I'll just say, off rip, that while we encourage comments on all of our articles, when it comes to this one in particular, when I wouldn't just encourage it; I'd deeply appreciate it. The reason why I say that is because—pause—is it just me, or is traditional marriage becoming more and more taboo these days? Although I totally get, believe and support the fact that, since each marriage consists of two individuals, every union is automatically unique in a variety of ways, it does seem like some things that used to apply to all—or at least most—relationships, simply don't anymore.
The Couple Who Sleeps Apart Stays Together
Take sleeping together, for example. Recently, we published "Larenz Tate On Why Sleeping In Separate Bedrooms Is A Must In His Marriage". I watched the interview that the piece was pulled from (what he says about our people and our community is stellar). From what I remember, Larenz said that he sleeps in another room in a joking kind of way. He also said that it was 1) because his wife is mad fertile and 2) sometimes, after decompressing from a role, the space can be good for their relationship overall. But after he got so much media attention for talking about sleeping in another bedroom, I decided to dig around, just to see how common married couples sleeping in separate beds actually is. You know what? He's not even close to being the only one who does it.
Today published an article last month citing a survey (via a company called Mattress Clarity) of 3,000 Americans.
31 percent said that they are all about getting a "sleep divorce"—you know, remaining married but not sleeping together. Not only that but 1 in 4 couples already sleep in separate bedrooms or beds.
Some of the people interviewed in that article said that it was "cool" because sleeping apart provides the chance to have command of the entire room. Plus, you can get your own space in the process. Then there are the couples who sleep apart because one or both spouses snore. A lot. And loudly. If they are going to remain sane, short of a pillow over their (or their spouse's) head, sleeping apart was the only option for them.
That got me to do some off the cuff interviewing of married couples who I personally know. When I asked a few of them if sleeping apart was ever a consideration, this is what some of them said (I'm leaving real names out on purpose):
*Allison. Married 10 Years. "Trust me, if I could get my husband to consider it, I definitely would. Between us both liking the room a different temperature and him always wanting to cuddle when I'd prefer to sleep without all of that all of the time, I'm sure I'd get a lot more rest."
*Andre. Married Four Years. "Sharing a bed is an adjustment. I mean, as much as I love my wife, there are times when you just want some alone time. We've never talked about sleeping in separate beds, but I can't say that I'd be opposed to it."
*Mark. Married 25 Years. "The Bible doesn't say that 'sex in marriage is undefiled'; it says that 'the marriage bed is undefiled'. There is something intimate and special about sharing a bed with my wife. I've never considered not doing it. Not once." (The Scripture he's referring to is Hebrews 13:4, by the way.)
*Crystal. Married Seven Years. "Why does it seem like folks are looking for more ways to not be married? Your spouse is not someone who comes over for a slumber party. A part of what comes with marriage is sharing a bedroom and a bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, if you ask me."
How Many Married Couples Actually Live in Different Homes?
See what I mean? Different people bring different views into the concept of marriage. As far as what Crystal said, although I definitely get why she feels that way, it might trip her—and a lot of other people—out that it has been reported that approximately four million married couples live apart. The reasons vary from conflicting work schedules and personal preference to one partner being incarcerated or in a nursing home. In the article that cited the sleep divorce stat, it featured couples who said they are very happy being married and not sharing a roof. Psychotherapist and author Tina B. Tessina said it works well for so many because, "Couples who are living apart successfully are individuals who like living alone, but still want companionship and the financial benefits of marriage." Soo…it's like dating exclusively but still getting a tax write-off? Interesting.
When I read another article on the topic, a counselor said he does it as a way to keep a couple from divorcing. He has the spouses sign a 120-day contract stating that although they will agree to live apart, physical and emotional affairs were not allowed. According to him, it worked for some of his couples. As a result of being apart, they were more proactive about spending a few nights a week together and "sleeping over" on the weekends.
Yeah. That still sounds like dating to me. I mean, as a marriage life coach who specializes in reconciling divorced couples, I dig the whole married-but-living-apart approach as a last-ditch effort before two people decide to call it quits. But for two people who aren't in marital trouble, doesn't it provide an unrealistic approach to the marital dynamic? Isn't it kind of like "playing house" or being "kinda sorta" married? And as far as what Tina said about couples living apart because they would prefer to be alone, why not just be…single?
Because honestly, a lot of what I've shared about all of this sounds a lot like another article—"More Older Couples Stay Together Because They Live Apart". It was published this past July and it features couples who aren't married but are in committed relationships. Basically, the article gets into the fact that more and more seniors are opting out of getting married or living with someone; instead, they prefer to have dinners with their significant other during the week and sleepovers on the weekend. One of the studies in the article stated that unmarried couples between 57-85 were twice as likely to live apart than together these days. All because they enjoy being together without living together.
I get that. I mean, I personally have no intentions on living with someone prior to saying "I do". But again, that's speaking to single folks and a perk of being single is not having to share your space if you don't want to. But when you're married, is it cool—and more than cool, is it realistic—to have the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities as well? Isn't actually living together a part of the marriage package?
I went back to the four people I interviewed about sleeping vs. not sleeping with their spouse. This is what they had to say on the matter.
*Allison. "Girl, I wish I would tell my husband that we should live in different houses. I think that taking girl and guy trips without your partner sometimes is cool, but living apart sounds like you're separated. It also seems like you're living in a fantasy world. If you're not having to deal with the day-to-day of being with the person you vowed to spend your life with, you're not married in its totality."
*Andre. "I haven't been married five years and already get how awesome this whole concept could be. I also think it can make you think that you're single when you're not. Being married is about sharing more than last names and tax write-offs. It's about sharing your entire world. That's hard to do under two different roofs."
*Mark. "I bet a man came up with this whole 'Hey babe, let's be married but live apart' thing. Sounds like another version of the cow vs. the milk if you ask me. When you live with someone, you really get to know them. It also teaches you a lot about yourself. Marriage isn't for selfish people. If you're down with living apart from your spouse, that sounds pretty convenient…convenient to the point of being really self-absorbed."
*Crystal. "Shellie, do you really have to ask what I think? If you don't want to live with someone, don't get married. It's as simple as that."
If you're curious what I think, I actually have a ton of thoughts on all of this. But the Reader's Digest version would probably be, if you'd be down to not live with your spouse, ask yourself why. The answers could very well reveal if you've truly contemplated all that comes with marriage. Because Allison and Andre are right—if you don't want to share your entire life, if you only want to give access to pieces and parts of it, why get married at all?
But again, I want to hear your thoughts as well; especially if you happen to be a married person who is currently living in a different spot than your spouse (and it's not due to a separation). What are the pros? What are the cons? Do you think it's a wise thing to do or do you advise against it?
Since there are currently millions of married couples who don't live together, if there's one thing that we all can agree on, to a large extent, is there is no one way to be married. Some people are making theirs work and last by choosing to ditch the tradition of living with their partner. Instead, they seem to be more in love than ever by actually choosing to live apart.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage
10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating
These 7 Married Men Have Some Marriage Myths They Want To Debunk
I'm Not Your Relationship Goals: A Word To Single Ladies From A Married Woman
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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