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Roommate Syndrome in Married Couples (And How to Fix It)

Michael Tierney
January 15, 2023

Relationships go through several stages in life, usually traversing happy highs and sad lows as the circumstances evolve. Some relationships are exclusively platonic, while others become romantic and result in marriage. Many people feel marriage is the ultimate stage of any romantic relationship and is invulnerable to the issues plaguing friendships or romances that have not led to marriage.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and marriages can experience significant strain the longer they last. Some years are harder than others, with the first year of marriage being one of the most challenging, but marriage requires continuous effort to preserve. Preserving a marriage requires hard work, but it also requires us to recognize when a problem arises and how to fix it.

One of the lesser-known issues affecting a marriage is roommate syndrome, which is not surprising given that cohabitation is a part of marriage. While roommate syndrome is a problem, shockingly, few people understand the issue, and fewer know how to resolve it. Despite the name, roommate syndrome can affect married couples and end the relationship if left unaddressed.

Solution The lack of information about roommate syndrome circulating among couples has made resolving the situation more difficult. Hence, we have written this article about how roommate syndrome affects married couples and what measures they can take to remove it as a factor in their lives.

What is Roommate Syndrome?

"Roommate syndrome" might sound like a strange concept likening having a roommate to having a disease, but it is unrelated.

Almost everyone has had a roommate at one point or another. Usually, the first experience is a result of higher education. Most universities offer on-campus housing where students are placed with one or two classmates in the same room. This is done to conserve space and promote social interaction with classmates outside classes. Having a roommate is either a fun and pleasant experience or a frustrating and antagonistic one. It depends on how well you get along with your roommate and whether there is an equitable distribution of chores.

The saving grace of having a roommate is that it is simple to move out and find a more desirable living situation when the situation becomes unbearable. This option exists because you have no obligation to remain with the roommate or a legal contract binding you to them. Unfortunately, roommate syndrome has nothing to do with roommates and everything to do with spouses. When we get married, there is a legal contract binding us to our spouses in virtually every way that matters. While love fuels marriage in the beginning, not every marriage withstands the test of time.

Sometimes, romance fades, and the love you shared with your spouse is no longer present. When this happens, you might be less pleased about coming home to them every day when you would rather be alone or with someone else. This sensation marks the deterioration of your romantic feelings for your spouse and makes it feel like you have a roommate more than a life partner. This transition is a sign that you have developed roommate syndrome.

Suffering From Roommate Syndrome

There are other signs of roommate syndrome that are more obvious than losing "the spark." These include:

  • Loss of Intimacy: Losing intimacy does not only refer to a reduced sex life. It includes no longer kissing or hugging your spouse, sharing the same bed, or sharing emotional vulnerabilities and experiences.
  • Loss of Arguing: While you might view fewer arguments as a good thing, there is such a thing as a healthy amount of argument. Couples will argue because we do not marry clones with the same mindsets, principles, or ideologies as us. When the arguments cease altogether, even when you argued too much, it means you or your spouse no longer care.
  • Loss of Interaction: One of the biggest signs of roommate syndrome is when you and your spouse stop spending time together. Wanting to be together is a huge part of what drives us to marry our spouses in the first place. When that desire fades, it is usually because we no longer view them as a significant other.
  • Loss of Interest: We usually take a significant interest in our spouse's work activities and hobbies. While their interests might not align with our own, it is a sign of affection when we are interested in their days. When you find that you no longer care about what happened to your spouse at work or what interests them, roommate syndrome might have already manifested.

Roommate syndrome can radically change the dynamic of your marriage and, ultimately, bring it to an end. The longer your affection for your spouse is missing, or vice-versa, the more likely you will be driven apart from one another. Unfortunately, by the time we realize roommate syndrome is an issue, it has usually progressed to the point that makes it difficult to reverse. This means we need to ask ourselves: how can we recover the lost spark?

Return to Romance

When roommate syndrome sets in, one of the first things to consider is restoring the sense of romance that brought you and your spouse together. Late into the marriage, it can be easy to fall into a routine of staying in through the weekend like any other night. Maybe you occasionally order takeout and watch a movie, but it feels like another night without intimacy. These activities can easily be replicated with friends, siblings, or children and therefore are less intimate than in the beginning. To return to the level of intimacy you shared when you were dating, you should consider behaving like you are trying to court your spouse again.

One of the main recommendations for this issue is to have date nights that capture the essence of when you and your spouse first started dating. While it might not seem like much, a night out with your spouse is a special occasion that gives you an excuse to look your best and revisit your courtship days. This could be as simple as having dinner at a nice restaurant or dancing at a club or ballroom you both enjoy.

