Sleeping Single

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"I don't mind telling you, we pushed our beds together that night! And that was no mean feat; her room, as you know, is across the hall."
Niles Crane, Frasier

It's important to remember that the early days of TV were a more innocent era, and as vocal as Media Watchdogs are today, there was a time when it was feared that it might be inappropriate to show a toilet on television.[1] As a result, it took until the early 1960s before married couples were depicted as sharing a bed. Before then, they were consigned to a Bert-and-Ernie style pair of twin beds, generally with a nightstand between the two just so we didn't imagine them ever pushing them together when we weren't watching. Exactly where all those TV kids came from was not a question you were supposed to ask. Even the reason for asking the question showed how depraved you were. Clearly, the stork was very real in those days.

The first live-action TV couple to share a bed on television, who were not already married in real life, were Darrin and Samantha Stephens on Bewitched, in the October 22, 1964 episode "Little Pitchers Have Big Fears". Mary Kay and Johnny, a Sitcom featuring real-life married couple Johnny and Mary Kay Stearns, put its stars in bed together as early as 1947, due to the trope not having been formed yet. And early episodes of I Love Lucy showed Lucy and Ricky in twin beds that were pushed together like a double. By the early '70s, the trope had been discarded entirely on such series as The Brady Bunch and The Bob Newhart Show.

While mostly a Dead Horse Trope now, it might crop up from time to time in parody. A reversal of this trope occurs when the characters aren't in a romantic relationship, but There Is Only One Bed. Nowadays if a couple is depicted as doing this it represents that they have a very distant or antagonistic relationship. Not related to Exiled to the Couch.

Examples of Sleeping Single include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • While we never see them sleeping, Lain's parents have separate beds. This comes off as rather strange given how oddly physical they seem together around the house. It serves as one of the first clues that something is wrong with Lain's family structure.
  • Rare modern (2009) example : In Clannad After Story, Nagisa and Tomoya sleep on different futons. After getting married. Because placing two futons together is really hard to do. Though maybe this isn't as surprising considering they have a literal No Hugging, No Kissing relationship (Well, they hug ONCE, but it was a "Glad to see you" hug. Still no kissing.), where they never go beyond holding hands. How the hell did they have a daughter? A Wizard Did It? A Stork did it?
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, one of the girl's that Onizuka helps is upset that her family has become distant since acquiring money. She compares the distance to the wall that exists between her two parents rooms (and beds). Onizuka takes the literal approach at solving the problem.
  • Seen in the epilogue of CLAMP's Man of Many Faces, in spite of some previous knot-tying. This is likely related to the manga's "All Ages" rating (in the US).
  • Iczer One an anime from the late 1980s provides an extremely unusual example. Nagase's parents seem to have separate beds. This is a pretty hardcore Yuri anime we are talking about.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The movie Pleasantville, largely set inside the world of a fictional '50s sitcom, makes explicit reference to this trope. One of the signs that the show's world is changing is that larger beds are for sale.
  • Classic 1955 Alfred Hitchcock movie The Trouble with Harry included a then-racy comment that a couple would need a double bed, which caused the heroine (played by Shirley MacLaine) to have a major blush-attack.
  • Examined and parodied in Alien Trespass, where one couple does have separate beds, but share one for a romantic interlude.
  • The Thin Man, which is from the 30s, though they get much crap past the radar in dialogue anyway.
    • And there was that one night on the train...
  • A Christmas Story shows Ralphie's parents with the twin bed setup as he cleverly hides the BB gun advert in his mother's magazine.
  • A strange example in Giant. Bick and Leslie do this later in their marriage, even though they started by sleeping in the same bed and are still Happily Married.
  • Used to contrast the protagonist's two marriages in The Captains Paradise.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • I Love Lucy is infamous for this, however the twins beds were actually pushed together throughout the entire first season. After Ricky and Lucy had a child, the network had a nightstand put between them to "diminish the impact of the suggested sexual history".
    • Strangely, while they couldn't get away with showing Lucy and Ricky in the same bed, they could get away with showing Ricky spanking Lucy, and seemed to treat it as a normal part of a relationship. Truly, those were different times.
    • It was actually averted a couple of times. In one strange instance, Fred says that Ethel woke him by not being there "because there was no one poking him in the ribs and telling him to roll over" which pretty much means they needed to be in the same bed. While shortly afterwards in the same episode they are shown sleeping in twin beds.
    • In another episode, both Fred and Ethel and Lucy and Ricky are briefly depicted as sharing a double bed in a motel that they stop at on their way to Hollywood. However, neither couple actually gets to sleep because a train keeps going by and moving the bed across the floor.
  • While technically holding to this trope, Rob and Laura Petrie of The Dick Van Dyke Show were arguably the first TV couple to be shown having an obviously dynamic and energetic romantic relationship, due to the fantastic chemistry between stars Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.
    • This also goes for Gomez and Morticia Addams of The Addams Family ("Tish! That's French!"), who subverted the trope constantly.
    • Likewise Herman and Lilly of The Munsters, who were actually shown in bed together a few weeks after the Bewitched episode mentioned in the page intro. This may or may not have been hand waved by them being 'weird'.
  • In the Chained Heat episode of Hey Dude, the handcuffed Ted and Brad spend an uncomfortable night in bunk beds when you would think a double-bed would be the best choice. The best choice anywhere but TV land.
    • Justified in that, the setting being a dude ranch, the bunk beds may be all that's available to the staff (aside from two sleeping bags on the floor).
  • On Fawlty Towers, Basil and Sybil did this, although by then they could have easily shared a bed. They just hate each other.
  • Ned and Chuck from Pushing Daisies have to sleep in twin beds, as Chuck would die by touching Ned, but it also helps with the general retro feel of the show. Later on they put the beds together separated by a plastic sheet, with an inserted arm-glove for hugging.
  • Lampooned in the Roseanne episode "The Fifties Show", which satirizes various old sitcoms.

