Are you roommates?
Every great marriage is rooted in a deep friendship, but what happens when you and your partner suddenly realise that you’re living as roommates instead of a married couple?
“Anton and I were always the best of friends. We could talk about anything under the sun for hours and we loved having a good conversation over a bottle of red wine. I used to think this was one of our marriage’s strengths, until I was watching a TV episode about roommates and realised that Anton and I were exactly the same as the roommates! The problem was that they shared an apartment and not much else,” says Danielle about her marriage.
“To my shock and dismay, I realised that I had been so focused on our friendship that our relationship was faltering. The romance and passion was gone – it was like it had somehow disappeared overnight.”
Danielle spoke to Anton about it and learned that the situation had been bothering him for quite some time, too. They decided they need to turn the situation around immediately and they were able to succesfully transform their roommate status back to one of husband and wife.
How does it happen?
Children arrive on the scene and bills pile up. So much time and energy gets dedicated to other responsibilities that intimacy falls to the wayside. Couples start taking their marriages for granted and believe that love will be enough to sustain the partnership in the long run. When this happens, partners stop really communicating with each other – they just tick the most important items off their to-do list. Sooner rather than later, they stop connecting emotionally.
Sometimes a marriage can seem so “normal” on the surface level that a couple thinks they’re in a good place because there’s no obvious drama or conflict. A rude awakening can happen when one (or both) partners wake up one morning and realise that they’re bored! According to Pepper Schwartz, a professor is sociology and psychology as well as author of Prime: Adventures and advice about sex, love and the sensual years, this can create a lot of distance between partners.
A couple in this situation can be the envy of their colleagues and friends because from the outside, it looks like a highly functional relationship. However, while the partners accept the responsibilities that go along with being married, they don’t get to experience any of the benefits. They don’t feel loved and the emotional intimacy is gone. So many couples start out as soul mates and best friends, only to turn into roommates who are consciously or subconsciously resentful towards each other.
How do you know you are moving into the danger zone?
- You use the kids as an excuse. There’s never any time for your husband because you have children and their needs and activities come first. You’re crumbling under all the kids’ responsibilities but you believe that you will be able to divert your attention back onto your husband again one day, probably when the kids have left the nest.
- You don’t spend time together anymore. Roommates don’t feel it’s necessary to spend quality time together because they see each other at home. This leads you to take turns babysitting so that you can attend your book club and so hubby can have a boys’ night out.
- You keep your hands to yourself. Roommates don’t touch each other. They don’t hug, kiss or hold hands. Maybe you feel like the kids are on top of you all day and you need a bit of personal space once they are in bed.
- You’ve forgotten how to flirt! There simply isn’t time for flirting. You don’t even laugh when he tells his old Dad Jokes… you’ve heard it so many times!
- You don’t sleep in the same bed. Maybe you’re sharing the bed with your little princess. Or your husband sleeps with Fido. Roommates don’t sleep together and regardless of the reason (he snores, it’s too hot), this forespells danger.
- You don’t make an effort. Due to all the abovementioned reasons, you’re not really in the mood for sex so you’ve decided your husband doesn’t need it, either. You wear your oldest sweatpants to bed and parade around in a green face mask in front of him.
- You keep your wallets to yourselves. Roommates don’t share money and you don’t want someone checking up on you when you want to splurge on that new bottle of perfume. Each of you has a separate bank account and credit card. For some couples, this financial strategy works well. For others, it creates a divide.
What do you do?
- Be realistic. You can have great sex again, but all nighters might be a bit unrealistic if your youngest pops into your bedroom three times a night and your husband has to give a big presentation the following morning.
- Schedule sex. Discuss your schedules and needs, then set time aside for sex. It might not be the hanging-from-the-chandeliers type of sex, but don’t stop doing it. Sex isn’t optional.
- Create intimacy. Save information to share with your partner exclusively. Marriage is about the union between a husband and wife. If one or both of you shares your most private thoughts and dreams with someone outside of the marriage, then the intimacy between the two of you isn’t being valued highly enough.
- Do something exciting. Don’t let boredom get you down. Take a cooking class or a surfing lesson together. Make sure there is at least one hobby that the both of you share. Embarking on a new adventure together will give you focus (and it’s good for your sex life!)
- Discuss things that matter. Forget about shallow conversations topics for a while (“How was your day?”, “Do you want a cup of coffee?”) and focus on having deeper conversations. Create a ritual for the two of you, such as taking a 20-minute walk together in the afternoons when you can chat. Ask each other a meaningful question during those 20 minutes, like: “If you had to pick one goal to achieve before you turn 60, what would it be?”
You can be the best of friends and super comfortable around each other, but what sets your marriage apart from the relationships you have with friends is the type of intimacy that is shared between two people who are married. Be conscious about these issues and make sure that your partner feels like more than just a roommate!