Not all marriages are happy and fruitful. Some go through a lot of ups and downs where spouses lose hope. They adjust and settle without trying to revive their married life. Roommate marriage is also known as “roommate syndrome.” It is an indirect arrangement between partners where romantic love, intimacy, and affection have faded. It’s a situation where the husband and wife feel like roommates in a marriage. Many couples go through this. They live under the same roof and share domestic responsibilities but without a traditional romantic or sexual relationship.
To find out more about husband and wife living like roommates, we reached out to Ridhi Golechha (M.A. Psychology), who specializes in counseling for loveless marriages, breakups, and other relationship issues. She says, “The roommate phase of marriage is when both partners get extremely comfortable in each other’s presence and start taking their union for granted. It’s one of the marital crises where passion, excitement, and thrill are tossed out of the window. You are basically married but roommates with your spouse.”
What Is The Roommate Phase Of A Marriage?
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When you are in the honeymoon phase of your marriage, you never think that your love will grow feeble. Then, bam! All of a sudden, you and your partner are living separate lives under one roof. You don’t realize when this phase begins, but if not taken care of at the earliest, you will lose your partner emotionally, physically, and intellectually. In simple words, romance will die, and you will start to live together as platonic friends.
Friendship in marriage is one of the most beautiful things ever. Your friends may even think that you’re relationship goals. However, it’s worrisome when there is no passion, heartfelt communication, or sexual energy between partners. You are more like flatmates or roommates than spouses. You won’t perceive your partner as special anymore.
8 Signs Of A Roommate Marriage
Feeling like the two of you are married roommates is a serious problem. Here are some signs you and your partner have lost your relationship vision and are stuck in a significant marital problem:
1. You barely have sex anymore
According to Newsweek, 15 to 20% of married couples are in sexless marriages. If you and your partner are one of those couples, then there are chances you are headed toward roommate syndrome. Ridhi shares, “When was the last time you and your partner got hot and heavy with one another? A marriage will fail if neither of the partners initiates physical intimacy.”
Sex is good for marriage. The connection becomes stronger if you are regularly intimate with your partner. Even research backs this theory. Married couples who regularly engage in sexual intercourse have higher levels of marital satisfaction than those who seldom indulge in sexual intimacy.
2. Your marriage has become a chore
Does this describe your marriage?
- Wake up
- Make breakfast
- Drop your children at school
- Come back home
- Live separate lives
- Have different social lives
- You are always busy
- Have dinner together maybe
- Touch base for a bit
- You care for one another, but there’s no expression of it
- You plan logistics for the next day or coming week
- No intimate physical touch
- Go to sleep
If this is your routine, it’s one of the signs of a roommate marriage. Even when the two of you are with each other, you will be on your phones playing video games or scrolling social media.
A marriage should never feel like a burden. It should also not feel like a mindless task, like doing the dishes or the laundry. Ideally, you are with your partner because there is a special connection with them. You feel happy in their presence and you look forward to spending time with them. When couples find themselves stuck in an unhappy marriage, that’s one of the signs of platonic roommate marriages.
3. Conflicts are swept under the rug
Fighting in a marriage is normal. You live with someone who has different views and perspectives. Conflicts and miscommunications are bound to arise. However, when two individuals in a marital union consciously ignore these disagreements because they don’t want to build any sort of intimacy with their partner, it’s a sign their marriage doesn’t matter to either of them.
Research has found that conflicts are necessary and valuable for the evolution of a marriage. They help couples learn from each other and improve their relationships. When you aren’t fighting to save your relationship, you and your spouse act like you are on the same page to avoid talking to each other and sorting things out. This is an alarming sign and a sad truth that your marriage could head toward divorce.
Related Reading: 9 Stages Of A Dying Marriage
4. There’s no emotional intimacy
Ridhi says, “If physical intimacy is the backbone of every marriage, then emotional intimacy is what ties it together tightly. When the two of you share things emotionally and talk about your feelings, you build a safe environment for each other. Both of you feel secure in unlayering yourself. An element of trust is fostered.”
