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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Saturday
Sep182010

Go Poop In Your Own Toilet!

Serge loves his fan more than me. It's nothing special. Just one of those white, box fan numbers you can find in any Wal-Mart. It's got three settings. Slow, medium and fast. Strictly average, you see. But oh, how he loves that fan.

He tells me the love affair began when he started touring with his former band in his early twenties. I suppose a loud fan comes in handy while pretending you're on a beach in Mexico instead of listening to a drunk, sweaty, bandmate fart the alphabet in a dingy motel room designed specifically to lower the morale of mankind including even the enterprising young strippers and desperate johns who pay for the room by the hour.

The fan also seemed like a reasonable addition to our bedroom when we lived on the first floor of an apartment located on a noisy street in Brooklyn. It blocked out the horror of street conversations like hipsters discussing the unique magic that is Sufjan Stevens and neighbors checking their mailboxes on the other side of the wall we used as a headboard.

So although it was a helpful device I missed hearing the wind dance through the trees to the accompaniment of a chorus of crickets. And even worse, I could no longer fall asleep with the television on.

Since elementary school I have fallen asleep to the laugh track of Cheers, Roseanne, Seinfeld. Hell, The Golden Girls'll do in a pinch. But now I could no longer hear my television family tell their scripted jokes to the canned laughter of a studio audience. The fan blotted everything out.

We've often argued over the fan. Lovers quarrels. Me threatening him to get rid of his girlfriend to no avail. She stuck around even after Violet was born and hearing her in the next room was a requirement of parenthood. Just turn the monitor up, he'd tell me. But the static of the monitor coupled with the roar of his lady, the fan, is enough to drive me insane.

Still, the fan stayed and so did I. Soldiering onward in this thing called marriage, even lying to myself like a cheated on spouse, telling myself I didn't mind his fan too much, that if it made him happy I could deal with it.

And then we moved to a house with four bedrooms. Four. After a railroad style apartment in Brooklyn, a bungalow with no closets and then sharing a tiny room at mom's place, the luxury of four bedrooms is astonishing. My god, what would we do with four bedrooms? A trampoline room? Should we bring in a trampoline? Maybe a sex room, like they say Britney Spears has? Whips, chains, swings! A trampoline sex room? The possibilities were endless.

We'd been here about a week when it happened. We'd set up a our master bedroom, Violet's room and a playroom. The fourth bedroom, we decided, would be a guest room until the new baby arrives, no matter that we aren't guest having folk.

Soon the stress of moving for the second time in a year got to us. We argued, I can't remember what it was about now but I'm sure it was Serge's fault, of course.

I snapped. While he watched television I huffed back and forth between our bedroom and the guest room, depositing his books and clothing in a messy pile on the guest room floor. Then I stomped into the living room and told him that he'd be sleeping in the guest room from here on out.

He barely raised an eyebrow as this maneuver was nothing new. Except before he'd ridden an uncomfortable sofa for the night. He'd never had the luxury of being kicked out to a whole other fabulous bedroom (the same size as the master) with furnishings like a bed, chair, nightstand, a closet, bookshelf filled with books and even an attached bathroom!

As for me, I was in heaven. The master bedroom has its own bathroom even its own entrance. A doorway opens up onto a small courtyard at the side of our house. That night I turned on an old episode of Roseanne, threw open the door and listened to the crickets sing me to sleep. Best I've slept in a long time.

And it's not just the fan. We're on opposite schedules, Serge and I. He wakes up at 5:motherfucking:thirty in the morning. Usually his alarm jars me into reality not four and a half hours after I've fallen asleep. Then he's peeing, showering, tramping around the bedroom in his work boots.

But the next morning I woke up at the blessed hour of 7:30. He was already gone! I never heard a thing. And that night when I got home from work? Instead of having to sneak into the bedroom, ease into bed and then lay their in the dark listening to that goddamn fan whirring, whirring all the time whirring I flipped on the lights, turned on the TV and inspected my pores in the bathroom mirror for twenty minutes. Then? I read in bed! Something I haven't done in years! Oh my god it was like visiting a day spa but without having to listen to Enya!

The days slid by and before I knew it we'd been sleeping in different rooms for a week. We discussed it at one point and Serge seemed inclined to move back into the master, but I balked. I mean, he's the one forcing his sleeping style on me! I've been the one making all the compromises. Fan. No TV.

I mean, my own bathroom? Go poop in your own toilet, bub!

Sometimes I feel bad, like, this can't be good for a marriage but then I'm like, yes it can! It's amazing! It can be sexy, like college. Where I visit his room or he visits mine and it's great and then get the hell out! I need to sleep! Or watch old episodes of Friends. And the crickets! Don't forget the crickets! Our schedules are opposite, so it's not like we're going to bed together anyway, lovingly cuddling until sleep overtakes us. We are never home at the same time except for about five hours when we're both asleep. And god help him if he tries to touch me during that time! Don't rich people have separate sleeping quarters? We're just like rich folks, right?

I guess I'm wondering what your opinion on the whole thing is. I could understand how it could be detrimental if we went to bed together every night and snuggled. But I tiptoe in at midnight when he's been sleeping for hours already. I'm sleeping better than I ever have. Kind of. I AM pregnant. Which, now that I think about it, makes it even more reasonable for him to be in the other room because have you ever tried to sleep with a pregnant lady? They don't sleep which means you don't sleep.

But still. Is this separate bedrooms thing damaging in ways I don't know? Or is sharing a bed society's unrealistic expectations of marriage and people should do what is practical in their own situations? We all had our own beds for, like, at least twenty years of our lives, right? And then suddenly we're supposed to share this small space with someone else who spent at least twenty years developing their own funky habits? I don't know.

Reader Comments (34)

Hmmm...I know a couple that's been together for 10+ plus years that have this type of arrangement and it seems to work for them too. Although they are not married and don't have kids, they are each highly creative and just need their own room for their creativity! I think if it works for you guys, you shouldn't bother with whether it's "normal" or what anyone else thinks. The only foreseeable problem might be when your daughter is old enough to verbalize and tells her friends that her parents don't sleep in the same bed and might wonder why that is different from the other kids (or maybe it won't be, who knows). However, I think that's avoidable if your daughter still sees affection between you two and she understands what it all means. One of my ex's parents had separate bedrooms from when he was a teenager to when his dad died and he knew the whole time that it wasn't for any type of good or healthy reason...so that was damaging. Long story short, I think it can work if you want it to!

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrachelgab

My parents began sleeping in separate rooms about 30 years ago. It probably saved their marriage. My dad snores like a freight train, and my mom does crazy shit like go to bed at 8 PM, wake up a 1 AM to do laundry or dishes or sewing, then go back to bed. So, yeah. It works for them. In fact, they're so madly in love with each other, now in their 70s, that sometimes I want to knock their heads together. Mom swears that separate bedrooms is the key to a successful marriage--that and separate TVs.

If it works for you and Serge, then go forth and get a good night's sleep!

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/fashion/25FamilyMatters.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=separate%20bedrooms&st=cse

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I've often fantasized about this. ;) And I'm sure I would worry about the effects on the marriage too. But given your separate schedules and the fact that you're about to have another baby, it seems like a pretty good temporary solution if you're both okay with it. (Or even long-term if that works for you, but you could just play it by ear.) We had a baby girl a year ago (our boy is almost three now), and I have to say that in general it's been really hard to stay connected to each other this past year. I have no idea whether sharing a bedroom/bathroom has made us feel more connected or not . . . I'm sure it's been a factor in some way.

p.s. I love love your blog. And Serge's. Found you guys through Katie Granju's mention on MamaPundit.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I think it can be very healthy to have your own rooms. I have been there, done that a number of periods in my own marriage, for various reasons... convenience, irritation, peace, and what not. Whatever works for you two is the right thing to do.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKeenie Beanie

My grandparents have been together for forever and a day and they sleep in seperate beds. He snores super loud, she likes to read until the wee hours of the morning; so it works for them. My friends parents have had seperate rooms (on different ends of the house) for 30 years! Seems like it shouldn't matter as long as you guys are happy. When my husband is on night shift, Oh My God, I love love love having that huge bed all to myself. It's almost like a treat getting to hog all the covers and pillows!

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdawnmarc

I don't know whether it's good or not. All I know is I'm jealous. Mine snores. And he's a cover-hog. And he's a cuddler. The cuddling part sounds sweet, I know, but when someone cuddles with you when they're not actually conscious it isn't terribly fun. You get elbows in lots of undesirable places. We also have the unmatched schedules, so I totally feel you there. Except he goes to bed before I do and wakes up after I do, so mostly it just makes me resentful.

I will never get the separate bedrooms, no matter how big of a place we're in. He loves the cuddling. He will never allow us to go without it. So I'll just envy you.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

My husband and I have been married for 20 years. We finally finished the basement in our home over the summer and he was promptly moved downstairs. I'm upstairs in the master. It's bliss. I love him dearly, but I haven't slept well for the preceding 20 years. Societal rules can suck it. I'm not even embarrassed when family and friends find out.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendyP.

