In a perfect world, your bedroom would be a sacred place for you and your partner.
We live busy lives, though, not perfect ones. Work emails pile up, and you answer them before falling asleep, or the kids come barreling into the room and ask to sleep in your bed and you can’t say no.
Interruptions happen, but if you let them happen too often, it could hurt your relationship. Below, marriage therapists share seven common bedtime habits you should nip in the bud if you want to maintain intimacy in your bedroom.
1. Having daily schedule talks in bed
Save for another time those unsexy conversations about who’s paying the phone bill or who’ll pick up your relatives at the airport, said Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago.
“Obviously, couples need to discuss the logistics of the day ― someone has to pick up the kids or plan dinner for tomorrow ― but not in the bedroom,” she said. “There’s something about this type of discussion that can zap the intimacy and romance out of a room.”
2. Taking your phone to bed
Nearly three-quarters of Americans who live with their spouse or partner take their smartphone to bed with them, according to a recent survey. Of those polled, 35 percent said their sex life had taken a hit because of bedtime phone use.
Don’t be like that. Unless you’re reaching for your phone to cue up some Sade before getting busy, keep the phone away from your bed, said Alena Gerst, a psychotherapist in New York City.
“When you’re on your phone or playing a game, you become so immersed in your online world, it’s as though the person sharing your bed is not even there,” she said. “When your partner says something or asks for your attention, you may not even hear them or tell them to wait because you’re busy looking at your screen. That definitely does not encourage intimacy.”
3. Letting the kids or the dog crawl into bed with you
If you have little kids, it’s inevitable that they’ll spend some nights in your bed after a scary dream or because they’re in a cuddly mood. Let them ― they’re young for only so long! ― but try not make it a habit, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men.
“I’ve counseled men who’ve complained that they come to bed and their partner is asleep in their bed with their child and it just changes how they feel about their bedroom ― it’s not their room anymore,” he said. “This can easily become a source of resentment, conflict and disconnect between partners.”
The same rule follows for Fido as well, as cute as the little pooch may be.
“Clients have complained about the smell and physical barrier caused by a pet in the bed,” he said. “It becomes a problem if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep or don’t feel close to your partner because the dog’s in the bed.”
4. Allowing the bedroom to get cluttered
You know that pile of laundry, dirty socks and handbags that has taken on a life of its own in the corner of your bedroom? You’d be a lot more likely to get lucky if you put it all away.
“Clutter kills the intimacy,” Smith said. “A man was telling me last week that their bedroom isn’t very romantic or intimacy-inducing for him because of the amount of clutter. He admitted he’s partly to blame for that too.”
5. Working in the bedroom
The first rule of maintaining a healthy work-life balance? Keep the demands of your job out of the bedroom. If you really need to answer emails or take that after-hours call from your boss, do so in another room.
“You want to associate your bed and bedroom with peace and romance, not stress from doing work,” Kepler said. “Do yourself, your sleep habits and your partner a favor and keep bedroom a no-work zone.”
6. Letting the bedroom become a second living room for the family
It’s not uncommon for the parents’ room to become another TV room in the house. It’s a fun, mostly off-limits space, so of course the kids want to watch cartoons there. Indulge them a bit, but try to move the fun to the living room, Smith said.
“A number of spouses have told me they love their kids but hate that they’ve lost their private space in the house,” he said. “The master bedroom can easily become the kids’ playroom too, but if you value your intimacy, you really shouldn’t let it.”
7. Watching or reading the news
The news cycle is relentless, but for the sake of your relationship, resist the urge to read the buzz around the president’s latest tweet ― at least in bed.
“It’s natural to want to lie in bed and catch up on the stories of the day,” Gerst said. “The problem is, you should be turning your attention to your quiet time and your partner. The day’s news, especially in these turbulent times, can be upsetting and trigger your stress response.”
Leaving CNN on or thumbing through your Twitter feed “creates the opposite effect of what you hope to happen when you’re turning in for the night and enjoying closeness with your partner. Ultimately, you have to put your partner first.”