It is with some amusement that we noticed “To Have, Hold and Cherish, Until Bedtime,” published in Sunday’s New York Times, is currently holding at No. 4 on the NYT list of most popular stories:

Not since the Victorian age of starched sheets and starchy manners, builders and architects say, have there been so many orders for separate bedrooms. Or separate sleeping nooks. Or his-and-her wings. […]

In a survey in February by the National Association of Home Builders, builders and architects predicted that more than 60 percent of custom houses would have dual master bedrooms by 2015, according to Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president of research at the builders association. Some builders say more than a quarter of their new projects already do.

What could be called the home-sleeping-alone syndrome is not limited to the wealthy. For middle-income homeowners, it may be a matter of moving into a spare bedroom, the recreation room or the den. In St. Louis, Lana Pepper, a light sleeper who battled for years with her husband’s nocturnal restlessness, reconfigured the condominium they bought recently, adding walls to create separate bedrooms. Mrs. Pepper said the advantage to separate rooms was obvious: “My husband is still alive. I would have killed him.”

And as several experts note throughout the story, it’s more about changing marital patterns than marital unhappiness. “I don’t think it says anything about their sex lives,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council of Contemporary Families in Chicago.

According to the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, 75 percent of adults frequently either wake in the night or snore — and many have taken to separate beds just for those reasons. In a report issued Tuesday, the foundation found that more than half the women surveyed, ages 18 to 64, said they slept well only a few nights a week; 43 percent believed their lack of sleep interfered with the next day’s activities. […]

“Couples today are writing their own script, rewriting how to have a marriage,” said Pamela J. Smock, a University of Michigan sociologist. “The growing need for separate bedrooms also represents the speed-up of family life — women’s roles have changed — and the need for extra space eases the strain on the relationship. If one of them snores, the other one won’t be able to perform the next day. It’s nothing to do with social class, and it’s not necessarily indicative of marital discord.”

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  • Laura Sillerman March 15, 2007 at 10:53 am

    One of the most sucessful marriages I knew was between a couple in their 70’s. They were finanicially fortunate and had a variety of homes, from a two bedroom cottage to a large West Coast multi-roomed house with indoor pool.
    At one point they were working on an apartment made up of three separate smaller units, all looking at the Pacific. How proudly they showed the spaces that would become their his and hers bedrooms, and how personal and unique were each.
    Once before he was taking a trip without her, he said, “Oh, I’ll miss her. I miss her when she goes upstairs without me.” Yet they slept separately.
    Reading this, I finally understand why. It gave them the space they needed to foster the great and enviable companionability they maintained until she died.

    Reply