Sleeping in Separate Beds, Polyamory Bed Rules, and Redefining What Beds Mean to You

I’ve noticed that beds can carry a lot of emotional weight in a relationship, whether monogamous or polyamorous or anywhere in between. This is pretty understandable. For many of us, our bed is one of our safe and sacred spaces, a place where we can shut the door and let our guards down and be our complete and unfiltered selves.

Society also has a lot of expectations and assumptions around what beds mean in a relationship and how they should be treated. However, a lot of these are predicated on beliefs that may or may not actually be accurate and, in some cases, can even be harmful.

Today I wanted to address two bed and sleep-related conundrums that I see a lot, and that have played a role in my own intimate life: sleeping separately, and creating rules/agreements about beds and sleeping in a polyamorous relationship.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that I think we should throw away the rulebook and redesign things in ways that actually work for individual relationships and the people in them.

Is Sleeping in Separate Beds Okay in a Relationship?

There was a time when “we’re sleeping in separate beds” was synonymous with “our relationship is doomed and we’re basically already broken up in all but name.” Observationally at least, I don’t think this is really true any more. More and more, people are throwing out commonly understood “rules” about relationships – from “always go to sleep together” to “never go to bed on a fight” – in favour of creating the customised, design-your-own-adventure relationship dynamics that work for them.

So no, I don’t think sleeping in separate beds is inherently a problem. Sometimes I think it’s even good and necessary.

I love snuggling and sleeping with a partner. Given the choice, my preference would almost always be to sleep beside someone I love rather than to sleep alone. You know what else I love, though? Actually sleeping. So there have been times where, for whatever reason – one of us snores, one of us has a bad back, one of us is going through a massive insomniac phase and will likely be scrolling their phone until 3am – a partner and I have chosen to sleep separately.

Far from damaging those relationships, making this choice when necessary has actually helped them. After all, who can show up as their best self in a relationship when they’ve had no sleep?

Managing Different Sleep Schedules

There’s also the issue of having different schedules or sleeping patterns, which can crop up in any relationship. My nesting partner, Mr C&K, is semi-nocturnal. I tend to get tired and want to go to bed sometime between 11pm and 1am on a typical night. That’s just reality – we have wildly different sleeping patterns and needs.

And sure, I could force myself to stay up hours longer than I want to. He could force himself to go to bed when he’s wide awake. But what would be the point? Any benefit gained from going to bed at the same time would be quickly outweighed by the annoyance, resentment, and heavily reduced sleep quality that this would cause.

Rules About Beds and Sleeping in Polyamory

To make polyamory work, we have to throw out many of what society commonly understands as the rules of relationships. We, the consensually non-monogamous, are redefining what love and commitment and faithfulness and community and sex are and mean. This means having to rewrite a lot of those scripts and throw others out entirely. Amongst those are the “rules” about beds and sleeping.

“Not in Our Bed”

In non-monogamous relationships, rules and agreements about the use of beds vary wildly. This question is mostly relevant for married or nesting couples who have a “marital bed.” I’ve seen everything from “no other partners in our bed, ever” to “anything goes.”

I’m not precious about my bed. I absolutely do not care if my nesting partner has sex with or sleeps with someone else in our bed. The only thing I ask is that, if things get messy, he changes the sheets before I sleep there again. Of course, the same applies to me when I have a partner over. That’s not to say this is the right way to do it, of course. But it has worked for us.

I have noticed that people occasionally weaponise polyamory bed rules as a means of controlling or intentionally limiting another relationship. Perhaps your partner’s other partner cannot host and hotels are too expensive. If so, not allowing them to use a shared bed (or home) can become pretty limiting on that relationship.

I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t have a “not in our bed” rule, because you ultimately get to make whatever rules you want around access to your space and possessions. However, I am going to invite you to think about why you feel the need to have that rule. There are certainly valid reasons some people choose to do so. But if it’s based on some kind of insecurity, you might want to unpack that. And if it’s significantly curtailing another relationship, it’s a good idea to work together to find a suitable solution. (Blow-up bed in the living room? Sofa bed? One night a week where each of you goes out so the other can have a date over? There are always solutions if you’re willing to get creative and collaborative.)

“You Must Sleep with Me Every Night”

“No overnights with anyone else” is a really common rule that newly open or polyamorous couples make. This rule almost ways comes from a place of insecurity, and it is almost always a bad rule.

Your non-nesting relationships, and your partner’s non-nesting relationships, deserve to thrive and be nurtured just as much as yours. Sometimes this will mean an overnight stay, or perhaps even several overnights (such as in the case of a break, weekend away, or holiday.) I’ve been a secondary partner to someone with a “no overnights” rule. It sucked. The relationship didn’t last long.

I understand that it can be scary to have your partner away overnight and that sleeping alone might not be your preference. But unless you exclusively date people who don’t ever want to have sleepovers (they exist, but are rare) this rule is going to cause problems in your other relationships. It will also limit your dating options because most experienced polyamorous people won’t go near couples with rules like this.

Getting comfortable with spending time alone is a vital component of healthy polyamory. If you can’t be in your own company, you will inevitably be driven to either: A) attempt to curtail your partner’s other relationships, B) get into or stay in relationships that are bad for you out of fear of being alone, C) both.

If your partner being away overnight brings up difficult feelings, that’s totally normal. You can ask for support and reassurance, strategise before they go to help you feel okay, make your own plans for the night, engage in self-care, and reconnect afterwards. As time goes on and you grow in security in your relationship and in polyamory, you’ll probably find that it gets easier and easier. I felt totally freaked out the first few times my nesting partner went away overnight. Now I quite enjoy having the house to myself for a day or two!

What rules or agreements about beds do you have in your relationships? How have they impacted you?

Thanks to Simba Sleep who very kindly sent me a fabulous memory foam mattress topper from their range. All writing and views in this post are my own and in no way affected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.