Dan: What do you say tonight we push our twin beds together and...?
Roseanne: Stop, the kids will hear you!

  • One episode of Keeping Up Appearances had Hyacinth get a flat in a former big country house as a holiday home. Although they slept in the same bed at home, in the flat they had twin beds; Hyacinth implied they're now too old to be getting up to anything which would require a double.
  • In a Married... with Children episode Al makes separate beds, because he hates sharing the bed with Peggy.
  • In perhaps a parody of this trope, Bree and Orson are shown in a hotel room with twin beds in one episode of Desperate Housewives, despite the fact that they're there on their honeymoon.
  • On Seinfeld, Frank and Estelle Costanza have separate beds. But as Frank explains, it's because Estelle has the "jimmy arms" and this was the only way either of them would get any sleep.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lily tried this. It didn't last.
  • Done as a throwaway gag on Scrubs. Eliot's WASP-ish, emotionally distant father comes to visit, and says that her mother is having the bedroom redecorated...but he's keeping his the same.
  • In Doctor Who Rory and Amy have been unwillingly doing this, as after the TARDIS shenanigans result in their bedroom being deleted, they tell the Doctor that when he puts it back in, leave out the bunk bed.

The Doctor: But bunk beds are cool! It's a bed with a ladder!

    • They may have just been using one of the beds together, and wanted a single large bed for greater comfort. After all, Amy and Rory still managed to conceive a child while in the TARDIS.[2]


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the Imager's Portfolio series my L.E. Modesitt Jr, all married imagers are required to have separate quarters from their spouses. This is because Imagers sometimes Image in their sleep, which could be dangerous for anyone else in the room.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The All American Rejects music video to "Give You Hell" uses this trope.


