Is sleeping apart a usual occurrence in your marriage? If so, is it because one of you truly can’t sleep if you’re in the same bed? That can be a solution to a real problem, and, while it may create some other relationship challenges, it’s not what I’m addressing here. I am talking about sleeping on the couch or in another room because of anger.
And I have a couple of questions about this arrangement. Have you left the marriage bed for good? How do you negotiate getting back in? If you’re not the one who’s upset, why are you the one who has to sleep somewhere other than in your own bed? Is it driven by gallantry, expedience, or cowardice?
I get that’s a bit harsh. I also get that continuing an argument or “heated” discussion into the wee hours of the morning is not in anyone’s interest. You might frame bedding down on the couch as the lesser of two evils. I call it avoidance. I don’t agree with the adage that you should never go to bed angry—but continue to hash things out to the bitter end. And a temporary retreat often is the best policy. Unless you’re the one who’s always leaving and it’s more than a rare thing.
I’ve been with my husband almost 37 years and I believe the only time we’ve slept apart out of anger happened a couple of years ago. One of us, sometimes both, have gone to sleep in the same bed angry over the years. The separate beds happened this time because I broke two of my cardinal communication rules.
First, we engaged in a serious conversation after 8 pm. In fact, it started when we climbed into bed around 10. I can’t remember what the topic was, but it was too late to talk about. I was tired which meant I didn’t have the best control over my emotions. Hence the reason I believe it’s better to go to bed angry than cause more damage.
Second, when he told me he was sorry, I told him, “No you’re not”. Telling somehow what their feeling is frequently incorrect and always disrespectful. But I was upset—see above—and I threw my communication rules out the window. He responded in a particularly unhelpful way and I left to sleep in another room.
I was upset. I spoke in anger. Then he did. And I left. I didn’t tell him to leave, nor did I expect him to.
In the morning, we both apologized. We made up and went about our day. No lasting harm.
But that’s not what happens in so many other marriages and in so many other bedrooms.
If you, like me, decide that you want to sleep elsewhere on occasion, that’s fine. The problem is when it is more than a rarity or if it’s not your choice. When the dog spends more nights in your bed than you do, it’s time to take action. Productive action. Because you don’t want this to become the norm.
The first thing to do is to learn effective communication skills. When you know when and how to have difficult conversations, you can keep yourself out of the doghouse and off the couch. The bedroom can become a relaxed and calm place to be instead of a potential mine field.
The other thing to do is to calmly claim your space. Your bed is as much yours as hers. The choice to leave it is yours as well. Just because she wants it to herself doesn’t mean that’s what happens. You have to agree to go.
Staying doesn’t mean continuing to fight. It means calming yourself down, calling a time out to the conversation, providing a time to pick it up again, saying “good night”, and going to sleep. In your bed. In your room.
You’re not delivering an ultimatum nor are you responding to one. You aren’t being dismissive or aggressive. Just asserting your right to remain part of a connected couple even though you are temporarily in disagreement.
Leaving the couch available to anyone else who wants it.
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