How to Escape the Roommate Stage of Marriage

What is the roommate syndrome in a relationship?
on February 12, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Remember when a couch cuddle was a prelude to romance, and now it's the best spot for binge-watching series — separately? Or when discussions about the future have been replaced by the pressing issue of who forgot to replace the toilet roll?

Welcome to the roommate phase of marriage, where "I do" sometimes feels more like "I did...what exactly?" 

While the roommate stage may sound like the plot twist no one asked for, it's more common than you think, and it's certainly not the end of the story. Being in a long-term relationship doesn’t mean that you’ve signed up for a life of no romance — it just means embracing your new dynamic (and keeping it fun!) 

From the hustle and bustle of daily life taking precedence over pillow talk, to the comfortable silence that replaced heart-to-hearts, we'll explore the causes, signs, and, most importantly, how to escape the roommate stage of marriage in our expert guide. 

Key Takeaways
  • The roommate phase of marriage is where the romantic spark leaves the relationship and is replaced by the mundanity of day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. This new dynamic can leave couples feeling more like roommates than lovers.
  • The stage of marriage is actually very common among couples, as you start to prioritize other things over your relationship. This is a very natural shift and doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed, it just means that your dynamic has evolved and you need to work harder to keep romance alive.
  • Common signs that you’re in the roommate stage with your partner include a lack of physical intimacy, a preference for alone time, and a general indifference towards your relationship.
  • Escaping the roommate stage is about renewing that focus on the romantic aspect of your relationship with increased quality time, physical connection, and spontaneity.

What is the roommate stage of marriage? 

The idea of the roommate phase has become very popular on social media in recent months, with people warning couples not to fall into this dynamic with their partners. 

The roommate stage of marriage refers to where couples feel more like housemates or friends than romantic partners. The shift from a romantic relationship to roommates is characterized by a focus on cohabitation and the practicalities of daily life over the emotional intimacy, passion, and romantic connection they once shared. 

This kind of dynamic can arise in any long-term relationship, where priorities shift away from romance to reality — with both partners naturally growing apart. For example, even though you’re spending every day with your significant other, you can’t remember the last time you had sex or even held hands! 

Or even though you talk all the time, it’s always about the grocery list or taking out the trash, rather than your emotional connection or the future of your relationship. 

While all of the mundane stuff is part of married life too, it shouldn’t be the only thing that binds you together. 

What causes the roommate phase of marriage? 

The romantics among us may not want to believe it, but it’s very common to lose that spark when you’re in a long-term relationship. When you’ve been together for a long time, or married for years, it’s natural for your dynamic to evolve as you both grow and change. 

However, the transition into the roommate phase of marriage can be a very confusing process, as you may not even realize it’s happening. 

It’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day responsibilities, especially if you have children, or are working hard in your career. As you prioritize these other things above your relationship, communication can start to break down over time — with small talk replacing those opportunities to be vulnerable and authentic. 

This decrease in open, vulnerable conversations about feelings, desires, and dreams can lead to emotional distance.

After years of being together, there can be a sense of complacency where both individuals stop making efforts to pursue each other or keep the relationship alive. Instead of trying to make your partner feel special or loved, they just become part of your routine. 

Since you can’t imagine your life without them, there is a lack of urgency to make the same kind of effort. The little moments like holding hands, cuddling, or even complimenting each other go out the window — with disconnection seeping in. 

Naturally, when you’ve been together for a long time, the natural ebb and flow of sexual desire can lead to periods of reduced intimacy. With this element of the relationship removed, the roommate dynamic is established quite quickly. 

Signs of a roommate marriage

Convenience over connection: Decisions and daily routines are more about what's convenient than what fosters connection. For example, meals may be eaten separately due to schedules, and conversations might revolve around logistics rather than the relationship.
Lack of physical intimacy: If you’re in the roommate phase, it is likely, that physical intimacy has slowly disappeared. While you might still like cuddling, your sex life is no longer a priority — or even a consideration.
Separate lives: If you’re behaving like roommates, you can start to prioritize your own needs over your partner! Both partners lead largely separate lives, with individual friends, hobbies, and schedules. While independence is healthy, a lack of shared activities can indicate a roommate-like dynamic.
Lack of communication: While romantic partners should engage in deep conversation, if you’re in the roommate phase, married couples find themselves having more small talk than anything else.
Lack of quality time: In the relationship's honeymoon phase, it’s all about date nights and spending time working on their connection. However, in the roommate phase, the effort to plan and enjoy date nights or romantic outings fades away. Time together is more likely to be incidental or focused on household management than on nurturing the relationship.
Preference for alone time: Even though you live together, you prefer to keep to yourself rather than spend time with your partner.
Lack of conflict resolution: Conflicts may be avoided or minimally addressed, not because of effective communication, but because of a lack of investment in resolving underlying issues!
Routine: The relationship falls into a predictable routine without spontaneity or romantic gestures. While routines provide stability, they can also dampen passion and excitement — leading to disconnection over time.
Indifference: If you’re in the roommate phase, the marriage feels very disconnected, with both individuals in a rut and unsure of how to move forward. Even though both partners might recognize the disconnection, there is a general indifference toward remedying the situation.

What to do when your spouse feels like a roommate?

If you’ve entered the roommate stage of your relationship, don’t panic!

It doesn’t mean that the romantic era of your life is over, or that your connection can’t be remedied, as long as you take action as a team. 

So, is it worth fixing a broken marriage? If you feel like there is still a romantic connection there (that can be brought back to life), it’s always worth giving things a go. 

How to get out of the roommate stage of marriage 

  1. Open communication: It may seem obvious, but you have to talk about it! Try and open up the conversation around how your dynamic has changed, and how you can work on bringing back the romantic spark. Be open about your feelings without placing blame, while clearly articulating your needs and desires within the relationship.

  2. Quality time: The key is to spend quality time together outside of daily routines and responsibilities. Try to schedule regular date nights that bring you out of your usual routine and environment, putting romance back on the agenda. 

  3. Rekindle intimacy: Try to reestablish physical contact in your relationship, through small gestures like holding hands, hugging, or cuddling. Explore forms of intimacy beyond sex and you’d be surprised how quickly that sexual energy returns. 

  4. Address issues: Work together to address and resolve underlying conflicts that may have contributed to the emotional distance. Be honest with your feelings, while giving your partner the space to express their perspective. 

  5. Personal growth: Supporting each other's personal growth and interests can bring new energy into the relationship, especially if you’ve been stuck in a rut in your living routine. Encourage your partner to pursue their interests, while also resolving to find more shared activities — it’s all about balance! 

  6. Be spontaneous: Spontaneity can grow sparse when you’re living with your partner! Try to bring back this energy by introducing elements of surprise or spontaneity into your relationship, like unexpected gifts, notes, or planning a surprise outing.

  7. Gratitude: Regularly express appreciation and gratitude for each other. Make an effort to acknowledge the efforts your partner makes, no matter how small! 

  8. Couple’s therapy: When you’re stuck in the roommate phase, it’s difficult to know how to move past it. If you’re struggling to reignite that spark, it can be helpful to get a relationship expert involved — to set you back on the right path!

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