When you aren’t that emotionally attached to your partner as you were earlier, it can create differences. It is one of the signs you are living together, and are just roommates and not a married couple. You may even want to seek this intimacy from someone else. This can lead to emotional, physical, and even financial infidelity as well. You could end up breaking your partner’s trust or vice-versa. It’s almost impossible to revive a marriage that has been a victim of betrayal.
5. You don’t use each other’s love languages anymore
There are five types of love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Quality time
- Physical touch
All these are important in a marriage because they help couples understand and communicate their emotional needs and desires to each other in a way that is more meaningful and effective. It helps to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts in a marriage by helping partners connect on a deeper level. If you and your spouse have stopped going on date nights and don’t appreciate each other with sweet compliments and gifts, you are more like roommates than spouses. The spark has left your marriage.
6. You often chew away anger
If you are often angry with your partner but refuse to let it out, it’s a sign that you feel like there is no point in communicating your worries and concerns. You are exhausted and start to think that it’s normal in a relationship for love to fade away after a while. It’s not normal – Love can change forms, but shouldn’t die down.
The more you swallow your anger, the more harmful it is for your relationship. Ridhi shares, “You feel angry with your partner about how they hurt you. You want to yell and scream at them. But you know how to control anger in a relationship. Hence, you chew away at the anger because you don’t want to resolve problems. You would rather live with them with resentment and hostility than sit down in your free time and talk gently about what’s bothering you.”
7. You aren’t each other’s priority anymore
When you are married but roommates, you won’t really care about each other’s physical and emotional needs. They won’t be your priority anymore. You and your partner would rather spend the night hanging out with your friends than go on dinner dates and spend quality time together.
Some other signs that you and your partner aren’t each other’s priority include:
- You make decisions without notifying one another
- You spend too much time at work or taking care of the kids or your friends
- You both don’t mind disappointing each other
- You don’t sort out your differences
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Fight Respectfully With Your Spouse
8. You have a crush on someone else
This is an alarming sign for many couples that their marriage is in danger. You don’t find your spouse attractive anymore and you feel attracted to someone else. You’ve realized your connection is fading but you are not doing anything about it because you have fallen out of love with them and want to start something new with your crush.
Ridhi shares, “One of the biggest signs of a roommate marriage is when you have a crush on someone and you want to act on your feelings. Crushes happen even when you are happily married. The entire case rests in your hands. Will you ignore this, talk about this in a healthy (or even fun) way with your spouse, or do you want to hurt your spouse by cheating on your partner? Act wisely. If you feel like something is missing in your marriage, fix it right away instead of letting the matter rot.”
How Can You Fix Your Roommate Stage Of Marriage?
When you are living like married roommates, it can get difficult to feel good about yourself. You feel unloved and unappreciated. That’s why it is crucial you and your partner try to fix this problem using the below steps:
1. Allocate time to talk to your partner
Ridhi says, “This is the first thing you need to do when you feel like there is something lacking in your marriage or if you feel like you are in a broken marriage. Have conversations with each other. Don’t just look for free time. ‘Make’ time, so you and your significant other can talk and find out where things are going wrong and how you can revive the marriage.”
2. For some time, prioritize your marriage over other areas of your life
Your friends can wait for a while until you find a way to balance your friendships and relationship. Your video games can definitely wait. You can’t let your marriage remain stagnant or let yourself destroy your bond. Shift your priorities right away. Don’t bring work home. Don’t use kids as an excuse to avoid spending time with your partner. Everything can be put on hold for the sake of the person you fell for and married. Connect with your partner emotionally and see how things turn out.
