Monday, May 17, 2010

Rx for a Happy Marriage?

I've always believed that the key to a successful marriage is separate bathrooms. When one spouse is a neatnik and the other a mess, a battle royale can ensue, and who wants that every morning? As my mother says, sharing a bathroom with a husband who splashes water all over the place is like sharing a bathroom with My Friend Flicka.

And of course we're all familiar with the separate beds that married couples (actually, those playing married couples) had to endure in movies and television shows. Actually, there were married couples in real life who shared a bedroom but not a bed. Now, I'm not sure what purpose that served. I'm guessing snoring was not the culprit, because that would probably dictate separate bedrooms. Perhaps one partner thrashed around in his or her sleep, or maybe it was because someone had restless leg syndrome. I really don't know, but whenever I've seen a two bed master bedroom, it usually has involved an elderly couple with children- so we can deduce that they went their separate ways after the kids were born. Or maybe not. Really, perhaps I shouldn't even think too much about the circumstances, but this is exactly what happens when a couple engages in unusual sleeping and living arrangements. One starts to wonder...

Separate bedrooms are not so unusual either, although perhaps today it's a little rare. You can just hear the chatter of friends and neighbors: "Did you hear about Betty and Bob? Separate bedrooms. I know, it must be because of that pretty young secretary working down at Bob's law firm." Rumors start swirling, even if everything in the couple's marriage is copacetic. One upside to this arrangement, though, is that you've got two master bedrooms you can decorate. A super feminine one for the wife and something a bit more manly for the hubby. Everybody gets what they want.

But recently, I was blown away when a designer told me that she has a few married clients who are requesting not separate bathrooms, beds, nor bedrooms, but rather separate condos adjoined by a shared door. In fact, I've heard of a couple who resided in separate condos on different floors of a high rise. A little unusual I admit, and it's not necessarily something that would appeal to me if I were married. But, who am I to judge? Perhaps it's these brave couples who have the last laugh. Maybe they've figured out the secret to a happy marriage.

This still from the 1940 movie "I Was an Adventuress" shows beds that look a bit overstuffed. On the one hand, those headboards look comfortable, although I can't tell if they might seem claustrophobic too.

Sorry, but I just don't think Loretta Young was married and had a bedroom like this. I suppose the movie's title says it all: "The Magnificent Flirt". (And to think that satin-sheet Loretta went on to star in "The Preacher's Wife"!)

Now doesn't this couple look happy despite that chasm between them? This photo was from the 1929 movie "Twin Beds"; I don't know whether it was a comedy...or a tragedy.

We can take it a step further with separate bedrooms a la Dorothy and Richard Rodgers. Here is Dorothy's domain, above

And this is Dick's.

I just don't know. After all of this, I'm thinking that sometimes some things are better left behind closed doors.

(1st movie still from Forties Screen Style: A Celebration of High Pastiche in Hollywood (Architecture and Film, 4); #2 and #3 from Screen Deco (Architecture and Film, 3.); Dorothy and Dick Rodgers' bedrooms from My Favorite Things)


  1. Oh, fun post! Neat seeing the different bedroom sets of those older movies!

  2. Now here is a subject that I have not seen addressed on other blogs!! This is definitely not for me - I'm a snuggler!

  3. Love this thought provoking post. I agree, 2 bedrooms would only be fun because you could have 2 to decorate!

    While touring an historic home in Savannah, or genteel docent told us that seperate bedrooms were a must when one had servants. It was not considered polite or proper at all for a male servant to be in the presence of a lady in her bedroom, and vice versa. So... a bedroom together and no servants or 2 bedrooms and a wait staff.
    Mmmmmmmmmm, tough choice!
    I have really enjoyed my visit.

  4. I had a conversation with a woman of a certain age recently and she explained to me that as she and her husband had gotten older sleep was more and more elusive. They were debating king size bed (which she did not want as the dimensions are so unappealing) or twins. They opted for the bulky, hulky king to avoid separating.

    The separate bedroom - and the ability to decorate my own at will - is tempting.

