Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Experiment

Warning: Please do not judge my marriage by what you are about to read.

If you, like me, enjoy watching BBC adaptations of great British literature, you may have noticed that back in the olden days, if you lived in a nice big house with a servant or two, you and your spouse might have had separate bedrooms.  I remember (before I got married) thinking this was absolutely bizarre; I could not wrap my mind around it.  Why? 

Fast forward.  I was visiting some friends a few years ago, and during a quick tour of the house, there was a casual mention of the fact that one bedroom was the wife's and a different bedroom was the husband's.  I remember thinking, "I had no idea their marriage was in such bad shape!  They seem so happy..." 

It is now December 2010.  We have moved every stick of furniture down to the basement in order to get our hardwood floors refinished.  Our king-sized bed won't fit in our cramped quarters unless it is on its side, so Dan and I, who do not love sharing anything smaller than a king, end up sleeping in separate beds (and rooms) for about a month, until we get the house put back together.  As we prepare to move back upstairs, one of us mentions, so tentatively, that he has gotten significantly better rest since we moved to the basement, and wonders if it is because we've been in different rooms.  That person adds, in a very gentle and kind way, that his spouse may be a bit of a snorer, and this snoring may wake him up throughout the night, and this past month may have been the first time in many moons that he has been able to get a solid night's sleep.  (The snoring person would like to state for the record that, although she knew about the snoring, she did not realize it was actually awakening her spouse).  I would like to add, as a side note, that we are not a couple that likes to snuggle while we are sleeping.  We, in fact, like to have a nice piece of free space between us in order to fall asleep, hence, the king-sized bed.

I have been thinking for some time about having a space of my own--an office, perhaps, where I can study now that I am back in school.  We have also both just read a great book called Mating In Captivity (Esther Perel) which recommends, among other things, that a certain amount of separateness between spouses can have a positive affect on their love life, making "things" more exciting and more like the days before marriage changed everything.  And I do mean everything.

I then remember the friends with separate bedrooms, and the 19th century rich married couples as portrayed by the BBC, and I think to myself, having separate bedrooms might not be such a crazy idea after all.

Since it is mutually appealing (and I would not recommend trying this if it was not), when we move upstairs, I move into the former office and Dan keeps the former master bedroom.  My first clue that this might be a good idea are the feelings I have as my new room comes into being.  I feel giddy.  I feel like it is Christmas.  I feel an inordinate amount of happiness and goodwill toward all.  Dan is feeling the same way.  I do some calculations and realize that, after having my own room for the first 18 years of my life, I have now been sharing a room for about 17 years, first as an undergrad at BYU, then as a missionary in the Philippines, and finally as a married person. It never occurred to me in all this time what a difference having a private space of one's own could make. 

It has been about three months since this experiment began.  I find it heavenly, and I think Dan does, too. 

Stay tuned for my analysis of why this new arrangement is working so well for us, and how these principles could apply to you.


LL said...

Oh, how I LOVE THIS POST! I love my husband, but hate sharing a room with him (or with anyone else, for that matter) and have felt this way since we got married (and as a teenager when I briefly had to share with my sister). I'm a light sleeper and he snores (I'm sure I snore too, but he is a really heavy, deep sleeper). I hate to be touched when I am sleeping, and he is a snuggler. He lets the kids get in bed with us. We just don't have compatible sleep habits.

I read My Life in France (Julia Child, a fun quick read) and she talks about their separate bedrooms. I thought, hey that is a wonderful idea! But when I casually mentioned that passage from the book, JC was horrified and thought it sounded downright awful. And so my dream died.

Sort of. We have a guest room, and if the snoring starts to bother me too much I move in there for the rest of the night. If one of us is sick, I sleep in there so I won't bother him (with my sickness or while he is recuperating). But I try not to, because it really bothers him and hurts his feelings. (Can you guess his love language? That's right, touch...)

So I just loved this post. Though I am curious: when I lived in AA, your "office" was in the living room. I'm hoping that your new bedroom isn't that little space between the front door and the kitchen...

Thanks for a nice chuckle to start my day!

An said...

We reconfigure our rooms and furniture about every six months, so it is no wonder LL is worried that my new bedroom is that little space between the living room and the kitchen. It is actually the bedroom connected to the kitchen by the small bathroom. The girls are sharing the other upstairs room, and the boys are in the basement.

Suzanne said...

Do what you need to do. Life without decent sleep is torture! Keep me posted.

Brenda said...

We have had separate bedrooms for several years, due to Richard's crazy shift work at all times of the day/night...and of course, the dreaded snoring! Sleep is a GOOD thing. Join the club:)