My Man and I Sleep in Separate Bedrooms and Here's Where and When We Have Sex (Because That's What You're Wondering)

sleeping in separate bedrooms CAT
Illustration by Paula Boudes

He snoozes to sports podcasts, I need silence. So where is the sex? The secret is sleeping in separate bedrooms. Here’s the deal—my boyfriend and I live together, happily, for a couple years now, but we don’t share one bedroom. He has his own room where he sleeps, and I have my room where I sleep, and it’s pretty much heaven. In fact, now that I’ve experienced solo sleeping quarters, I’m not sure I could ever go back to co-sleeping with my partner.

How the Schism Happened in the First Place

When we started dating, a year before the pandemic, we both had our own homes. Since I’m a solo mom with a teen son, I couldn’t be sleeping away from home…so movies, dinner dates, oral—it all had to happen in discrete time blocks that didn’t include overnights. After dates, I’d go home, or my boyfriend would go home, and it was all good. Then when C. moved into the “serious boyfriend” zone and started spending the night at my home, he confessed that he’d experienced prior bouts of extreme insomnia necessitating years of prescription sleep medication. These days, though, he was able to sleep by listening to sports podcasts, the way some people listen to white noise machines. In a pinch, he could nod off to The Bill Simmons Podcast with earbuds, but he found those uncomfortable for prolonged periods. Oof—I love you, boyfriend, but sports podcasts in a darkened bedroom? That’s Guantanamo-level discomfort.

After my failed attempts to get him re-hooked on Ambien, I pondered my options. I didn’t want to pierce my bedroom’s peace and quiet with sports dudes yammering long into the night—I need my eight hours to recharge. And really, why is it important to me to co-sleep with him? Neither of us are massive cuddlers, so it’s not like we want to spoon as self-soothing. Am I insecure about our connection? As for that, it’s a question of perspective…Do I imagine he’s “up to no good” in his own sleeping chamber, doing I don’t know what, texting honeys on the side? (Who wants to be someone’s gatekeeper?) Or maybe he’s watching porn in there? (Why would I want to knock someone’s hobbies?)

The Great American Sleep Divorce

Mostly, my initial pause at the arrangement came because sleeping separately from your mate flies in the face of every perceived couples’ norm. Reportedly only one in four married couples sleep in separate bedrooms, however a recent polarizing NY Times story about the practice’s increasing popularity got tons of support. And that bellwether of everything true in the land, TikTok, is full of #separatebedrooms posts seeking to “normalize sleeping apart.” While the Times quotes a few couples’ therapists tut-tutting spare bedrooms as a non-confrontational hedge around deeper issues, I’m here to say, what’s wrong with using a spare bedroom as a break-up launching pad, anyway? We’re all busy, house hunting is a time suck, let’s circle back in Q4 to see how this whole relationship thing is going.

And seriously, now: I’m not sure I wouldn’t have wanted to do this sooner except for most of my adult life I lived in New York City, where the cost of an extra bedroom wasn’t really within reach. (Architectural Digest helpfully reports that the practice is popular on Park Avenue for this couple: “The husband was very high up in the financial industry and the wife is a stay-at-home mom.”) Now that I live in Los Angeles, where there’s a bit more space for your money, I have achieved one of my few life goals: I have a guest room. Or, I had a guest bedroom until my boyfriend moved in and claimed it as his own.

As it’s working now, my bedroom is the largest, and has an en suite bathroom, so I suppose I’ll at least see him on the way to the shower, when and if the passion fades. Additionally, my boyfriend’s clothes live in one of two large closets in my bedroom—that way, we can give his room to guests with minimal disruption. And his bedroom also functions as an office since we’re both work-from-home people who need to take meetings at a private desk from time to time. Most every night, we’ll hang out on the couch or in my bed, watching television or doing whatever, before he says “g’night” and heads to another room. Honestly, at first I did feel a teensy bit of abandonment at his nightly kiss-offs, until I realized I could watch anything I wanted or read or do whatever I wanted without worrying if I was keeping anyone awake.

The Sex Question

You know what I absolutely do not miss? That pressure that can happen when you and your partner both get in bed and there’s the “will we or won’t we” heaviness to negotiating sex. Because, besides sex, bedtime usually signals getting rest and sleeping, which is pretty much the opposite of what sex is. So it’s nice to detach having sex from sleeping. It’s clearer. And while I have thought of my boyfriend as “the lodger I have sex with sometimes,” I’m way happier with this arrangement than him being the guy who makes it hard for me to get solid shuteye. And instead of feeling an expectation of intimacy to be there in bed like my comforter, now, every time it happens it feels like a happy bonus, one that’s not realized by sacrificing my sleep.

So yeah, the answer to that question that brought you here in the first place: All over the place and all different times. What can I say? We’re well rested.

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dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...