Interesting! I'm a nightside producer, too, but I don't have any experience to draw on here -- at least, not yet. My boyfriend has no Lady Fan and is generally pretty easy to share a room with, so we've slept in the same bed so far (four years plus).

Curious to see how this works out for you, though! I think you should try it. You'll probably get a sense of whether you like it and/or whether it's jeopardizing some sense of closeness or whatever. If it works for you, as individuals and as a couple, why not keep it up? Good luck!

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersquandra

I was grinning the entire time while reading this. So will my Gia later tonight when she gets home and reads it. We've been separate room sleepers for a while now. We just never slept well together. We both snore is the main reason. Well...I snore much worse. But we also have the fan issue. She needs it and it bothers me. Plus we have the schedule and TV thing too. I'm a night owl, usually up very late watching movies or TV shows. She likes to go to bed early and read.

It's a little bit of an odd arrangement, but I don't think it's affecting our relationship in any ways but positive ones.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterB.E. Earl

my husband and I have been married for 49 yrs and have slept in different bedrooms for about 10 of those years. Best decision we ever made, wish we'd done it sooner. Sleep is better for both of us. I'm a tosser, he never moves except to pull the covers to his side. He snores, I snore, unfortunately not in unison. We both like to sleep with fans but at different speeds and I like it blowing on me, he likes it just for the noise but can't stand it blowing on him.

We love each other very much, we hug and kiss a lot, we talk to each other we just don't sleep in the same bed. No biggie.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersus

Screw everything else except what works for you! Except on rare occasions, my husband and I haven't shared a room for sleeping in fifteen years. He snores and I'm a light sleeper. It hasn't negatively impacted our marriage or sex life and has probably improved it. Family and friends poke fun sometimes, but with a good night's sleep, who gives a shit!

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen

When I was a teenager at home my parents started sleeping in separate rooms because my mom snores loudly. I'm sure my parents love each other and I would be extremely shocked if they ever mentioned divorce (although they are also Mormon so there's that side of it), but as their child and an angry teen at that, it can unfortunately provide material to harbor against them and question your family life. I think maybe if they had been more affectionate in front of me and hadnt been so quick to argue all the time, maybe the sleeping in separate rooms wouldnt have come across as so weird. Of course, my mom really does snore badly, so I can't blame my dad.

Anyway, that's my experience on the issue. If it works for you I think it's awesome.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

We are snugglers - I literally can't go to sleep without the snuggle.
But he snores and I am a light sleeper, especially when I am stressed, which I am alot of the time.
Meaning that not long after the snuggle I'm awake and gently poking him and prodding him.
Gently to start with. But as I get more tired and more cranky the prods become harder and meaner.

He's very good about it - I mean he can't stop snoring.
Some nights are worse than others and some nights he doesn't snore at all, at least not that I am aware of. But generally, through the whole night is this cycle of me becoming conscious of his snoring, willing myself back to sleep, failing, roling over and giving him a gentle cuddle and a "babe, you're snoring" to which he replies "sorry sweet, love you" then rolls over. Repeat every 20 minutes, all night for 4 or 5 nights a week.

By about 4 in the morning of the 4th night of this I drop the gentle prod or cuddle and it becomes more like "oh for fucks sake" as I storm off to the sofa or the spare room whichever is available. Of course this usually starts another problem - he feels bad and thinks that it is he who should move. I figure that I am already awake so I may as well go. But that starts a whole new domestic balancing act and not one that I am generally in the mood to debate at 4am when i've had no sleep.

While I don't think I'd ever want to sleep separately on a permanent basis, knowing that when it gets bad I CAN go somewhere else makes it tolerable. And as for killing the passion in a marriage - there is no passion killer greater than an overtired, sleep deprived and grumpy woman.

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

My parents had separate bedrooms for as long as I can remember. My father was a tosser & turner & hogged the covers. They were married over 60 years & loved each other dearly. When they'd travel, twin beds were a necessity. It worked for them. If this arrangement works for you, so be it. It's no one else's business.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

I'm sure the PC answer is: "Whatever works for you."

But I feel like this is the beginning of the end for you two...

Personally, I couldn't fathom sleeping without my soul mate, wrapped in her arms ever night. She likes to hold onto me, tightly, all night long. I love it. I feel secure, safe, loved. So does she.

Our bedroom is our private place - our time to be together.

My first marriage failed, and I think the separation in the bedroom had a lot to do with it. At first it was just the phone and her calling people and holding conversations in our room; then a TV that became more important than touching each other; then a King-sized bed that left me feeling like we were sleeping on other ends of the world.

