate bedrooms, separate closets are an added bonus. His smelly
sneakers can live in isolation. Her frilly dresses don't have to be pushed aside as
he looks for his smelly sneakers. You don't have to fight over wardrobe boundary
lines. It seems to be a win-win solution to an age-old challenge.

There's a certain comfort in closeness, but nearly everyone sometimes feels like
they can never be alone with their own thoughts, their own music, their own space
to call their very own. Some people are fortunate to have enough rooms in their
houses...from "man caves" to offices, workshops, libraries or craft rooms...to be
able to find solace when they need it, but most couples today don't have that
convenience, especially after retirement and/or empty-nest down-sizing to a
smaller home, condo or apartment. Regardless of where you live (unless it's a
one-bedroom or efficiency dwelling), SISB allows you to close the door behind
you, deal with your feelings, laugh, cry, focus on writing or art projects, or simply
be alone to listen to the quiet without having to explain yourself if you don't want

Again, in an ideal world, a couple would always agree on the same decorator
colors and furniture. And how many mates have identical habits and standards in
keeping a room tidy? We've interiewed many couples whose relationship and
romance suffered because one was Clean-freak Cathy and the other was Messy
Marvin. Or vice-versa. Odd couples come in many varieties. In many cases,
conflicts arise because of differences that grow more pronounced over time.
Separate bedrooms, as long as each spouse respects the space of the other,
allows you to do whatever you want in your own room without haggling, nagging or
fuming. A Hong Kong couple, both in their mid-sixties, said emphatically, "After five
years like this, we couldn't imagine anything different. It has strengthened our
relationship. He can keep his closet and drawers organized perfectly, while I can
be less concerned about the appearance of my room, and we don't drive each
other crazy any more. We can spend time concentrating on what really matters.
We're more in love today than ever, and the romance is actually better! We get the
best of both worlds. We are happily married, but we can enjoy some individuality."

You may decide to sleep in separate bedrooms, but you certainly don't have to let
your romantic life suffer. Any time you want to cuddle or more, your spouse is
close. A couple from Madrid said it best: "Maybe there was a time in our lives
when we were ready and willing to have hot sex at a moment's notice. All either of
us needed when we were 25 was a touch or a whispered come-on. Now that we
are in our seventies, we still greatly enjoy making love, but we tend to enjoy it
better when we can plan for it. A candlelit dinner beforehand. Foreplay in the den
that leads to either bedrooms, or in the den, for that matter. A knock on the door
or a text to see if the other one is still awake, sometimes with a raunchy love note.
There are still plenty of ways to give the right signals. But this way we seem to
respect each other a lot more. And when we do have sex, it's definitely because
we both desire it, which makes the lovemaking even more fulfilling and exciting."

Few couples have exactly the same libido levels. SISB allows each individual to
explore one's own sexuality, desire and pleasure without pressure or disapproval.
This is often one of the greatest pay-offs for a divided living arrangement. We
interviewed a couple from California, both 75 years old, and she told us, "We still
have great sex together, usually once a week, but as we've gotten older, we find
that our personal desires aren't always in synch. Sometimes when one of us has a
sore back or knee problem, we may go a week or two or more without having
intercourse, mutual pleasuring or oral sex. With separate bedrooms, we have sex
together as often as we decide, but we may also pleasure ourselves. I have a
couple of dildos and vibrators in the bedside table in my room, and he has two
different Fleshlights with different patterns and his own vibrators and other sex
toys in his room. Sometimes he likes to turn a ribbed or studded condom inside
out and use it to pleasure himself. Sometimes, frankly, it turns me on thinking
about him doing these things." Her husband of over 50 years added, "As you may
be able to tell, we've really gotten more open with each other since we started
staying in separate bedrooms. It's okay if we're not exactly alike in our desires and
schedules. If anything, our sex life together is a lot better now, as we explore, on
our own without interruption, what makes each of us feel good and how to make
our own climaxes better. There's a grand payoff when we do it together, either
intercourse or pleasuring each other without intercourse. I never thought I'd ever
say this, but we're happier now, and sometimes we even sleep together
afterward, just like the good ol' days."

