Why Do I Feel Like a Roommate in My Marriage?

Dear Reader,

Thank you for reaching out to ask this crucial and relatable question about feeling like a roommate in your marriage.

You are not alone if you feel more like a roommate in your marriage than an intimate partner. You and your spouse are busy, and so are your kids, pets, friends, and extended family. Many important people in your life are worthy of your time and energy, not to mention all the people asking for your attention who are not worthy (think telemarketing calls you pick up because you think it might be a work call).

Why Do I Feel Like a Roommate in My Marriage?

Relationships usually move to the back burner because other commitments seem more timely or urgent, and we have a comforting sense of security that our spouse will always be there for us. One of the best benefits of a life-long partnership is precisely that. However, we can forget to nurture a marriage or long-term relationship because it might seem so solid that it doesn’t need attention as much as other areas of our lives.

This reminds me of a plant I have in my office. It’s a very special plant to me because a dear friend sent it to me when my Dad died. I love this philodendron very very much. Many people don’t have the extraordinary privilege of having a wonderful father, but I did, and I do. My relationship with him keeps growing even after he’s passed when I hear his voice reminding me what’s important and what my purpose is in this short time I have on earth to make a difference. That’s why I keep it in my office, the place where I do my best to try to build more love in the world.

Yesterday I looked up and saw all the leaves were curved and droopy. I watered it right away, and thirty minutes later, I checked back in on it, and it looked exactly the same (can you tell I like instant gratification?). Today it’s still quite sad 🙁 I know I have to figure out what it needs. I’ll ask a colleague … maybe more soil or fertilizer or heck, I’ll even sing to it if I think it will help.

My point is that I didn’t neglect this plant because it stopped being important or valuable. I forgot to water it because I was distracted by other things. Couples often feel their partner no longer sees them as a priority, but often times that it’s not that at all. The priority is high, the love is strong, and the intention is there. But taking action is vital when you see evidence that something valuable to you is suffering.

What Is the Roommate Stage in Marriage?

I frequently get asked questions about the “roommate stage in marriage.” This concerns me a bit, because roommate syndrome is a symptom that your relationship needs a little TLC, it’s not a normal stage that all relationships experience.

The term “roommate stage” implies that it is a temporary and predictable portion of your relationship that will naturally progress to a different stage, similar to the better understood and researched “honeymoon phase,” which is predictable and temporary.

The challenge here is to neither over-react nor under-react to the symptoms outlined below. If you think it’s a normal phase of all relationships, you might not make the small changes that will bring you closer, and if you are afraid that it is catastrophic, you might leave an otherwise healthy relationship.

How to Get out of the Roommate Phase in Marriage

Identify the problem areas.

One of the first steps to finding a solution to feeling like a roommate and getting out of the roommate phase in your marriage is to identify which areas are lacking. You, or your partner, or both have forgotten to water some aspect of your relationship. Perhaps you need to try something new or revitalize an activity that you used to enjoy but has slid out of your regular routine.

Difficult conversations can be tricky, but exploring and voicing your personal concerns with one another is beneficial. Take some time individually or together to determine unmet needs and how this could contribute to the current relationship dynamic. HERE is a fun packet of printable worksheets for you to assess your relationship and springboard meaningful conversations. Try to approach any problem areas without assuming the worst. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they are a bit distracted, and be patient with yourself as well as you work to re-prioritize your marriage.

It’s Not Too Late to Move From Roommates to Romantic Partners Again

Once you identify your problem areas regarding why you feel like a roommate in your marriage, talk to your partner about it. First, decide where you want to start, and remember to avoid criticism and blame in this conversation. Instead, embrace a spirit of generosity and hopefulness. It is always better to focus on solutions than problems. No one wants to feel like a roommate in their marriage, so there is no benefit in arguing about HOW this happened, but rather how to TURN THE SHIP AROUND.

Here are some ideas depending on what you and your partner determine to be the problem.

  1. If you are not having enough fun together, consider downloading this date night planner to ensure you are carving out time for new activities. The planner, 52 Dates in 52 Weeks, provides a long list of date night ideas and then a fun game for you and your partner to rank your ideas and schedule your dates.
  2. If you are not feeling understood, HERE is a free mini course, Empathy Made Easy, for you to learn how to support each other when you are upset or stressed.
  3. If you are struggling with intimacy, take this intimacy assessment quiz to learn about your preferred intimacy love language.

Other Ways I Can Help

I have written two books that might help you bring your relationship to the next level; especially if you are afraid you are going through roommate stage in your relationship or marriage.

Check out my communication workbook on Amazon. It is an interactive book full of over 70 exercises to do with your partner. Each of you complete quizzes and then share your answers. It’s designed to be light and fun.

Love Is an Action Verb: Couples Therapy Workbook

If you partner is not interested, I have also written a self-help book that you can read on your own to work on your 50% of living your best relationship.

Love Is an Action Verb: Stop Wasting Time and Delight in Your Relationship

Congratulations on Your Commitment to a Happy Healthy Long-Term Relationship 🙂

Tags: How to stop feeling like roommates with your spouse. My wife feels like a roommate. How to be happy in a roommate marriage. How to get out of the roommate phase. What is a roommate marriage?


Laura Silverstein, LCSW

Laura Silverstein is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist, and author of Love Is An Action Verb.  She has thirty years of clinical experience and is the founder and co-owner of Main Line Counseling Partners, based in Bryn Mawr, PA. Laura is a frequent contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog and has appeared as a relationship expert in media outlets such as the New York Times, ABC, and Today. She helps couples find more happiness as a research clinician, speaker, trainer, and writer with a positive, action-oriented style.

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