Just a heads up: This is not a discussion on should romantic partners live together or not. Instead, this is for any married couple that at some point has felt like they have a roommate instead of a spouse. First of all, it happens to us all. Secondly, it doesn’t have to be like that!
Falling into Roommates
We all have a great story about how we fell in love with our spouse. But the story we don’t want to share is how we slid into being roommates. Over time life can become so routine that we can feel like we live with a roommate instead of a spouse. Conversations are focused around schedules and to do’s instead of hopes and dreams. The spark has dwindled, the butterflies are gone. Date nights keep getting pushed back and rescheduled. You lay in bed as you each do your own thing, in your own world, by yourself with a roommate who happens to sleep next to you. This describes every marriage at some point…so how do you get a spouse instead of a roommate?
While dating…the game is on! It is a game of pursuit! Everyone loves being and feeling pursued. We like it when others ask us questions and are interested in what we are interested in. The pursuit makes us feel valued, needed and loved. But once you get settled into married life the pursuit tends to become less and less. The lack of pursuit tends to be the common denominator is all “roommate marriages”. The rest of this article will unpack how to continually pursue your spouse. Pursue your spouse often and in different ways: through the questions you ask, the way you act, the way you touch, and even the way you look. Do your words and actions say, “I am pursuing you; I love you, I want you, I need you” or do they say “I already have you, so it doesn’t really matter”? You are never married long enough to stop pursuing your spouse!
Dating could also be called, “the hunt”. It’s during the dating stage of a relationship that the guys are trying to capture and ladies are trying to be caught (yes, this sounds somewhat crass and primal but is generally true). The point here is both are TRYING! Guys go out of their way to be on their best behavior and to play the romantic as they sneak up on their prey while ladies bat their eyes and seem to be interested in anything and everything her pursuer says and does! We all do a little fibbing and masquerading while dating. But once a dating couple becomes a married couple…the hunt is over, the excitement and thrill of the hunt is done. Guards are let down, the facade is dropped and the effort decreases exponentially…maybe not at first but over time. We think, “why try anymore, I already have him/her.” The reality is marriage is work, hard work! Without putting the necessary work into your marriage you will undoubtedly sink into a marriage that feels and looks more like two roommates that share a bed. Working on your marriage means the hunt is still on! You go out of your way for her, you listen intently, you share ideas, dreams and goals, you make time for dates and open the door for her. Working hard means you go back to dating…except this time it takes even more effort, time, and intentionality.
One of the top problems I hear from couples regarding their marriage is time, or lack of time. “We just don’t have time”, “life gets too busy”, “there are so many other things that need to get done”. While I am sure these are all true, I cannot think of anything else (other than your relationship with God) that would be more important or worth spending your time on than your spouse! Andy Stanley wrote a book titled, “Choosing to Cheat” in which he asks, “when it comes to your time who do you end up cheating?” We only have so much time in a day, week, month and year…and so who gets the short end of the stick at the end of the day? Do you give more to work and therefore cheat your spouse and family? Because we cannot just add more time to our day we are left with a choice…who or what will get our time, whether it be quality or quantity of time. Roommates do not have a priority to make time for one another. Roommates are there when they are there, no priority or promises given. In a marriage, we must make time for one another.
Side note on making time for one another: it will be vital that the time you give your spouse be the kind of time that they need! For example, does your spouse need your undivided time, time spent talking together, time spent being active together, etc…What kind of time and how much time does your spouse need?
Selfishness extinguishes the flame in a marriage. Does it feel like the spark just isn’t there anymore? Has that once burning flame of love dwindled to smoldering ashes? Most likely, acts of selfishness have slowly been suffocating your romance and love. Love means to “meet needs”. To love your spouse means to “meet the needs of your spouse”. As I mentioned previously, that is somewhat natural in the dating stage of a relationship but tends to change over time in marriage. Reignite the romance and love in your relationship by humbly and selflessly loving your spouse as you probably once did. Being humble isn’t the idea of thinking less of yourself, it’s not thinking of yourself at all! Roommates have no real obligation to one another than a few respectful rules and paying rent on time. Going out of your way for a roommate is a nice thing to do on occasion but not needed. Selfishness is make-it or break-it in a marriage! Try it! What you say, do, even think…does it love, encourage, help your spouse or you?
How is it that the person you once had so many things in common with seems to be a stranger to you now? How did the person you once found interesting and fascinating seems normal and dull. Did they change? Did you change? Probably, we do change as we go through different life stages but that isn’t the deeper issue. I would encourage you to take an honest look at your communication in your marriage. We fail to see commonalities because we fail to talk deep enough to discover and rediscover our spouse. However those types of conversations usually don’t take place on the way to work, while making dinner or in front of the TV. Those deep conversation require time, no distractions and a level of intimacy. We must continue to rediscover who we married! We all have dreams and goals and those dreams and goals can and most likely will change over time! Just because you asked the question when you got married doesn’t mean they have the same answer today! We all want to be known! Be intentional about getting to know your spouse, to give time and effort for pillow talk.
I have a car that looks pretty nice on the outside. In fact, it’s only a few years old and has very low mileage! Even on the inside, the interior is in great shape! In many ways, it still looks semi-brand new! But if you were to start-up the car, the first thing you would notice is the odd engine vibration. Then you would see the check engine light on and a few other dashboard notifications telling me that something isn’t quite right. If you put it in gear and pulled out of the drive way you would notice the oil leak stain where the car had been parked. The reality is my car is in pretty bad shape but I’m hesitant to take it in to the shop because A) I’m afraid of what they will tell me and B) how much it’s going to cost me!
We treat our marriage the same way. From the outside, the relationship looks pretty good, maybe even really good compared to some others! But if you were to step inside their home or be a fly on the wall you would see some warning lights that indicate things aren’t as healthy as it would seem. When was the last time you had a reality check in your marriage; a “marriage check-up”?!
1. Reality Check: You go to the doctor for your annual physical, you take your car in for a tune-up and oil change, you do spring cleaning. You do those check ups regularly because if something is wrong you want to be able to catch it early to fix it before it becomes catastrophic or life threatening! Why are we so hesitant to do regular “check ups” in our marriage? Maybe we are afraid of what we might discover? If you don’t know the true state, the reality of your marriage then how do you know what to work on, fix or adjust? And if you don’t know what to work on, fix or adjust the problem will not go away but continue to get worse and worse until it falls apart. Keep in mind, this is not an opportunity to point the finger at your spouse but share how you feel and to ask your spouse how they feel and to see what they see. This requires much grace, love, understanding and humility!
2. The Cost: One you take a reality check of your marriage and you and your spouse have had a loving, honest and candid conversation on the state of your marriage you can begin to take the next steps in growing the health of your marriage…but it will cost you! Are you willing to pay the price, are you willing to sacrifice for the health of your marriage and your spouse? (Remember, selfishness will suck the life out of a marriage). This is a chance to show that your spouse is more important than anything else in your life!
Marriages are work…all relationships require work, time and effort! There is a cost. There is never a point when you can hit the auto-pilot button and coast on through. The result will be a gradual but inevitable slide into spouses becoming roommates. The good news is that it is never too late! Start today! Begin to pursue and rediscover your spouse! Make time and take time to have the conversations you once had. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about the current state of your relationship and approach your spouse with humility and selfless love!