  5. My grandparents had twin beds in their room, always kind of confused me, but they were the happiest couple who enjoyed nearly 65 years of marriage to one another. So...really, only each couple knows what will work for them.

    Great images by the way!!! Old movies are just so fabulous.


  6. Just on my mind today... My cousin is visiting from Denmark and her husband snores so the whole house rocks!! I was just thinking last night how she's in dire need of a separate bedroom...or maybe even a separate house!

  7. I don't know about the other on screen bedrooms, but Lucy and Desi did not sleep in twin beds in real life, but the network enforced it for the TV show because of their multi-cultural marriage being too much for the audience to handle

  8. I just love this post.....fantastic. Who ever knows what goes on behind closed doors...or is it behind closed condos.... xv.

  9. The set design in "Twin Beds" --the deco beds, window and draperies--is unbelievably gorgeous. Thanks,

  10. I don't really get it either. To each his own !

  11. Interesting points raised here!
    I do think that in America at any rate, the fashion
    for Twin Beds in the bedrooms of married couples
    was influenced by the Hays Production Code put intoplace around the early 1930s. Kate and Spence had separate beds in Adam's Rib, for example, Lucy and Desi ditto, the list is endless. If two film stars were seen together in a bedroom, one of them was required to be partly "out" of bed, so that the frightening concept of actually sharing it would never be perceived by impressionable audiences. Yes, the Production Code very effectively turned America into the oddly puritan nation that persists to this day.
    Having said all that~I'm all for separate bathrooms and bedrooms.

  12. Great post Jennifer! I can't even imagine separate condos! Oh my! Although I must admit that it could be tempting after hearing sports on TV reign throughout the house!

    My answer to separate beds---a king size sleeps in between...and earplugs!

  13. Jennifer, just love this post, really fun and wonderful!!

    Giveaway by Beth Cosner Designs is up on my site. Come visit and spread the word!!


    Art by Karena

  14. Great articleand love the photo's. As a very young girl... The first time I was a parents having twinbeds was my best girlfriend's home. I thought, how strange... But, it was not a subject to be discuss at the dinner table or perhaps, anytime! My parents, were married for over 55 years. My mother, actually was held my father in his arm's the evening... She past away. Looking up to him and saying, " Herbert, thank you for the most wonderful life... Then she feel asleep. Remember, teasing my dad years later. "Dad, you can tell me... Did Mommy , mention me?" He laugh and relied, " sorry she did not." Although, when my sister's went throught her nightstand and maguzines.. . All my magazines and design books were there!! Bottom line, yes I have had clients with seperate condos connected by a door. Only twice in 25+ year's have I had separate bedrooms. Although, something a bit romantic about that ... One truly has to make an effort!! A bit like "Gone With the Wind!" Once again, a great post...I'm left us all thinking.-)

  15. My grandparents always said the secret to their long (65 years) and happy marriage was seperate bathrooms and seperate tvs. They slept in the same bed for the 65 years.
    My stipulation with me and my bf is that when we cohabitat shortly - we need to have seperate bathrooms! Follow a successful example I always say!

  16. Love this post and especially the images. I agree with your first statement...separate bathrooms are key. I can tell you that in designing our home, I struggled to get in separate toilets that didn't look bizarre. Finally made it happen and though it has meant smaller closets, we are much happier...

  17. It was Katherine Hepburn who said, "Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then."
    I read that when I was a young girl and have come to appreciate the wisdom therein as I've gotten older (despite being happily married) although sometimes I think a house for us and one for the kids would be even better!
    Oh - and PS My friend Flicka was a horse not a dolphin - which conjured up a more disturbing image of the bathroom that perhaps intended!

  18. My inlaws who had a wonderfully happy marriage had a double bed until she inherited an amazing suite of bedroom furniture which had twin, beautifully ornate, but twin beds. My mother-in-law said it was the best of both worlds. Really cozy when cozy was wanted; room enough to sleep when sleep was wanted. My 6'5" husband and I shared a regular-size (acutally 1"shorter than norman because it was an antique) for over 25 years and about 5 years ago we "upgraded" to a queen. Nice balance.When I redo my husband's office/dressing room, I'm going to add a daybed so he can fall asleep reading a book. I'll wake him up for bedtime.

