Co-sleeping or bed-sharing, sometimes called “the family bed”, an arrangement where parents and kids share a bed, has had positive and negative reviews. While purported to improve the connection between baby and parents, what impact does it have on the parental relationship? Could it lead to marital breakdown?

Statistics from the American Psychological Association show that about 40% to 50% of marriages ended up failing after 6 years. In a time when a marriage of seven years is considered lengthy, what could, in such a relatively short time, change a loving couple into one that is separating or divorcing?

Looking at the development of a relationship where two people are living together and deciding to have a child, we see a couple who is deeply in love and enthralled with each other. They enjoy sexual intimacy, have mutual respect, and usually have strategies in place to deal with disagreements. They look forward to becoming a family, although usually with a little trepidation.

When a pregnancy is diagnosed, ideally after a mutual decision to have a child, there is usually elation and excitement tinged with a bit of fear of the unknown. The pregnancy, with the resulting changes to the woman, brings on new experiences and readjustment for both partners. It is at this point that the couple needs to have a realistic look at the changes they will experience in their relationship and their lives. They would do well to research the change in focus that will occur, not only when their baby is born, but afterward as the child demands their care and their time. It is wise for them to consider that their`closeness and the time they spend together is going to change as another person enters their sphere.

When their child is born, providing all is well with mother and baby, drastic alterations take place in the couple’s day-to-day routine and in the loving connection between the parents. The balance is upset as the baby requires constant attention, usually provided by its mother for the most part, especially if she is breastfeeding. It can happen that the father feels neglected and left out . Sleep becomes a huge issue as it is interrupted on a regular basis and, when that happens, tempers can get short because of exhaustion. Fatigue and hormone changes also affect the libido. As a result, sexual intimacy declines and a couple can find themselves growing apart. They find they have much less time to be together even to talk. Why, then, would they jeopardize the precious moments they have when their children are in bed in order to share their bed and their room – their special time together?

Couples who opt for “co-sleeping” or bed-sharing, believe that they’ll get more sleep if the baby is in bed with them. The breastfeeding mom doesn’t have to get out of bed to feed and she and the child can drop back to sleep soon afterward. The other parent is wakened but goes back to sleep again. For many parents, this works well for the first few weeks, but they place their baby in his own bed or room shortly after. Other parents continue to share their bed as the months pass and often end up with toddlers and older children in bed with them. It’s common for the dad to move to a child’s bed or the spare room in order to get a good night’s sleep.

The focus is necessarily on the newborn at first. If this continues without the parents touching base regularly and sharing their feelings, the opportunity to shift gears to consider their relationship begins to decline. Yes, the baby’s needs must be met, but what about the needs of the father for attention and affection? If he backs off, feeling disregarded, the mother might feel abandoned, setting the stage for arguments or coldness.

How important is it for parents to have their own space, their own bedroom and, above all, their own bed? If their bedroom is shared by their baby, their toddlers and/or their older kids, when do they have the chance to resume their lovemaking? Reports of couples sneaking into the broom closet or locking the bathroom door for a “quickie” are rampant in families who co-sleep with their kids. The opportunity to sleep together and enjoy the sensation of body closeness that leads to cuddling and growing arousal is missing when there is no privacy or space to be alone.

As the children grow older, a marital relationship that is based primarily on parenting and hardly at all on the bonding of the parents starts to grind and lose its magic. Out of the hours of the day that a couple is together, very few, if any, are devoted to their connection as loving partners. A family bed situation reduces those hours even more.

If a marriage is devoid of sex and intimacy, and with the fatigue associated with combining parenting and working, household demands, financial stress, and lack of time together, it can be possible that one partner will seek fulfillment elsewhere. Infidelity would spell the end of the relationship altogether.

Why risk the danger of having your lover become like a business partner or your parenting partner just because you become parents and decide to restrict your together time? Why not place your baby in her own crib in her own room? Why not insist that your older kids sleep in their own bedrooms, strictly enforcing that they stay in their own beds all night? Why not keep your room and your bed your private space?

When you consider the risks to marriage produced by co-sleeping and the family bed, it seems to me to be a no-brainer.

I feel very strongly that a couple must retain their privacy, their bed and their bedroom to regain as much as possible the intimacy and mutual affection that bonded them to begin with.

Would marriage breakdown statistics change for the better?

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