Well I don’t have a secret, I have TEN secrets. But I am happy to share them with you.
I have been off-line for a few weeks while I have welcomed a dear cousin from Canada to Australia. We have been having a great time, but I have been thinking about couples and sleeping (as I do on most days – is that sad?) as we have been playing tourists.
My thinking one day had me pondering about what makes a happy couple. A lengthy discussion with my cousin about ‘happy’ relationships (while driving quite a number of kilometers around South East Queensland) set me off to the web.
Of course, there is a plethora of sites proffering a range of frameworks and models that suggest how we can all have a successful and long-lasting relationship. One site offered 10 secrets on how to be a happy couple. While 10 secrets alone may seem a little basic, even a tad trite, when reading the secrets, they resonated with me as they are simple, but (as far as I’m concerned) ‘on the money’.
Sometimes simple is good. Life’s complicated enough.
With all due respect to Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP (author of the 10 Secrets) I have taken the secrets and re-written them for those who want to be a happy, separately sleeping couple.
Herewith my secrets…
The 10 Secrets of Happy Separately Sleeping Couples
1. Develop a realistic view of committed relationships.
Recognise that every couple isn’t always going to be able to do everything together. There are going to be activities where you have different needs, requirements, tolerance levels, approaches, attitudes, tastes, etc etc. This applies to if you can, or can’t sleep together. If you love a person and from the outset, or over time, you can’t share a bed – how important is that to your relationship? (A very important question) Is it just another part of your relationship that you recognise as a difference – but not the end of the world? What is really important though is that you don’t over emphasise differences that can be resolved. I am sure there is much in your relationship that you like doing together (otherwise, you wouldn’t be together right!) so focus on those aspects and minimise the stuff you can’t do together.
2. Work on the relationship.
Everything that is good and great needs hard work. If you and your partner can’t spend one night, or even just some nights, in the same bed together then you need to make sure that as a couple, you work out what this means for you. How will your decision impact on intimacy in your relationship? Can you talk about this with your partner? How will you deal with the tough times? (Because there will be tough times) Sleeping separately CAN impact on your relationship if you don’t take the time to work out where the danger areas are and how you and your partner are going to manage them.
3. Spend time together.
Spend time together in each other’s bedrooms. Sleeping separately does NOT mean not having a relationship with your partner’s bed. I wholeheartedly encourage couples to sneak into each other’s beds at night, in the morning, during the week, on the weekend…. any time really that works for you. You need to find time to snuggle and be close to your loved one in the bed.
4. Make room for “separateness.”
Fortunately with separate sleeping, finding the separateness is not that much of an issue. An immediate bonus! You get to enjoy as much, or as little, space as you need to self-nurture. (So many separate sleepers LOVE this aspect). Remember the age-old saying.. “If you love something set it free….”
5. Make the most of your differences.
So you can’t share a bed? Is this the end of the relationship? You can find excitement in this difference and keep your sex life from slipping into the ordinary, which CAN happen when you are slipping into the same bed every night and just expecting to find your partner there. Have ‘date night with benefits’ where you invite you partner into your room. And be proud of your decision when it comes to sharing with others. You are being an outstanding member of society by making sure you are well rested and functioning EVERY day – be proud of this and pat yourself on the back.
6. Don’t expect your partner to change; but at the same time give them more of what they want.
I totally agree with the first part of this advice… but my internal jury is still deliberating on the second. I don’t believe that people should change unless they want to. I suppose by being a good role model, you may encourage your partner to change – but you shouldn’t expect it. And when it comes to sleeping, there are a vast range of behaviours that can’t be changed. Insomnia, snoring, restless legs, light sleeping… while some of these can be ameliorated, some may just never go away and continue to prevent you sleeping together. Instead of blaming your partner for something they may not be able to change, find a solution and a work around and focus on things you love about them.
7. Accept that some problems can’t be solved.
“Lack of communication is the number one reason even good relationships fail”. I’ve left this sentence in because it’s Relationship 101. It’s a bit hard to summarise how you should communicate with your partner because it’s is JUST SO complex and complicated. However.. I can refer you to my book, where I dedicate a whole chapter on a framework for how you can communicate successfully with your partner when it comes to navigating the tricky path of separate sleeping.
9. Honesty is essential.
Starting to be honest about WHY you may need to sleep separately can be the hardest conversation to have with your partner. Will they think you are rejecting them? Will your honesty appear as a portent of far more sinister issues? While I strongly advocate honesty to get to the heart of the issue, it needs to be honest with a healthy and hefty dose of care for your partner. Again, I discuss how you can be honest in detail in Sleeping Apart not Falling Apart
10. Respect your partner, and don’t take him or her for granted.
This one goes without saying and is a ‘secret’ I would classify as a ‘no-brainer‘. Even if you sleep separately, it’s so important to remember that you are one part of a partnership. Cuddles, snuggles, kisses and time together is such an important part of separate sleeping. Without the certainty of seeing your partner in bed every night, you need to create certainty in their mind that there is still the special connection between you both that makes your relationship different to all others you have.
So, I might suggest that if you follow these secrets, you may just end up looking like this:
However, I can’t guarantee the fine looks and trendy stubble, but there might be a good chance the smiles will be there.
(Personally, I think she just came into his room for some morning snuggles after being in her bed all night – just saying…)
But… seeing as these are secrets… best not tell anyone about them.