After a while, I forgot what it was like to be touched. I longed for connection, but was rebuffed time and time again. I forgot what it was like to be loved; to be cared for. She began to value the separation and privacy more than us being together and being intimate. That's the wrong path...

Now, this time around, there are rules: no electronic devices in the bedroom, no televisions, no phones, and no big beds that make it easier to be physically apart.

I got lucky this second time around; I found someone who feels the same way I do about intimacy: never lose it, always cherish it, always make time for it; always protect the bond.

I know what happens when you have kids; it happened to me. It's tempting to sleep in separate rooms, to value sleep over intimate time together. But that's a fast-track to simply being roommates. When that happens, the next thing your brain will start doing is wondering "why are we even together?" When you're just co-parenting and sharing the responsibility of bills, what's really left?

I know I'll never sleep in a separate bed ever again, not even for a night. If we have to argue all night long until we can come to a resolution, fine. We won't go to bed angry though; not without each other. That's a rule too - do not go to bed angry at each other. The bedroom is a sacred place. Maybe if more couples thought of it that way they'd have happier love lives and a happier live overall.

But don't listen to me. I'm just some random guy.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTheLastRomanticGuyLeft

My parents sleep in separate bedrooms, and they've been married for 38 years. My in-laws sleep in separate bedrooms, and they've been married for 51 years. I see it as just another way of finding some alone time, and everybody needs that. I think as long as you are both fine with it & still connecting in other ways (and not using the separate bedrooms thing as a way to "escape" issues you need to work through), it's all good.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjive turkey

I think my vows said "for better or for worse". Snoring is close to the worst. I snore. At least that's what my husband says. But I'm a little pissed off that he sleeps in the basement on a rock hard futon in front of the t.v. I expressed my pissed off-ness this morning when I asked him how come he didn't come to bedlast night. He says he fell asleep. It's not like there isn't a t.v. in our bedroom. I think he would rather be with his computer than with me. I'm sick of it.

I'm with @thelastromanticguyleft - we are on our way to being roommates and co-parenting our child.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

I don't think it's necessarily catastrophic, but it also doesn't seem good. Really I'm more concerned that you just never see each other. I've had a few friends who thought it was brilliant to work opposite schedules so one of them was always home for the children, and none of them are still married. Whether it's at bedtime or dinner time, you need time together both as a couple and as a family.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

One time there was an episode on some show (I don't remember) where a married couple tried different beds, and I thought BRILLIANT! Then the episode circled around to where they realized separate beds was the beginning of drifting away and that was the end of that. And I thought, damn, I was hoping TV would confirm separate beds were ok.

Because really, people are not meant to sleep together. There's snoring and drooling and teeth-grinding, and we need space damn it! My husband likes the sheets and blankets taut while I like to sleep in a nest. And we're on different schedules - he goes to bed and gets up early (before 5!), I like to read with the light on for an hour or two, and I don't get up until 7:30. We are not a pair made in sleeping heaven.

But I felt weird about separate beds, separate rooms. Like it was symbolic or something. But maybe it's just smart. I hope you let us know how it goes!

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdoahleigh

If someone thinks their marriage fell apart because the wife began watching tv in the big bed, they quite possibly are not "the last romantic guy on earth". They are "the blindest guy on earth."

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSantos

I think that if your marriage is pretty solid and satisfying in most ways, and the sleeping separately is literally just a logistical thing (better sleep all around) and not part of some larger sense of separation, it's probably all good. But if it's more of a symptom of something bigger, or part of a pattern of avoidance, it's probably not so good. I'd also worry about how Miss V and Baby to Be would perceive it.

But who am I to give anyone marital advice. I have one failed marriage behind me and am only 4 years into this one. I just want y'all to be happy :-)

xo,

kag

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatie allison granju

This sounds like heaven to me.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKori

I'm kinda jealous actually.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChrissyD

I think a restful night's sleep is the best gift you can give each other. If the fan works for him while you prefer the fresh mountain air and night bug. To each his own, whatever work. As long as you are in agreement, you have found a way to manage your preferences and differences and everything in beautiful.

Either way, whatever happens in Bielankoville....

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergina

If it works for you - DO IT.

Seriously.

My husband slept on the couch for 3 nights last week and it was heaven! He slept in bed last night and I nearly wanted to kill him. He was too hot, he smothered me. NO FUN. We're definitely moving towards separate bedrooms.

I think lack of sleep causes TONS of problems in a marriage. If you aren't rested, you aren't able to rationally deal with problems and then you'll fight about nothing.

