When her husband Jagdish began reading newspapers in bed at night, Poonam Sharma found the rustling of the pages unbearable. The noise and the light made it impossible for her to get a good night’s sleep. The fact that Jagdish also liked to catch up on the news and watch movies in bed added to the problem.
For his part, Jagdish argued that late night was the only time he could manage to catch up with the day’s news, given his new job that required him to leave home early and get back late at night.
After three months of this, the couple came up with a radical solution. When their daughter moved out of the house after her wedding, Jagdish converted her old room into his bedroom. Now, Poonam is able to get her full quota of sleep every night, even as Jagdish reads to his heart’s content.
To many people, this may seem like a strange solution to a problem that many couples face. Others may wonder what the fuss is about, given that marriage is about adjusting to another person’s peculiarities. But for some couples, not sharing a bedroom can actually be healthy for their relationship, ensuring they give each other space and preventing small niggles from escalating into big fights.
Even the experts don’t rule out such compromises. According to marriage counsellor Dr Rajan Bhonsle, "Having separate spaces is a good thing. If you look at relationships, bedroom conflicts are common. We have dealt with many cases and suggested to the couple that separate spaces are a must in case of situations like one spouse working late, snoring, getting up often to drink water or visit the loo, which disturbs the other partner."
As Bhonsle indicates, there is a way to not share a common space and not severely impact your relationship right from the beginning of a marriage. Take for example Mrigank Rao, who always had his own space right from his childhood. Besides his bedroom, Mrigank had a study where he spent hours reading, watching DVDs or entertaining friends. After marriage, when he had to share space with his wife Malvika in a smaller house, Mrigank found it stifling. The couple then decided to move into a bigger flat so Mrigank could have a room of his own.
Other couples may decide to sleep separately for shorter durations. Like the Majumdars, who have a six-month baby and differing work shifts. While Kalpana works only in the afternoons, her husband Ashutosh works from 6 pm till 1 am or later. “We used to share a bedroom, but the baby and I found it very disturbing when he came in. So we decided to have separate bedrooms and it’s working fine,” explains Kalpana.
Malini Shah, counsellor and founder of Aastha Chrysalis, says, “It is very important to give each other space in a relationship and respect your spouse’s needs. This helps the two people to live their own identities and yet be together. Growing side by side, yet together, is the idea.”
Psychotherapist, neuropsychologist and counsellor Veena Chakravarthy agrees with Shah. “If the couple is compatible and have a great marital relationship, then sleeping apart is not an indication of the marriage falling apart,” she says. “If the couple communicates well, understands each other’s requirements and respects the space required by the partner, then the marriage won’t fail because the couple will work on the marriage.”
However, all this separation raises the question of what happens to a couple’s sexual needs once they begin to stop sharing their bedroom. According to Dr Bhonsle, “Sex is not the only thing that people sleep together for. You can always approach your partner when you feel like it.”
Veena Chakravarthy also sounds the go-ahead. “If there is a genuine reason to sleep apart you must go ahead. What is important is why the couple chooses to sleep separately. However, the couple must take care to have a intimate relationship and spend quality time together.”
However, experts caution that separate spaces should not bring about a distance between the couple. Says Dr Bhonsle, “If the space is misused, then the consequences can be serious. For instance, if the working partner comes home from work and just retires into his or her bedroom without meeting the spouse or family, that is not a healthy sign.”
Malini Shah too observes, “Even if each partner has her or his own bedroom, the quality of time they spend together is important. Couples could be with each other for 12 hours without any positive output and there could be couples who meet for just two or three hours, but have a healthy relationship.”
All is well
Whatever may spur you to choose separate spaces at home, the fact remains that the couples who chose this option are pleased with the results. “I find that we connect better when we are relaxed after doing our own thing,” says Shashi Gopal, who has been married for 20 years.
Poonam Sharma too gives the solution her vote. “We are very comfortable with this decision,” she smiles. But Jagdish is not as happy. “I miss the presence of my wife, even while I am watching TV or reading, but I guess she needs her rest,” he admits. “But when our daughter visits us, we get back together and it has definitely contributed to a great rejuvenation of our relationship.”
Share your life
If you have a bedroom to yourself, make sure you spend time with your family before you retire for the night.
If you are in the midst of differences with your spouse, don’t choose to move to a separate bedroom at the time. It may leave the issues unresolved and lead to a deeper gap.
Turn it into an advantage. You could suggest a sleepover to your spouse, ask her or him that question singles ask – ‘your place or mine’. This could add pizzazz to your relationship.
From HT Brunch, February 13
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch