couples

"My husband and I sleep in separate beds… and we secretly love it."

As a married couple, Jeff and I try to be honest about the ups and downs of our relationship. We’ve been married for 10 years, and together for almost 15. Although kind friends have said that we’re #couplegoals, no relationship is perfect or easy. But there’s one thing I don’t talk about, because I’ve felt embarrassed and worried that it’s not normal. And that’s the fact that we’ve been sleeping in separate beds for several years now.

It happened by accident. We bought a family home on the outskirts of Sydney, and we had an extra bedroom. We put a mattress in there, because I’d just had my second child, and relatives had offered to stay over and help me as I adjusted to life with a toddler and newborn.

Eventually, our visitors left. At the same time, my daughter (who was three at the time) started waking up at night and sleeping in my bed. My baby son was also sleeping in a cot in our room, and he would wake up in the middle of the night and scream. Jeff couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t function at work. So, Jeff moved to the spare room. We told each other that this sleeping arrangement was temporary.

To be honest, I was a little hurt at first. I felt rejected, and I missed him. Jeff felt differently. He loved sleeping in the spare bed. He said that the mattress was more comfortable, and he relished having his own space. He also said that I had a “snoring problem”, which is probably a gigantic lie, and cannot be proven seeing as I can’t see or hear myself do it.

(Okay, Jeff has offered to video me doing it, but I screamed “no!” Can you imagine the footage? How undignified.)

A year passed, and I had finally taught my daughter to sleep in her own bed. My secret is that I bribed her with many toys. It worked, and Jeff and I were back in the same bed again. We moved to Canberra, and continued to share the same bed at a hotel, rental house and the new house we eventually bought in the ACT.

 

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Uniqlo twins / 90’s band album art

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Something strange happened when we began sharing in our marital bed again. We annoyed each other. I think we’d always annoyed each other during sleep-time, but now, it was even more obvious. He’d sometimes breathe in my face as we slept. He also snored, although he claims that his snoring is not as bad as mine. (But how would he know?!) If he went out with his mates one night, he’d wake me up when he came into the room. You’ve already heard about my alleged “snoring” “problem”. And… I missed my daughter.

A few months after my daughter learnt to sleep in her own bed, my son (who is now two-and-a-half) started to wake in the middle of the night and – you guessed it – sleep in our bed. He also liked to kick my husband in bed.

(Can I just say that my kids never kick me? It’s obviously because they love me more. Ha ha, Jeff!)

Jeff moved to our new spare room. And he’s been there ever since.

Now that we’ve accepted that we enjoy sleeping in separate beds, you’d think that would mean that we’d be okay with other people knowing about it. Sadly, that’s not the case.

When visitors come to see our new place in Canberra, we give them a tour of the house. When I get to the spare room, I get super awkward awkward.

“This is the spare room. Uh, sorry the bed isn’t made. The mattress is here for guests who want to stay in Canberra, and we have so many people who want to stay with us! It’s like a hotel here or something! We’re so popular!” I babble.

“Did you have someone stay here recently? Is that why the bed isn’t made?” the friend will ask.

“Uh, no…Jeff sleeps there! Ha ha ha!”

Then I usher the friend out and shut the door.

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I worry that friends and family will judge me, and make assumptions about my relationship – that Jeff and I aren’t getting along, or that we’re separated. The fact that I’m shifty about the truth of our spare bed makes it all seem worse, like our marriage really is on the rocks and we’re concealing it from everyone.

 

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OMG, @jeffreycharlescomedy is like so obsessed with me that he copies my outfits!!!! Get your own style, ya weirdo!!!!!

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This is a ridiculous concern to have, because there should be no shame about admitting that a marriage needs to be worked on, and that time apart can be beneficial. Although Jeff and I are not separated, I applaud anyone who can be brave enough to temporarily or permanently separate from their partner if it’s not working out. It takes guts, and would not be easy. Therefore, it is gross of me to feel embarrassed that people could even think I’m separated.

The other thing I felt sheepish about was the fact that I haven’t perfectly sleep-trained my kids. Having Jeff sleep in a separate bed was the cold, hard evidence that I had failed as a mum.

I’ve met mothers who proudly tell me that they trained their kids to sleep from 7pm to 7am, and the reason why they succeeded is because they had decided not to put up with any of their children’s bullshit, because they are busy and have things to do. For these mums, their bed is for grown-ups only.

This suggests to me that I have no willpower, am as soft as a melted marshmallow in a puddle of hot chocolate, and that I also don’t have things to do. Oh, and also, I don’t care about my husband!

Au contraire; I have worked through the fog of sleep deprivation in order to write many a freelance articles (including this one!). And on most days, I’m the parent who stays home to look after the kids – and if you’ve experienced being a stay-at-home parent, you’d know this is the zenith of “things to do”.

Team Mamamia confess: The thing I haven’t told me partner.

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I have tried to sleep-train my kids. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s especially difficult to sleep train my second kid, because if he is awake and screaming (for any of you Save Our Sleep or Dr Ferber nerds out there), he will wake up my five-year-old daughter. Then I will have two kids who are awake and crying, and then two kids who are grumpy AF the next day.

Now that I am a mother, I am constantly torn in different directions – between what I want, what others want from me, what my husband wants, what I think society wants me to do, and what my kids need. And I always try to put my kids first. So, they sleep in my bed. I lose sleep. At the moment, no-one is winning. And I feel like a failure when I tell people this.

I am trying my best. I just wish I could see myself in this way – that I could proudly tell people that I am trying, that I love my children and am muddling my way through this as best I can. Instead, I make jokes about that spare bed, and close the door.

And, for the record, there is nothing wrong with sleeping in a separate bed from your spouse. Especially if it’s because you just bloody feel like it. Good for you! After all, if it’s good enough for the Queen (according to The Crown, anyway), then it’s good enough for you.

Carla Gee is a writer and illustrator, based in Canberra. She wishes she had bought a king-sized bed. You can find her on Instagram, at @bycarlagee and @littlecloudcarla.

Would you sleep in a separate bed to your husband? Do you already do it? Tell us in a comment below./em>

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