From Romance to Roommates…and Back Again!

“What happened to us. We use to talk all the time, have fun together, send each other love notes, and be up for anything. And now it’s like we’re just roommates!”

I hear this a lot in my counseling office. And if you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably said some of the same things, or at least thought them. How does this happen?


We all want to feel like we did early in our relationship. Those were times of great communication, good fun, and intense sex. But no one can keep up that intensity of relational focus, attention, and effort forever. Life starts to get in the way. There are jobs to focus on, kids to tend to, and a host of other things that demand attention.

Feeling like you’ve moved from romance to roommates is a common occurrence in marriage. Some of it is simply maturing and getting comfortable in your relationship, and some of it comes from trying to manage the ever increasing onslaught of responsibilities. So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve slipped into roommate status.

But no one wants to stay in roommate status forever. If left unaddressed, roommate status will slowly suck the life out of your marriage.

If you want to turn around the “just roommates” feel of your marriage, you need to start by understanding how you got there.


Remember when you first became interested in this person you now call your spouse? Though I don’t know you personally, I know that when you became interested in your spouse, two things happened:

  • You found yourself thinking about them more and more. They were increasingly on your mind. When you went to a new restaurant without them, you wondered if they would like it. You waited to seeing that new movie, because you didn’t want to see it without them. When out with friends, you found yourself wishing they were there too. They just began to occupy more and more of your thoughts.
  • You worked hard to win them. You began to do whatever you could to capture their attention and affection. You would go to movies that didn’t interest you. Talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. Take them to their favorite restaurant…even though it wasn’t your favorite. You did whatever you could to draw them to yourself.

In short, the more you thought about them, the more your affection for them grew. And the more you affection for them grew, the harder you worked to earn their attention and affection.

But then, the two of you said, “I do,” the honeymoon phase ended, and things gradually started to change. And here’s why:

  • When dating, you only had to be on your best behavior until the date was over. But now the date’s never over! You’re with each other all the time.
  • You start to see each other’s less than flattering side and their less than attractive habits.
  • You try to get each other to be like you remember, but this is met with bruised egos and defensiveness.

We start off working hard to earn the other’s attention and affection, but as the years pass, we shift to just expecting the other’s attention and affection. It’s this shift from earning to expecting that changes the marriage from romance to roommates.


If your marriage seems to be stuck in roommate status, are you destined to live the rest of your life quietly staring out the restaurant window and substituting one-word answers for conversation? No!

If you’re in a roommate marriage, it doesn’t have to be a terminal diagnosis.

To find your way back from roommates to romance, you have to reverse the process that got you there. You have to quit expecting attention and affection and instead, start earning it again. How?

Think about them throughout your day.

If you’ve been in roommate status for a while, you may not find daydreaming about your spouse that appealing, so start by thinking about when you were dating or first married. Think about the reasons you married them in the first place. Think about your favorite memories with them. Go back through old photos to jump start those thoughts.

You’ll be surprised how this simple exercise will begin to warm your heart toward your spouse and rekindle a desire for them.

Then, take it to the next level and do something with those thoughts.

Get back in the habit of working to win them.

Think about how hard you worked in the beginning to get them to be interested in you. If you want to be more than roommates, you have to take on that same mentality and work like you did when you were dating:

  • Show interest in the things that interest them.
  • Look them in the eyes and listen closely when they talk.
  • Find ways to have fun and laugh together.
  • Leave them sweet notes and texts.
  • Meet their needs, even if they’re not your needs.
  • Spend more of your free time together than separate.

You may be thinking, “It was easy to do these things early in our relationship, because we were so in love. But now those feeling aren’t there. Doing those things now would seem contrived and hypocritical.”

But, you’re just in a different stage of your relationship now. Before, your feelings drove your actions. Now your actions must drive your feelings. And eventually, your feelings will kick in and take a bigger roll in driving your actions. It’s a loop. Feelings fuel actions and actions fuel feelings.

This is how you get out of roommate status.


So, I know that In the beginning, romance seemed easy, but it’s actually because we put a lot of work into it. Then, we stop working and we gradually slide from romance to roommates. Moving back to romance will also take work. But the difference is…now we’re not working to get them. We’re working to keep them!

