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 note 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.. 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 pair of twin beds, usually with a nightstand in between just so we didn't imagine them ever pushing the beds together when we weren't watching. Exactly whereall those TV kids came from wasnot 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 note MAD came up with an alternative theory in which the couple somehow managed to impregnate the nightstand.
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.
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Anime & Manga
Serial Experiments Lain: 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 literalNo Hugging, No Kissing relationship, where they never go beyond holding hands, at least onscreen, anyway. Obviously they go farther than that, since Nagisa eventually gets pregnant. In fact it's outright mentioned in conversation that they've slept together. But other than that Nagisa and Tomoya's relationship is distinctly portrayed as physically chaste.
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 and puts a gigantic hole in said wall with a hammer.
Fight! 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.
In Eureka 7, the first time we see Holland's room, Talho is sleeping naked in his bed...while he sleeps on his couch. She's pregnant about thirty episodes later, so clearly they worked it out at some point.
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.
And later, beds being restricted to a maximum width to try protecting the Status Quo.
Played for laughs in Little Shop of Horrors where it crops up in Audrey's sitcom-inspired fantasies about married life.
Zig-zagged in Snow White where though the Dwarves sleep in separate (named) beds, Snow white, apparently, pushes several together to sleep upon. thereby making one bed.
The father Lalit and his wife start Monsoon Wedding like this, but eventually they wind up curled up together in one of the twin beds just holding one another.
The couple in Seconds is having single beds which underpins their loveless marriage.
In Wild Orchids, a 1929 silent film made before the Sleeping Single trope was enforced, this is a plot point. John Sterling is aghast when presented with a double bed, and is relieved to find out that he and his wife will be sleeping in separate rooms. This underscores the lack of any sex in the Sterling marriage, which is driving his wife into the arms of another man.
I Love Lucy is infamous for this, although the twin 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".
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.
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.
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 bacyk 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. (When fans asked how and when, Steven Moffat and Neil Gaimanboth tweeted — accidentally at the same time, and completely by coincidence — "on the ladder".)
Francis and Elizabeth Urquhart in the House of Cards trilogy. They seemed to have a very open marriage.
For a single episode of King of Queens the couple sleep in separate twin beds. A delivery mistake brought them twin beds instead of a new king-size and they are told it will take time to fix and ship out the replacement bed. They grow to like the separate beds (she can read late and he can eat in bed without disturbing each other) and consider keeping them while their friends and family become increasingly worried that their marriage is in trouble. In the end, they decide they miss sleeping in the same bed and send for the replacement bed.
Played with on Father Ted - Ted and Dougal have twin beds in the same room, again for no evident reason other than Rule of Funny.
The Twilight Zone has an episode where a grandmother dies and convinces her grandson to commit suicide to join her in the afterlife...what's really important though is that the parents sleep in single beds.
Niles: I don't mind telling you we pushed our beds together that night! And that's no small task, her bed, as you know, is across the hall.
In the Imager's Portfolio series by 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. This rule only applies to the literal act of sleeping, as several married Imagers (Including the main characters in both subseries) are shown to have children.
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? (Of course, nowadays there are beds with adjustable hardnesses on each side, but still.)
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 separate bedrooms in the mansion, though in the standalone universe of the Marvel RPG's, it's unknown how long they've been a couple.
Mars' grandparents in Shining Wisdom sleep in separate beds, more importantly however is that they sleep in the kitchen to allow Mars the whole upstairs as his bedroom.
George and Shannon slept in separate rooms during a date before the events of the series, to Jessica's disappointment. If they had slept in the same room, nothing in the series would most likely never had happened since Shannon/Yasu's secret would have gotten out because George would have seen Shannon/Yasu's mutilated crotch (which may include that Yasu is in reality a guy).
Deconstructed in this Cracked.com article, which argues that couples who sleep separately tend to be happier.
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 (Peter calls them "Lucy and Ricky 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.
One episode has Fred and Barney sharing a double bed. Barney mentions that he is having trouble sleeping because he and Betty sleep in twin beds. A giant ax later splits the bed, making Barney much happier.
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 girl's. 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 beds pushed together. Hank pulls his away in one episode because he can't stand the smell of Peggy's hair.
Hank later explains to Bobby that they have it that way because Peggy likes her mattress firm and he likes his extra firm.
It's notunheardof for happily married couples to sleep in separate beds or even separate rooms if their sleep habits aren't compatible or if there are medical circumstances (back problems, allergies or breathing problems, for example.) This doesn't mean they don't enjoy "together time" when the mood strikes.
Also, studies show that those who have certain sleeping habits (like snoring) or health problems are better off sleeping in different beds, and this shows that accommodating those needs improve a relationship. These studies are usually the reason for married pairs to sleep in different beds; before, different beds were considered to be wholesome and chaste, and the idea of "snuggling" was considered to be vulgar.
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.
Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton have adjoining HOUSES.
Medical orthodoxy in the late 19th century was that sharing beds was unhygienic (because one lay in another person's sweat and exhaled water vapour), meaning it was highly probable that many happily married couples slept like this (of course many families couldn't afford more than one bed for the whole family, so it wasn't universal).
Certain Jewish traditions surrounding the Niddah, or a woman's menstrual cycle, stipulate that she sleep in a separate bed from her husband during and for several days after her cycle. Many modern Orthodox couples set this up by giving her a separate bedroom for this time.