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How to Escape the Roommate Phase of Your Relationship

Comfort is one thing. Stagnation is another. Here's what to do when you start to feel more like space-sharers than significant others.

When you were dating, you probably wouldn’t think of slumping around in an old t-shirt and cargo shorts around your now-wife. Your life, you professed, would be nothing but excitement and adventure and you wouldn’t ever, ever turn into one of those couples that acted more like space-sharers than happily married significant others. But, as a famed chaos theorist once said, life, uhh, finds a way.

The roommate phase of any relationship is very real. Life gets busy and, many couples, caught in the rhythms of it, become passive participants in their marriage. This happens in particular when the relationship doesn’t feel new and exciting anymore. This is normal and simply requires the people in said relationships to make changes to snap out of it. When stagnancy becomes a permanent state is when issues occur. This could indicate the spark has completely gone out and the two of you are simply occupying the same space. In other words, the roommate phase is harmless until it’s not.

So, when you and your partner are stuck in the roommate phase, what can you do? Take immediate action and find ways to infuse some freshness back into your marriage. First order of business: Change out of those sweats. Second order? Take a look at this advice.

Spend Time Apart

Wait, what? Isn’t the whole point of breaking the roommate cycle being together? Yes, in theory, but the fact is, when couples spend too much time together, they can actually sink into the very routines that are strangling their relationship. “If you spend all of your non-working time with your partner, you’re bound to find yourselves engaging in dull, repetitive activities like running errands, staring at your phones, or surfing the web,” says sexologist Dr. Kendra Harris. This, she adds, get boring. And boredom does not yield growth.  Time apart helps you grow as individuals and build some much-needed excitement. The key is to schedule quality time with your partner — purposeful periods where you’re engaged and really enjoy one another. “You’ll find that you connect on a more meaningful level,” she says.

Get Back to Basics

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor, a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and the co-founder of the Marriage Restoration Project, suggests that couples stuck in a rut should have a date night, but actually go back to a place where they used to date. “Revisiting a physical place where you have fond memories is another way to return back to the time where you once felt the spark in your relationship,” he says. “By returning to that place and remembering those positive experiences, you can actually relive in your mind and heart what happened.”

Kickstart Your Sex Life

When the roommate phase sinks in, sex is often one of the first casualties. Relationship and sex educator Brianna Rader says that couples stuck in this phase have to make an extra effort to energize their bedroom life. “To mix up your routine try having sex in another location, adding a sex toy, or playing out a fantasy,” she says. “If your partner seems less interested in sex recently, ask them what they are enjoying lately and focus just on them next session.”

Hit the Road

Even a quick overnight getaway to a new location can be enough to shake you both out of the doldrums and awaken some excitement. “Traveling is a great way to recharge your relationship,” says Slatkin. “Besides providing much needed time away, it returns you refreshed and invigorated and hopeful that you can establish new patterns that avoid you from getting sucked back into the humdrum of everyday living.”

Take a Class Together

This serves two purposes, as it not only allows you and your spouse to have a date night, but it also gives you something new and exciting to share and talk about. “When the brain learns something new, it not only creates new neural pathways, but it also brings about more joy and excitement,” says Slatkin. “Now, do it together with your spouse and the positive energy is compounded. It also provides a fresh new experience that you can share together.”

Show Some Appreciation

Parenting is a never-ending game of Did I Just Do Anything Right? It’s easy to feel doubt, let alone any sense of confidence. As the supportive spouse, it’s your job to step in and provide, yes, validation. The words can vary but the subtext remains: I saw that and I’m not keeping it to myself.

Such appreciation goes far. People don’t feel appreciated for all the stuff they’re doing, so they dig in and say nothing. That’s a game without a winner. The unavoidable truth is that someone needs to be first. It might as well be you. The good news is that goodwill is contagious. Give some and chances are high it will be returned, and then, “It snowballs,” says Dr. Emily Upshur, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City.

Surprise Your Spouse

Doing something unexpected and out of the ordinary is a perfect way to break up the monotony and show your significant other that you’re thinking of him or her. “It is often the unexpected, not the actual action, that can re-infuse the passion and anticipation we so often crave,” says Slatkin. “It could be something as simple as surprising your spouse at work and taking him/her out for a cup of coffee that can create the thrill that once swept you off your feet.”