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve not always been the best at this. I’m highly driven by my emotions, and when those loving emotions aren’t there I tend to withdraw rather than move closer with loving actions. (Just ask my wife.) So as I write these words, I’m preaching to myself first and foremost. And now that I’ve put this out there in public, my wife will be watching to see if I step up my game.

So, here’s hoping we all keep finding our way back from roommates to romance, because we’re all in this together.

The List – Stop Spending Time Together

Some time ago, I spent a few days thinning out over 20 years of counseling files. As I went through each individual file, it was like a trip down memory lane. With each file, I could see their faces and remember their issues.

While doing this, I was struck by how many married couples I had worked with. I celebrated those couples who had turned things around and went on to have great marriages. But I also grieved over those marriages that ended in divorce.

Burdened by those marriages that ended in divorce, I began keeping a list of issues that contributed to those divorces. I discovered that, despite the uniqueness of each couple, there were some common and reoccurring issues that led to these divorces.  And with the exception of three or four “big” things,  most of the issues were smaller, more normal things that were left unattended for too long.

So, I compiled my notes into a list I called, “Ways to Lose Your Marriage” or just “The List” for short. And in the weeks to come, I’m going to be sharing this list with you. Each week, in no particular order, we will cover one way to lose your marriage.

So, here’s the first one.

One way to lose your marriage is to …


When we are dating, we try to spend as much time as possible together. Even if we have nothing to do or nothing to say, we still want to spend all the time we can together because we were in love.

But after we get married, and after the honeymoon time begins to wane, we gradually spend less and less time together. We get busy building a home, building a career, and building a family, and we forget to keep building our marriage. Then, one day, we wonder why we’re not as close as we use to be. The spark seems to have evaporated. The relationship is more routine…more business-like. It’s not like it used to be.

So as time goes on, you begin to drift apart. Oh, you’re still raising kids, paying the mortgage, cleaning the house, and mowing the yard. But you’re just not as connected anymore. And it all started because you gradually stopped spending time together. You didn’t intend to. It wasn’t personal. Life just kept taking more and more of your time, and your spouse started getting less and less of it.

When you stop spending time together, you set your marriage on a gradual course of dissatisfaction and (if not corrected) divorce.

When I talk about spending time together, I’m not necessarily talking about hours of uninterrupted time, staring into each other’s eyes, and talking about the secrets of your hearts. It’s more simple and less threatening than that. Think of it as intentional time together and unintentional time together.

Intentional Time Together.

Intentional time together is planned and/or scheduled time together. It could be a simple as a dinner or movie date, or as elaborate as a weekend getaway or a second honeymoon. And the act of scheduling and planning the time is almost as important as the time itself because it communicates to your spouse that you care enough about them to put some effort into it.

Unintentional Time Together.

Unintentional time is more casual, spur-of-the-moment time with your spouse. Things like: sitting together, running errands together, taking a walk together, etc. Believe it or not, these times are just as important as the intentional times together, because they can happen more frequently and can become a part of the daily routine of your life.


Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, but spending time together when we were dating was easier because we were in love and didn’t have as many things getting in the way. But I want to challenge that thinking. Maybe it wasn’t being in love that caused you to spend so much time together when you were dating. Maybe you were in love because you spent so much time together. And you still had demands and constraints on your time when you were dating. You had school, parents, work, friends, and the fact that the two of you weren’t living together. Yet you still found a way to work around those constraints. If you could do it then, you can do it now.

I know this may be difficult at first, especially if you’re at a place where you don’t want to spend time with your spouse. You may be hurt, angry, or wounded, and spending time with them is the last thing you want to do. But let me encourage you. Don’t put it off or avoid it for long. Because not spending time with your spouse is one of the ways to lose your marriage. It’s on the list.

Make an Appointment to Date Your Spouse

Lovely interracial couple having lunchIn my last Normal Marriage post, I said I would follow it up with a post on why spouses should make an appointment for sex. I’m pushing that post back one week so we can first talk about the need to make an appointment to date your spouse.

When you and your spouse first met, date night was the highlight of your week. But once you were engaged, going home at the end of the date was frustrating. You were ready to be married so you didn’t have to date anymore. Now that you’re married, you see each other all the time. So why schedule dates?

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