Yes, I agree, cuddling and such is nice and important, but there's nothing to say you can't have a cuddle and then one of you move to your respective bedrooms.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

i love the nights when i am the only person in bed...no ear plugs, to hearing the snoring anyway...no worrying about waking anyone up... no one should ever have to compromise thir sleep. i envy you.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkris

I am so on board with this. At first it sounds bad, like "uh oh, must be problems in the marriage." I used to think that when I visited friends' houses and realized their parents slept apart unlike mine (who now, as it turns out, are beginning to do the same thing--my mom can't take my dad's idiosyncrasies). But once you learn all the facts, it makes perfect sense. It's actually my own dream plan for whenever my bf and I get married/move in together. I tell people this and they kinda look at me weird. But I love the idea of us each having our own quarters, like a king and a queen. I would be so psyched if I could design my own house and I'd make two master bedrooms, equal size, connected by a master bath in between them jack-and-jill style. I mean, to me, master bedrooms always end up looking so blah and boring from a design perspective. I love decorating my room with all my posters and favorite colors and bed linens and everything, and I really want to keep that and retain my separate identity. I don't want to pick some boring compromise bedspread like I always see in a married couple's bedroom. I wouldn't plan to sleep separately unless we had opposite schedules (ugh, being woken up by someone else getting ready earlier than you have to get up yourself reminds me of college), but instead one of us would visit the other and spend the night in the other's bed and we'd alternate. I wish this was a more socially accepted thing to do. Because I really hate how when two people live together they just lose their own identities and the room they share becomes a boring muddled hotel-room-esque blob. (Does that make sense?)

Long story short, if this works for you, I'm all for it. Just be sure to throw him a bone every now and then when it comes to sexytime--don't want him to feel TOO deprived!

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarah

Crickets are natures sleeping pill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9peZ5WOtL0

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

I don't know what to think. On one hand, I can see how that might be nice. On the other hand, I sleep horribly if my husband isn't there. We're not cuddlers by any stretch, but we do like to be around each other. We've been sharing a bed since we began dating 14 years ago and so to have the bed all to myself causes a little anxiety.

I sleep with ear plugs, a white noise machine, and a fan because I'm such a light sleeper and prone to insomnia. He wants to get a tv for the bedroom but I know I'd never be able to sleep with the lights flickering and the sound. We're still trying to work on a compromise of some sort.

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

THANK YOU, thank you, thank you for this post. I hate that spouses sleeping separately seems like a dirty little secret. We started sleeping separately several years ago because of snoring, both his and mine. We fought it at first- tried the fan, ear plugs, listening to an iPod, anti-snoring strips, everything short of a medical procedure. But it would ultimately end up with one of us leaving for the guest room and irritated at the other. When we travel, we love the Residence Inn and the 2-bedroom suite! My aunt and uncle have always slept apart for the same reason and they've been married for 51 years. Since you are both so busy and about to become even busier, scheduling time to spend together is the key -while you are sleeping (or trying to sleep) is not always that quality time.

P.S. We're fan addicts too.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula

"And as for killing the passion in a marriage - there is no passion killer greater than an overtired, sleep deprived and grumpy woman." This. My husband snores. He works the evening shift and is a night owl and I get up early with our 6-yr-old. If he didn't sleep in the guestroom 90% of the time, I would be a basket case for lack of sleep. Plus we have a temperpedic mattress and it holds the heat and gets too hot for me, but he loves it. I get the sleepnumber bed upstairs, and the peace, quiet, and cross-breeze, he gets his white noise and his warm, cozy mattress. We usually sleep together one of the nights on the weekend, because if the snoring gets out of hand, I can sleep in a little. I am definitely more sane since we adopted this arrangement. GEt your family time and couple time on the weekend, get sleep and sanity during the week.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkajey

I personally wouldn't do it. My fiance's in the army and I sleep horribly when he's away (like right now). But I think it's a wonderful idea if it works for you guys. Having separate rooms doesn't mean you can't EVER cuddle in bed together when your schedules work out. I can especially see this as advantageous when you're preggers! Just make sure you're connecting physically in other ways and I say more power to you!

p.s. I totally think that this kind of arrangement is my fiance's dream, poor sod, he's stuck beside me when he's home!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDamo

Great post. I find the difficulties and choices made by couples in their sleeping habits to be fascinating. I’d love to read more on this topic.

Here’s a recent article I particularly enjoyed on couples’ sleeping arrangements: http://burisonthecouch.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/zzzzzzzz/

I’d love to see more like it. Thanks!

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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