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My Spouse Feels Like a Roommate, Not a Romantic Partner

Ahh... I have heard this complaint too often from women. It seems the older we get and the longer we've been married to our other half, the spark can fade out if we aren't careful. You may not even realize it until one day you do.

Eating Popcorn

Do you feel like your husband or wife is someone you're "just living with?" Are you so comfortable with one another that the romance is long gone? (or so you think.) Do you watch romantic comedies and miss the fiery passion you once had for your spouse?

I had to get an expert to weigh in on this and boy did I pick the best people for the job, seriously! I asked Nathan and Amy Oliver, owners of Oliver Counseling to shed some light on this common marital complaint. Amidst their busy schedules, they didn't hesitate to help and took the time to put together some heartfelt answers. I could feel their compassion for helping people through each communication, and I am so happy to be sharing this with you today.

If you're currently in this boat or know someone who is, read on.

Take it away Nathan & Amy!

Most romantic relationships begin with great passion. There is a spark and than a fire between us. Our infatuation with each other is like a love cocktail for our brain and often easily flows into physical intimacy. In fact, at the beginning, it can feel nearly impossibly to hold back the desire for each other. It can feel so powerful and so consuming. In that season, we think, how could this ever change? How could I ever not want to be intimate with this person as much as possible?

As infatuation matures into love, as we enter into marriage, as life happens, as work demands build, as children are born, as stress builds, as losses happen, as we become busy and distracted, as priorities change, our romantic connection and sexual intimacy can easily become less of a priority. It can even become rare to non-existent. The outcome of all of this can be that your spouse feels more like a roommate than the romantic love of your life.

The connection that compelled us early on, which can bring so much powerful connection, now feels empty, wounded, infrequent, and even unwanted. This is a common experience in the majority of marriages. If you are experiencing this in your marriage, take heart, you are not alone and it can get better.

Romantic relationship takes daily intentional pursuit. Infatuation is a feeling and a compulsion; true love is an action and a choice. It is so easy to feel rejected or hurt in the area of intimacy within marriage. It is also so easy to push it to the side and focus on many other things in your life that seem more important or demanding.

You may currently feel a lack of desire for romantic relationship, you may feel like your spouse is not interested in you, you may not feel interested in them, you may feel hurt after repeated rejection, you may feel too tired, you may feel it is too hard to improve it at this point, or you may feel like you don’t know what to feel about it. You are not alone and you don’t have to keep feeling this way.

Why is it so important?

There are two very unique things that make marriage to your spouse special and different than any other relationship in your life. The first is the commitment of marriage. The second is romantic relationship.

The simple truth is that working on cultivating healthy physical intimacy in your marriage can be hard, but it is worth it! Two things happen when you start to reconnect romantically. First, you remember how much you enjoy it and how powerfully it makes you feel connected to your partner. The second is that it positively impacts every other area of your marriage. It is a high level marriage issue that flows down into all other areas of your marriage.

When you are connecting in your romantic and sexual intimacy, it creates not only a physical connection, but a mental, emotional and spiritual connection as well. This can make it easier to communicate, help you resolve conflict quicker, give you more patience with your children, allow you to assume the best about your spouse instead of the worst, prioritize your marriage, and experience an overall profound sense of oneness.

Why is it so difficult?

One of the greatest enemies of the romantic relationship is complacency. Relationship starts with interest, with pursuit, with spending large amounts of time together. In marriage, we can find ourselves hardly ever touching, looking each other in the eyes while having conversation, or spending large amount of time just the two of us. We rarely pursue each other as we allow other things to consume us and take priority. This creates a slow fade that can eventually create a great distance between us.

Distraction is another powerful enemy to your romantic relationship. How much time do you spend on your phone, on social media, watching shows/movies when you are with your spouse? How much true connection does that build between the two of you? What does that say about your priorities?

Stress from children, stress from work, and spending too much time with others or on individual pursuits instead of with your spouse can all negatively impact your connection with each other, as well as your openness and availability for physical intimacy.

Your romantic relationship is only for the two of you. With that in mind, another huge enemy to intimacy within marriage is pornography or infidelity (whether emotional or physical). Pornography is a counterfeit intimacy and escape. It will rob you of desire for your spouse and empty the sexual experience. Looking to others for your romantic needs will also only leave you empty in the end and create an undercurrent in your marriage that will erode romantic passion and connection. If any of these are in your life, run from them and run to your spouse. True romantic connection can only be experienced with your spouse. Anything else is a counterfeit.

How can it be better?

One of the greatest joys of marriage is getting to experience passion and romantic connection. This goes far beyond sex. It starts with actively pursuing each other’s hearts throughout the day. Without being intentional in this area, it will never change.

Start by doing as many daily routine things together as you can. Go to bed and get up together, if your life schedules allow. Hug each other every morning, look each other in the eyes and say “I love you”. Hold hands often while in the car, on the couch, walking, or while in bed. Call or text in the middle of the day to say that you love or miss each other. Communicate specifically what you love and respect about each other. Let every hello and goodbye you have with each other involve a hug, a kiss and an “I love you”.

Men often need to connect sexually to feel connected emotionally, so wives, seek to intentionally pursue sex with your husbands. Your husband needs to know that you are into him, that you desire him. Find small ways to speak or show that you desire him romantically. Be suggestive and then follow through with him.

Women often need to feel connected emotionally in order to desire to connect sexually, so husbands, pursue the emotional needs of your wife. Serve her, pursue her, and take things off of her plate. Seek to win her heart every day. Your wife also needs to know that you are into her and are attracted to her. Speak words of attraction and affection to her daily.

Romantic relationship takes quantity time. Every evening, spend 5-10 minutes sitting on the couch together. Ask how the day went, how the other is doing, and what you would like to do as a couple or individually that night. Be sure to make eye contact with each other as you talk.

Go on weekly date nights and make sure that you don’t talk about your children, money or work. Talk about each other, about your interests, about your future, and seek to laugh together. At least once a year, get away for at least three consecutive nights just the two of you. This is an essential anchor for your romantic relationship.

Finally, communicate with each other the desire to make love. So many couples get stuck in this idea that it is unromantic to verbally communicate the desire for sex. It is not like when you were infatuated. It takes direct communication and a commitment from both of you to pursue each other romantically.

What can I do today?

We encourage both of you to sit down and write out how you feel about the current state of your romantic relationship. Next, write out very specifically what you believe a healthier romantic relationship could look like for you both. Finally, write out a few practical things that each of you can do on a daily or weekly basis to start pursuing each other more. It takes two for a romantic relationship, so you both need to work on it together.

Romantic relationship can be such a wonderful and fulfilling part of marriage. When you are connected romantically, it makes everything else easier in your marriage. We hope that you experience healing, connection and passion with your spouse so that you both can experience all that marriage can be.

Headshot of Nathan and Amy Oliver

Counseling Offices of Nathan Oliver, LMHC and Amy Oliver, LMFT

Oliver Counseling specializes in many areas including: marriage/family therapy, teens/young adults, grief, sexual and substance addiction, depression, and anxiety.

Nathan and Amy Oliver are both licensed professional therapists.  They consider it a privilege to enter with you into life's hurts and struggles in order to help you find growth and new direction.  No matter your struggle or history, Nathan or Amy Oliver are available to meet with you and begin the healing process.  Please feel free to click on any of the above links for more information on Nathan and Amy Oliver's professional experience, descriptions of their areas of specialty, or to read the helpful information on the Oliver Counseling blog.