Week 4 | To Stay Together, You Must Be Apart: Why I May Consider Sleeping in a Separate Bedroom Than
According to my own personal observations, that include having lived in New York City for 6 years + commentary from my mostly single girlfriends, I have come to the conclusion that the average length of a budding relationship in the city is 4 weeks:
Week 1 - Boy and girl arrange to see each other
Week 2 - Boy is into girl and pursues her
Week 3 - Girl realizes she likes boy and starts reciprocating
Week 4 - Boy stops texting
Like clockwork, by a month’s end, my girlfriends and I are usually left commiserating about what went wrong - at most what has usually transpired is the passage of time that is 4 weeks.
Even though I know what to expect and I shouldn’t be surprised by what dating in New York has to offer, I am still super sad and discouraged when by week 4 it takes a guy 24 hours to answer as simple an inquiry as “how are you?” - that’s when you know it’s over.
My ideas of time here are mere conjecture, I say the above in jest as I haven’t really looked into the science behind if and why this is true.
What I have studied up on is the time spent while within a relationship: to ensure an exciting attachment, should couples look to spend as much time together as possible or is space essential? It turns out there’s a lot out there that supports the idea that in order to stay close to your partner in a most passionate way, you must embrace separateness and being apart.
Strong Social Connections, Especially with a Spouse, Are Healthful
Why seek relationships in the first place?
According to a Harvard study on adult development that began in 1938 and followed 700 men and some of their spouses, an “important barometer of long term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends... and especially spouses”. For over 75 years, the study has correlated that with strong bonds come protections “against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline - even if those relationships had many ups and downs” (New York Times). A separate study, “which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity” (Harvard).
Combating loneliness and fostering strong social connections, especially with a spouse or partner, are pertinent to long-term health and wellness.
The Science Behind Why Relationships Better Your Health
Social bonds, especially those within the realm of marriage and long term commitment, prove to better health for several reasons: Scientists, “found that [relationships] help relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones” (Harvard).
The workings of our external bonds have an impact with what is going on with us internally.
Be Apart to Stay Together: To Keep a Relationship Going, Space is Even More Important Than Physical Intimacy
Ok great, so you are with someone - congratulations, your company is good for your health! But how to stay together…
It turns out that absence does make the heart grow fonder. According to a University of Michigan study, to sustain passionate long-term bonds, couples must spend time apart - it is even more essential to a couple’s closeness than sexual intimacy (The Sydney Morning Herald).
Out of the University of British Columbia, researcher Heather Morton found that for both men and women in long-term relationships, “sexual frequency, sexual satisfaction, and sexual desire decline over time with the same partner" (The University of British Columbia). Her study found that, “many non-human animal studies suggest that novelty may play an important role in sexual functioning. This has been frequently demonstrated by the Coolidge effect, where a male will copulate with a female repetitively until he's satiated and is no longer interested in continuing. But when a new female is introduced, he's interested again...It appears that the Coolidge effect does occur, to some extent, in both men and women” (The University of British Columbia).
Newness is key to peaking interest in one another. When within a monogamous relationship, unless openly discussed and agreed upon, introducing new partners is not an option - novelty must come from somewhere else. A path to newness can come from giving each other space.
Why Space Revs a Relationship
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie have been together for 25 years, even through the ascent of Bezos becoming the richest man on planet Earth. While there are certainly other factors that contribute to their bond, MacKenzie has her own small apartment - her own personal space separate from her family (Business Insider). Why is it that a certain degree of privacy between two people breeds interest and thus strengthens a relationship long-term?
Relationship psychologist and author, John Aiken, explains that, “couples need space in a relationship so they don't suffocate each other. Having time apart is extremely healthy and keeps a freshness in their relationship. It encourages each person to maintain their own sense of identity while still being a couple, and it fosters independence" (The Sydney Morning Herald). We all can't afford to have our own separate apartments, but finding ways to be apart encourages individuals to maintain difference. Not doing everything together and not knowing everything about each other allows for a mystery between partners - an independence that allows for newness and interest when you meet again.
The Ultimate Space Giving? | Couples Are More and More, Choosing Sleeping Apart
A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that, nearly one out of four American couples sleep in separate beds or bedrooms (The New York Times). Previously thought to signal turmoil in a relationship, this rise in sleeping separately is revealed to go beyond just trouble, rather couples are choosing to be apart to stay together.
An obvious reason to sleep apart in order to positively reinforce a relationship is because you do not sleep well next to your partner; Dr. Wendy Troxel explains, “It's definitely true that sleep problems can cause relationship distress...Sleep problems have profound effects on daytime functioning, including how you get along with a partner. In some severe cases, sleep incompatibility doesn't just amp up the stress — it can directly lead to relationship breakdown. This includes cases where people with sleep issues are seriously troubled by the way their partners respond" (The Week). If your partner tosses and turns, and snores and sleep-walks, then sleeping in different beds or even rooms most certainly makes sense.
But what if you sleep well throughout the night together? Some couples are choosing to sleep apart to increase novelty - that space between that positively encourages a relationship along.
Dr. Kristie Overstreet for Women’s Day explained, “the old cliché of ‘not knowing what you have till it's gone’ comes into play here. By sleeping in separate beds, you have a better chance of prioritizing intimacy and physical touch...It's not as easy as rolling over and reaching out for your partner. You put more thought into the action of seeking out your partner for intimacy. This helps you keep the physical nature of the relationship as a priority and prevents you from taking it for granted" (Women's Day).
Sleeping apart can have positive effects on a relationship, encouraging such things as appreciation and mindfulness. Most notably, being apart at bedtime is an example of how to breed the privacy that is culprit to the novel feeling seemingly essential to sustaining a fulfilling and exciting long-term relationship between two people.