  19. Well, FWIW, we have separate bathrooms now and are finding it rather...distant. We miss the chats and togetherness...being aware of each other's movements builds intimacy. Or something. We recently stayed at a luxury resort with one big bathroom and really enjoyed being "together" again. Weird maybe.

    As for bedrooms...several women I know have taken to sleeping in a grown child's bedroom to escape snoring or a C-PAP machine! The whole reading-at- night-due-to-insomnia issue drives them to escape too. But they consider the master bedroom to be their "real" remains such a SYMBOL.

    Thanks for a fun post.

  20. Love the look but couldn't do it. Great post!

  21. This is fun!
    Being married for almost twenty years I never separated from my hubby in the bedroom unless one of us travels...
    But I have had my moments of thinking about separat sleeping arrangements. He is early to bed and early up, while I tend to stay up late and well have to get up eary too. But I disturb him by reading and I love nothing better then to snuggle in my bed with a great novel...
    But separat bathrooms are a must. Since we do not have so many bathrooms available I made a powder room my personal domain!

    Lovely posting!


  22. Is this what I have to do to get my husband to stop stealing the covers at night? Fun post!!

  23. Great job. This certainly was not the typical twin bed post. What interesting thoughts about the whole seperate thing. Hmmmm.

  24. I so enjoyed reading this post....TV and movies were very modest in this era, so in twin beds they slept. I grew up in a large family house in which my grandparents had separate bedrooms as well as my ants and uncles...only...absolutely shocking, my parents shared the same bedroom with a queen bed. My great uncle and my great aunt had a separate house on the same property!! They all lived happily with this particular arrangement. I have a separate bedroom/study where I retreat when I am sleepless at night.I just wished we had separate bathrooms....

  25. Love this post. Oddly enough, my grandparents actually shared a room but not their bed all their married lives - strange, I know, I never thought to ask why.

    On another note, my friend and I always joke that it would be amazing if we could be married to our spouses but live next door to them - that way we can go visit with them whenever we want and when we don't we've got our own place - we always said it would make marriage magic - maybe we were on to something!

  26. Anonymous11:07 PM

    We opted for separate bedrooms in my "elderly" early 40's. His snoring (and my yelling--a soft word was insufficient) was destroying our marriage. We'd tried a year in separate beds (our bedroom looked like a Howard Johnson with matching queen-size beds!) without relief. It was a hard decision that we kept to ourselves until noticing all our friends openly declared making the same decision. Now we all joke about it--one of his golf buddies said, "Once you leave, you'll never go back." Menopause, snoring, and a CPAP machine are things we'd be happier not sharing. For you who find it "odd" and are wondering? Believe me less sleep-deprivation hostility makes for much better sex!

    PS I love having a bedroom that's all me--currently I'm creating the most feminine I've ever had. With his help!

  27. You know, Pauline de Rothschild and Baron Philipe not only had separate bedrooms, but in Paris they had separate houses. The bewitching Pauline maintained that added a certain piquant quality to their relationship, as nothing was ever a "given"...

    But I believe that married couples from a certain strata of society traditionally had separate bedrooms. The woman's bedroom was large and feminine, while the man's bedroom was very manly, and often had an attached dressing room. (Now there's a luxury!)

    I remember visiting old family friends who had a beautiful house smack up against the Presidio wall in San Francisco, and Mrs. H had a big bedroom with that magnificent view of the bay (and a dressing room) where-as Mr. H had a smaller, view-less bedroom all done in dark paneling and red leather--with HIS own dressing room.

    So civilized.

    As a gay man, I've always thought that the ideal situation for two men living together (you know how territorial men can be) would be a duplex--a positive take on "Separate but equal".

    For years I've had my eye on the perfect c. 1936 Modernist duplex (two floor-through units) just in case I ever get hitched.... After all, one should always be prepared!

  28. We have many clients who want separate bathrooms. I can't imagine wanting that. Getting ready for our day together in our shared bathroom is our favorite time of day. Ok, that was probably more info. than you needed!