3. Spice things up in the bedroom
Research has found that sexual behavior is an important way for partners to communicate and interact. Having regular sex can foster an intimate connection between couples. Try to experiment in bed. Here are some ways you can redefine physical intimacy:
- Try new positions in bed
- Use toys and other accessories
- Confess to each other your sexual fantasies
- Don’t directly jump to the act. Try to set the mood by touching each other and prolonging foreplay
- Give each other positive feedback: “I love when you do this”
- State your boundaries and make a note of theirs
- Appreciate each other’s physicality openly
4. Be spontaneous
As you spend more and more time with your spouse, there are chances you may start taking each other for granted. The small things you used to do to surprise one another have taken a hit. You still have time to increase excitement and intensity in your marriage by reestablishing your connection by indulging in spontaneous activities like these:
- Plan a surprise trip
- Try something new. For example, a new cuisine or a new couple game
- Get out of your household routine and shake things up a little
- Start working out or meditating together
- Dress up and go on date nights
- Call in sick at work as you snuggle the whole day in bed and watch your favorite shows
5. Practice the 5 As
The five As include:
Accept your partner for who they are, appreciate their good qualities, acknowledge everything that they do for you, give your undivided attention, and allow them to be as they are. Don’t force them to change their ways, because that’s controlling behavior.
Ridhi adds, “When you show appreciation, it warms your lover’s heart. It makes them love you even more. Show appreciation at least once a day and make your partner feel like they have lucked out with a spouse like you.”
6. Know your partner’s love languages
Finding out your partner’s love language will help you understand the expectations they have from you. If they love homemade food and their love language is ‘acts of service,’ then you cook for them once in a while. If they like to be surprised with gifts, then gift-giving is the way to their heart.
Related Reading: 11 Expert Tips To Have A Successful Second Marriage
How To Be Happy In A Roommate Marriage
Roommate marriage divorces are a real thing. A Quora user shares their experience, “We ultimately got divorced. It was all very amicable. I gave it some time — more than enough time. I clearly communicated the issues, and I was very reasonable about what I needed from my ex-husband. However, it eventually became clear that he couldn’t give me what I needed to make the marriage workable.”
If you don’t want to have a roommate marriage divorce, try to at least be happy in one and increase the love using the following steps:
- Show gratitude: If you are feeling like roommates in a marriage, try to show active gratitude every day about the little things. It makes them trust you even more
- Start a common hobby together: “Develop a common hobby. You can try to paint together. You can also read a book and talk about it as a way to bridge your evident lack of communication,” says Ridhi
- Be more present: When they are talking to you, be a good listener. Remember the tiny details they shared with you the previous day. For example, if they shared a work-related concern with you, ask them the next day if that problem is sorted. Show them how much you value their well-being
- Snuggle with your partner: Ridhi says, “Cuddling releases oxytocin. It’s a love hormone which will be helpful in creating the missing spark in your marriage”
- Prioritize self-care: Taking care of yourself is important for maintaining happiness in your marriage. Make time for yourself to engage in the activities you enjoy. Take some alone time if that’s what keeps you sane
- Seek professional help: If you’re struggling to maintain happiness in your platonic roommate marriage, don’t be afraid to try marriage counseling. If you’re looking for professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is only a click away
- Married roommates are those couples whose romantic or sexual relationship has evolved into a more platonic and a monotonous one
- There won’t be any type of intimacy between them even if they care for one another
- Revive the marriage by being spontaneous, discussing your conflicts, indulging in love languages, and connecting with one another on a deeper level
Married roommates need to acknowledge the problem first if they want to fix it. Go on date nights and talk about this issue exclusively. Reconnect with each other emotionally and the roommate-like dynamics will soon fade away.
Yes. Married roommates are born when love fades and when they have no intention of bringing it back to life. They decide to live together as roommates for reliable companionship, for the sake of their history and care for one another, financial or other practical reasons like kids, or because of the stigma around divorce. However, they might still maintain a close, committed relationship
Meeting someone you fall in love with is destiny. Getting married to them is a choice. What happens after you get married depends on how you both tackle conflicts, manage expectations, and show affection on a daily basis.
You try to find the root of the problem and act on it as soon as you can. Have conversations with your partner. Build emotional intimacy. Have sex often, if you can, but that will happen only after you build upon your emotional connection. Take a vacation. And you can also surprise each other with gifts.