A 82 year old man and his 78 year old wife from Ohio spoke very candidly: "We
had both lost mates prior to meeting, falling in love and marrying. We tried the
traditional route of sleeping in the same bed, but it was uncomfortable, at best. We
finally got very honest with each other and decided that having different rooms
would be the best for us. It seemed weird, at first, and we never told a soul. As
the list of reasons for our living arrangement has only gotten longer during the
seven years that we've been married, we now are very open about it, and we've
found that others seem relieved to hear that someone else feels the same way.
It's like this dirty little secret is suddenly out in the open, and more people are
willing to admit that it's the best choice for them."

Another couple from Hawaii had a different twist on their reasons for separate
bedrooms. He is 71 and his wife 53. "Quite frankly," he said, "being an adult
should mean that you can do whatever the hell you want, as long as it adds to the
marriage and doesn't detract from the relationship. Of course, it's not always that
easy or simple. In our case, we made the decision fairly soon after we got hitched
because we were both pretty set in our ways. Both of us had lost our spouses a
few years before and had gotten used to being by ourselves. After we met and fell
in love, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, but I also knew by
then that I really enjoyed having my own routine." She added, "Both of us have
been lifelong fitness freaks, so that brought its own set of challenges. He was a
career military man, so he still likes to do all the exercises he learned back in the
boot camp days...push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks and running
in place. He's very spartan about it all. He likes doing a set routine the first thing
when he gets up in the morning and not long before he goes to bed. I still haven't
figured out how the exercise wakes him up in the morning and makes him sleepy
at night, but all I know is that he's the most sexy, virile man I've ever met, and he
has this beautiful, fit body. His routine works for him, and it also does wonders for
our love life since he's so damned handsome and fit. For me, though, that kind of
exercise regimen would be like being in prison. I like to do my stretching,
recumbent biking and strength training later in the morning after I've read a while,
eaten a light breakfast and watched some TV. Then I'm fully awake and raring to
go exercise. We're simply two different people, even though we definitely agree on
so many facets of our life together. We've just found that sleeping in separate
parts of our house allows us to make the decisions that are right for each of us,
especially in terms of working out and living well."

There are many, of course, who can't possibly imagine a SISB arrangement. Being
married always means sleeping together, right? Anything else is simple wrong and
sends the wrong signals to each other. Right?

Maybe so. Maybe not.

Those who have come to the mutual conclusion that sleeping in separate
bedrooms often say, "We can't imagine going back to the 'old way' of sleeping
together all the time, unless we decide to stay together for a while after making
love, just for old time's sake."

Whatever the motivation and outcome, there are obviously many varied reasons
for sleeping separately, and those reasons are as individual as the couples who
have decided that making that choice was the best choice for them.

"We decided that it was worth a try," a 72 year old husband from Georgia said
during a recent interview. "Our youngest child had just got married and my wife
and I had the same 'light-bulb' moment when we were cleaning out the empty
room together. I knew that it bothered my wife when I bounced around in the bed,
pulling on the covers, having vivid dreams and even talking in my sleep. It
bothered me that it bothered her, but I wasn't sure what to do about it." His wife
joked, "I considered murder a few times! Seriously, I loved being married to this
wonderful man, but sleeping with him was a real challenge. I had spent many
nights on the couch, just to get some uninterrupted sleep without being jostled
about or having a ring-side seat to another one of his animated dreams. When we
finally decided to sleep in separate rooms, it was just an experiment. Neither of us
gave it much of a chance, since we had gotten use to the way it was, as strange
as that seems. That was 20 years ago. It sounds crazy, I suppose, but it has done
wonders for our marriage. I love it when he comes in to spend time with me for
lovemaking, but I'm also glad that I'll still be able to get a good night's rest
afterward. For us, it's the best of both worlds!"

Sleeping in separate bedrooms is probably not right for everyone, but it seems to
be a growing trend, especially among senior couples. And if it contributes to
lasting, healthy, romantic relationships with less night-time hassles, SISB might be
worth a try for you, too!

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