Alternatively, you can be more adventurous and do things you might not have tried up to this point. This sense of adventure can help you discover a new hobby and bring some much-needed excitement to the relationship.

Married Couple Having a Date Night

Date nights are an excellent way to restore the romance in your marriage, but they are not the only option. If you want to work on restoring the romance in a smaller but equally intimate way, some resources barely require you to leave home. Perhaps one night, you surprise your spouse after work with a candlelit, home-cooked meal. You can even get small gifts to surprise them, such as flowers or paraphernalia you know they enjoy.

These little acts of consideration and affection go a long way toward restoring the affection you shared with your spouse. Little by little, you will return to a sense of intimacy, and the roommate syndrome should diminish somewhat.

While restoring the romance in your marriage is an important part of overcoming roommate syndrome, it is easier said than done in some cases. Sometimes, the issues affecting your marriage are too great to overcome through desire alone. Even roommate syndrome can be debilitating if the underlying causes are severe enough. Fortunately, there is a resource available to married couples that can help them address the core issues in the relationship.

Communication is Key

The main cause of roommate syndrome is you stop communicating with your spouse. To be clear, "communication" does not mean a half-hearted conversation about the news or weather but a meaningful discussion of events and emotions that apply to your relationship. Effective communication is heralded as the ultimate tool for a healthy relationship, and failing to communicate is the leading cause of breakups.

This is especially important since there is no way to avoid communicating with people. Even if you remain completely silent and offer no emotional input, your tone and body language will betray your genuine feelings about the situation.

Married Couple Communicating

Your spouse will read more into your non-verbal communication (i.e., crossed arms, lack of eye contact, etc.) than what you vocalize in defense. This is because non-verbal communication is more honest and is something few people can actively control. Poor communication destroys a relationship's sense of connection or intimacy and can accelerate the roommate syndrome timetable. To avoid this, you must clearly communicate important facts about plans or your emotional state to your spouse.

For example, if you and your spouse argue, do not leave in a huff and return to it later out of the blue. Communicate to your spouse that you need time to consider what was discussed up to that point and that you need to cool down before continuing the conversation. This will show your spouse that you still want to resolve the problem but need time to avoid saying something you regret.

Communication does not come easily to everyone, which can compromise relationships in desperate need of communication skills. Fortunately, there is another resource that can help you overcome communication handicaps.

Counseling Can Help

Marriage counseling is often disregarded since some couples do not want to admit they have issues worthy of the program. Unfortunately, this mindset has ended countless marriages since the problems only fester while the couple buries their heads in the sand. Marriage counseling exists to help couples identify the reason they are no longer connecting and provides impartial advice and resources for overcoming those problems.

The best marriage counselors are trained psychologists who can recognize the signs of genuine mental health limitations. Generally, marriage counseling is about reminding the couple why they married in the first place and how to return to that mindset. The section above is one of the first things marriage counselors recommend to couples who have lost the spark in their romance.

A Marriage Counseling Session

It is important to remember that a counselor will not take sides and will provide guidance based on the facts with which they are presented. If one spouse's behavior contributes to the roommate syndrome more than the other spouse's, they will make it clear. However, they will listen to the information that their spouse gives them to find an effective compromise.

Trying to make your spouse the villain during counseling will only diminish the sessions' value and prevent progress. The counselor will also encourage techniques and experiences that help you and your spouse rediscover the things you love about each other.

Unfortunately, as valuable as counseling is, it is not foolproof. Counseling can fail if you and your spouse have grown too distant or hostile with each other. No amount of counseling or date nights can make you fall back in love if you have no investment in the relationship anymore. This is not a sign to give up if you feel you cannot salvage your relationship. Counseling can help determine if the relationship is truly lost or if there is still hope for you and your spouse.

Learn the Law

Roommate syndrome is an increasingly common issue in modern relationships and is proving to be very detrimental. It is possible to overcome the issue and restore the love you and your spouse once shared, but the options listed in this article share one fatal flaw. You must actually want to fix things. If you do not dedicate yourself to restoring your relationship, all your efforts are doomed to fail, and roommate syndrome could spell the end of your marriage.

We all want to avoid divorce, but sometimes it is inescapable. Marriages that fail due to roommate syndrome are usually destroyed by a lack of commitment from one or both spouses to revitalize the relationship. However, divorce might be the final solution if your marriage truly cannot be saved.

Divorce Proceedings

Divorce is extremely unpleasant, and you must be prepared if your relationship is heading in that direction. Some spouses are willing to employ underhanded techniques to come out ahead in divorce proceedings. Other times, the process is complicated and difficult for people to navigate successfully. Fortunately, there is plenty of information you can use to prepare for what might occur during your divorce. We realize this is a difficult situation, but we hope this article helps you avoid divorce altogether.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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