The smartest couples use the time just before bed to reconnect. They let the stresses of the day fall to the wayside and make the most of their time together.
But that’s not realistic all the time; it’s all too easy to let unhealthy pre-bed habits get in the way. Below, marriage therapists share 10 bedtime behaviors that could wreak havoc on your relationship.
You go to sleep at different times
“Sometimes you get cozy and fall asleep by yourself on the couch or stay up late to have some ‘me’ time. That’s fine but sometimes couples end up creating poor habits around this area of their relationship and use it as a way of avoiding emotional or physical intimacy. If you hit a rough patch, habits like these can make it far too tempting to maintain distance rather than work things out. Over time, this is how many breakups occur: by two people drifting apart and disengaging in the relationship. Avoid this by ensuring a ritual of coming back together in bed after going out into the world.” ― Kari Carroll, a marriage and family therapist in Portland, Oregon
You expect to have sex
“While the bedroom and sex are understandably intertwined, expecting sex just because you’re in bed together is bad for the health of your marriage. We all know what it’s like to be dead tired, not in the mood or just not physically capable. One of the ingredients of a great sex life is respect, so be sure to practice it by communicating expectations ahead of time. For many of us, right before bed is just not the best time for sex.” ―Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men
You bring your phone to bed
“Many of us have gotten into the very poor habit of bringing our phones and iPads into bed with us. While it’s tempting to scroll through your Facebook feed or check in on the latest news on Twitter before turning off the lights, it’s far more important to be present for your partner during this quiet window prior to sleep.” ―Linda Lipshutz, a psychotherapist in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
You focus on the kids the whole night
“Rather than enjoying those few evening hours as a family or connecting with your spouse at night, you’re tied up with homework, bath and storybook time and the third request for a drink of water and kiss good night. By the time you reappear from your child’s room, you and your partner are both exhausted. The real loss is a loss of connection and intimacy between you and your spouse. Develop clear boundaries for adult time and family time in the evenings and establish rituals of connection before bed so no matter what your day throws your way, you can look forward to time with your partner.” ― Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah
You sleep in separate beds or too large of a bed
“Too much distance between partners in the bed can create barriers that can feel bigger than they really are. Touch is well known to create feelings of attachment and connection, thanks to its stimulation of the cuddle hormone, oxytocin. The bed can be a natural place to cultivate touch between you, and living too long without it in a relationship can lead to feelings of loneliness.” ―Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.
You talk about your to-do list for the next day
“When the last thing you talk about at night is all the junk you have to sort through in the morning, it kills the restful, intimate mood of the evening. Sure, sometimes you may need to vent out the plan for the next day, but make sure your final interactions are loving and compassionate.” ―Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California
You tell your partner to sleep on the couch
“Ever get angry at your partner and say to them ‘I don’t want you to sleep in the bed tonight. You have to sleep on the couch’? Regardless of the argument, you want to be able to say to your partner (through words or actions) that you still love them despite your problems. This can be as simple as both going to bed in your shared bed or holding hands as you fall asleep. By taking ownership of the bed and kicking your partner out to the couch, you’re turning away and creating physical and emotional distance between both of you.” ―Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois
“Technically, there’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine (or two) or great cocktails. But when it represents avoidance from reality, you have to realize that reality includes your partner. If you’re both using, that could be a mutual exercise in bonding and stress reduction. More likely, though, it’s a mutual exercise in avoidance. If only one of you is drunk or high, that’s almost certainly an exercise in avoidance, which is a great way to ruin your marriage.” ― Zach Brittle, a therapist and founder of the online couples therapy series for Better
You bring up heavy conversations in bed
“Raising complicated discussion topics at bedtime is rarely productive and not the least bit sensual. Juggling work and parenting is chaotic and exhausting, so the urge to toss out weighty conversation topics once the kids are asleep and responsibilities are met makes sense. But initiating intense discussions at bedtime is a perfect way to lose sleep and sabotage your relationship. Designate bedtime as a chance for sex, sleep or light topics otherwise known as ‘pillow talk.’ Doing so strengthens the marriage and leaves you feeling rested, connected and satisfied.” ― Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.