Category Archives: Marriage

Snoring, Sex & Separate Bedrooms

One of the hottest topics I’ve addressed lately is sexless marriage – couples who for a variety of reasons rarely have sex, or have stopped having sex at all.

There are complex reasons this happens. But right now I’m going to address one of the less complex ones.


It’s something some of us chuckle or complain about, or reference in an obscure way – especially if it’s the woman who snores. I actually know one couple who calls it night-giggling, since the term snoring sounds so unfeminine! But in all seriousness, a snoring partner can make peaceful slumber a faint memory. And night after night of missed sleep can wreak havoc in our daytimes.

The danger, as with all relationship issues, comes with ignoring it. If we don’t discuss something when it is simple – “Honey, your snoring is keeping me awake” – then it gradually becomes more complicated. When it’s not discussed, it doesn’t get addressed, and when it doesn’t get addressed, resentment builds. While snoring may not be the ultimate reason a couple splits up, I’ve known marriages that were shaken by ignoring the impact of this common issue.

Sleep, snoring and sex

We all know quality sleep time is important. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get quality sleep. Let’s be honest – many of us don’t get enough sleep of any sort, quality or otherwise! The National Sleep Foundation’s latest study reports that only 3 in 10 people report feeling well-rested after a night’s rest. Do the math and that means 70% of us don’t feel well-rested!

Is snoring a part of the problem? Absolutely it is. In fact, one study reported at least 67% of respondents said their partner snores. Among snorers, more than half said their snoring disturbs their partner’s sleep. And 31% of those surveyed said the snoring drives the other partner to sleep in a separate bedroom or to use earplugs. Snoring may even increase your partner’s blood pressure.

But what about the connection to sex? Most of us don’t need research to answer this, but it’s good to know: a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that, after controlling for factors such as smoking, weight, and other medical issues:

  • Men who snore a lot report less sexual satisfaction.
  • Men classified as heavy snorers were two times more likely to report low sexual satisfaction, compared to those who snore less.

And this is not just a male issue. I know plenty of couples where it is the wife who is the snorer.

The challenge: Don’t let snoring come between you

Now I know snoring can be a serious medical issue for some individuals. If you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea or another serious sleep disorder, it can actually be life-threatening, so take whatever steps you need to keep yourself safe.

But for most of us, dealing with snoring is a quality of life issue, not a health risk. Healthy couples use their beds for two things: sleep and sex. Don’t let snoring mess this up. I guarantee sleeping in separate bedrooms on a regular basis will affect your sex life. I’ve seen it happen time and again – an occasional slipping out to the other room becomes a regular habit, and before you know it, the sexual connection is gone.

Here are a few ways to handle snoring, as suggested by WebMD:

  • Change your sleep position. Use a wedge or body pillow to help you sleep on your side rather than your back. Some people even tape tennis balls to the back of their pajamas so they don’t roll over on their backs!
  • Address poor night-time habits. Working late and drinking too much alcohol before bedtime can degrade what doctors call your “sleep hygiene.”
  • Open your nasal passages. The more open they are, the more air you get, the less you snore. Take a hot shower before bed, or use a neti pot to clear your sinuses, or try nasal strips.
  • Reduce dust in your bedroom. Allergens and dust mites in your pillow can stuff up your nose at night, so throw your pillows in the dryer on the fluff cycle every couple of weeks. And when’s the last time you dusted that ceiling fan?
  • Get a sleep check-up. Talk to your doctor about your snoring. It could be that a CPAP device or other sleeping aid could completely resolve the problem.

And besides good sex, here’s another reason to stay in bed together: Women, you can save your man’s life! Studies have shown that men being treated for sleep apnea get better results from their treatment when their wives stay in bed with them.

Don’t get torpedoed

As with other marriage challenges, the real risk from the sleep-snoring-sex issue is whether it generates tension and resentment in your relationship. You have a choice: Talk about it now or try to clean it up later. Don’t be one of the couples that drifts along until something relatively simple such as snoring torpedoes your intimacy. We can help you discuss it in a healthy way, as well as point you to medical resources if needed.

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Honesty really is the best policy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen honesty, or rather the lack of honesty, play out as the underlying issue in a marriage.

HonestyI always ask new clients about what prompted them to come see me.  This generally gives me a pretty good idea of the presenting issues in the relationship and provides a launching point into the work we’ll do together.  We’ll typically address some serious topics over the course of the first few sessions, topics that are good to discuss in any marriage.  But inevitably, there will come a time when, often by accident, one spouse will say something that catches the other by surprise and touches a nerve.  

I’ll see the body language change almost instantly, followed by a “I didn’t know you felt that way”.  And with that, the stakes are raised.  As a counselor, this is when my work gets tough and requires a lot of  finesse.

Why? Because many of us bury – and I mean deeply bury – the root causes of our frustrations with our spouses. Sometimes that’s because we’re unaware – we haven’t really unearthed those roots ourselves.  But often it’s because we are fully aware, and scared to death to expose them, for fear of unsettling the delicate ground we’re walking on in our relationship.

''Most of us bury the root causes of our frustrations with our spouses.'' Click To Tweet

The underlying issue: we’re scared

In my experience, when we’re not honest about a serious issue in our relationship, 9 out of 10 times it’s because we’re scared. We’re scared of how our partner will respond to our feelings.  We’re scared of the conflict that will result. We’re scared of the hurt feelings, the hostility, anger, tears, you name it.  Or maybe we’ve been burned by past attempts and think there’s no good way to proceed.  The end result is our fear keeps us silent and it controls our relationship.

The counseling world calls this a “lack of differentiation”. We’re burying our true selves for the sake of our spouse’s feelings. Or, often, what we perceive their feelings will be. And in turn, we’re sacrificing a deeper, more mature,and more authentic relationship with our spouse, all in an effort to keep the peace.
''When we're afraid to bring up difficult topics with our spouses,we're letting fear control the quality of our relationships. '' Click To Tweet

Is it time to bring honesty back to your marriage?

I don’t care whether it’s your spouse’s weight, or how they parent your kids, or that they work too much, or that they don’t want sex very often – whatever it is, if you’re not talking about it, then it’s not the real issue.

The real issue is that you aren’t willing to be honest with your spouse.  These “secrets” cause cracks in the foundation of your marriage that will eventually grow big enough to swallow both of you.

What you can do now

Everyone needs a place to begin.  If you are struggling with being open and honest with your spouse on tough subjects, here are four steps that will help you kickstart honest conversations:

Number One: Identify what’s important to you – Don’t make this about your spouse, make it about you.

Number Two: Write it down – Think about it. If you can’t put into words what’s important to you, how can you tell your spouse in a way they can understand it?

Number Three: Tell your spouse – Pick a time when you’re both in listening mode, when neither of you is frustrated or hostile. Again, make it about what’s important to you, not about whether your spouse is doing their part.

Number Four: Listen – Don’t sit back and listen, sit forward. Express with every part of you that you want to hear your spouse’s feedback – even when it’s not the feedback you wanted.

Now, it’s just the beginning, but it’s a solid one. After this, you can take actions to help you process what you’re saying to one another, truly accept the other’s perspective, and learn to support each other’s personal growth. That growth will provide the cement to re-strengthen the foundation of your life together as a couple.

I’m not going to kid you though.  It may look like a simple process, but this can be really tough to do..  It takes practice and often times it takes the guidance of an experienced therapist who can lead you through the process until it becomes more natural to you.   If it feels daunting or like it could never work for your marriage, I urge you to have at least one conversation with us before you give up.  You can give us a call or schedule an appointment online. Your marriage is worth at least the phone call, right?

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