Oral Tradition[edit | hide]

  • This is implied in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"—how else could Papa Bear's bed be too hard, but Mama Bear's too soft? (Perhaps they have different tolerances for the stiffness of the bed?)
    • Naturally - just like many couples have the man sleeping in a bed that is too warm but the woman sleeping in a bed that is too cold (or vise versa), but it's the same bed.


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • Strangely enough, this shows up in a few Harvest Moon games. Almost all the games require you to get a "Big Bed" to get married. For you and your spouse, right? No—for your spouse and your child. You still sleep in your own tiny bed. While it's pressed close the others, it's still separate. Where does the kid come from, then? (Other games avert this, however.)
    • In at least one, you need a new bed which is a crib for the child, and you and your wife just share the single bed you start with. Guess you're both pretty sedate sleepers.
  • In X-Men Legends, Cyclops and Jean Grey have seperate bedrooms in the mansion, though in the standalone universe of the Marvel RPG's, it's unknown how long they've been a couple.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Natsuhi and Krauss have separate bedrooms, and it's heavily implied they have a Sexless Marriage.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Critic: Jay's adoptive parents sleep this way. In one episode, when Franklin Sherman is feeling a bit frisky, his wife says, all right, as long as he goes to her. When the light kicks on, we see a no-man's-land with barbed wire and doberman pinschers between the beds.
  • Family Guy: When Peter is lost at sea, and Brian marries Lois to keep the family together, they sleep in separate twin beds, despite Brian's nightly effort to convince Lois to have sex with him. (Keep in mind, Brian is the dog.)
    • In another episode, Peter and Lois start sleeping in separate beds after Peter rolls over and suffocates her one times too many. However, Peter asks Quagmire to sleep with him just so he wouldn't feel lonely, which is totally not gay by the way.
  • One of the first clues that Luann and Kirk Van Houten on The Simpsons might have a troubled marriage was Kirk's proposal to "push the twin beds together" after he procured a sex tonic. Later seasons saw them get divorced, though as of present they're back together.
  • The Flintstones are generally acknowledged to be the first animated couple to share a bed, but earlier seasons did have Fred and Wilma in separate beds.
  • In Moral Orel, not only do Orel's parents have separate beds, but there is a privacy screen between them.
    • Doughy's parents have separate rooms, though this is more because they're mentally still teenagers-Kim's bedroom, which we do see, is still decorated like a high school girls. It should also be noted, this has no bearing on their sex lives.
  • In one episode of Hey Arnold!, Arnold's grandparents are shown to have separate beds.
  • On Ed, Edd, n' Eddy, Edd's parents' bedroom ("please leave or I'll have to call an attorney!") is arranged like this. No wonder the kid's so uptight.
  • In King of the Hill Dale and Nancy sleep in separate beds while she was having an affair.
    • Hank and Peggy's bed is actually two bed pushed together. They pull them apart in one episode cause Hank can't stand the smell of Peggy's hair.
      • Hank later explains to Bobby that they have it that way cause Peggy likes her mattress firm and he likes his extra firm.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Deconstructed in this Cracked.com article, which argues that couples who sleep separately tend to be happier.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • It's not unheard of for happily married couples to sleep in separate beds or even separate rooms if their sleep habits aren't compatible.
  • Heck, in some places the husband and the wife don't even share a room! (Most commonly with kings, who had to worry about things like assassination attempts. The Emperor of China eventually took to having his concubines stripped naked and wrapped up in a blanket to be delivered to his chambers for pleasure.)
  • This couple decided to live in separate houses while happily married due to already having two places that sufficiently contains all their stuff but they'd have to get a bigger, more expensive place if they didn't keep both homes. Appears to work pretty well for them.
  1. Leave It to Beaver was the first show to do such, and even then, they were permitted to show only the tank, not the bowl -- and it wasn't until All in The Family that we actually heard one flush, with Married... with Children including a Shout-Out.
  2. On a ladder, according to Steven Moffat and Neil Gaiman's accidental canon.