If your partner decides to sleep on the couch instead of in bed with you, you two might be in a fight, one of you might have a cold, or you both might simply be not in the mood to sleep next to each other. All of these situations are perfectly normal and don’t spell serious trouble for your relationship, but if your boyfriend or girlfriend sleeps on the couch consistently, it could mean something significant about your dynamic. In general, sleeping styles are super revealing about people’s relationships and everybody has different preferences. For example, I have one friend who insists on always sleeping with her boyfriend but she’s a total germaphobe, so if he has a cold, she makes him sleep upside down in the bed. Seriously!
Some people just don’t like to sleep with others, while others prefer to be human blankets and wrap themselves around their partners all night long. If you can’t snag even one "z" while being spooned and your partner is a total cuddle bug, you might simply be incompatible sleepers. Is this a total deal-breaker for your relationship? Not necessarily, says, Dr. Brian Jory, PhD, relationship counselor, author, and Professor and Director of Family Studies at Berry College in Mount Berry, GA. "Sleeping on the couch could be a good or bad sign, depending on why your partner does it," says Dr. Jory.
If you and your partner have had an argument or are mid-fight, one of you sleeping on the couch might actually be a good thing. Dr. Jory believes a person’s motivation for sleeping on the couch during an argument is key. "If your partner is doing it to get an edge in the argument, as a power play to punish you for disagreeing, that’s a bad sign." Of course, some people believe in never going to bed angry, but sometimes fighting through the night when you’re really, really tired might not be productive. Dr Jory says, "You want to be with someone who uses his or her words and ideas, persuasion and reasoning, to come to win-win solutions, not someone who wants to win the argument at your expense and is willing to use tactics like withdrawal and coercion."
Another possible motivation for sleeping on the couch during an argument could be simply trying to avoid the conflict entirely! "It’s also a bad sign if your partner sleeps on the couch as a way of totally avoiding the conflict, sweeping it under the rug, and waking up the next morning like nothing happened," Dr. Jory says. While it might be unwise to use sleeping on the couch to avoid the conflict, if resolving your issue doesn’t seem to be in your immediate future, perhaps a good night’s sleep will offer some fresh perspective for you and your partner.
Dr. Jory agrees and says, "In a healthy relationship, both individuals come away from a conflict with a new perspective and a deeper understanding of one another. Needless to say, this kind of health takes time and space. It doesn’t happen in one little talk. So, sleeping on the couch can be a good sign if it means your partner is creating space to reflect and mull things over." A little break and a little space can provide an opportunity for you and your partner to clear your heads and come back together with a fresh perspective on the issue at hand.
Now, let’s take the argument element out of the equation. Let’s say you are a super light sleeper, and your bae is a big-time snorer. Or perhaps you take a long time to go to sleep, and they’re out like a light the minute their sweet head hits the pillow. Dr. Jory believes that sleeping with your parter is primal, intimate, and acknowledges that differences in sleeping styles can cause relationship problems. "Couples with incompatible ‘circadian rhythms’ — night people and morning people — usually have a hard go with that from the beginning of a serious relationship."
So if you’re simply having trouble snoozing peacefully next to your honey, there are a few ways to try to enhance your nighttime routine. If your partner snores, try using a white noise machine to smooth out any noise that might rouse you from your REM state. There’s also a wide variety of mattresses designed for couple’s with different sleep styles, including some that allow one person the freedom to flip and flop around, while their partner remains undisturbed.
If you and your bae are simply incompatible when it comes to sleep, there are plenty of other ways to build intimacy in other aspects of your lives. "Every couple finds their own ways of being intimate — there’s no cookbook for perfect intimacy," says Dr. Jory. Consider taking the time to connect physically — holding hands, hugging, and cuddling — can help you feel connected to your partner. Whatever works for the two of you to help you feel close, intimate, and connected will help make up for a fitful night’s sleep, and if all else fails — remember that sleeping on the couch every now and then isn’t such a terrible idea. Sweet dreams!
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