Marriage > Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?

Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?

You didn’t get married to live with a roommate, but your marriage isn’t built on love, chemistry or spiritual connection. Do you continue to live like married roommates, or do you leave your husband and start a new life? It’s not an easy decision – especially when you’re yearning for a deeper, more fulfilling connection with your spouse.

“Yearnings are powerful, deeply engrained, evolutionary adaptive mechanisms that initially developed for our survival,” writes Judith Wright and Bob Wright in The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. “They drive us to related, to bond, and to commune with others, as well as to develop ourselves. And when your yearnings aren’t met, they trigger the alarms that commonly lead to fights.”

Not only do you yearn for a happier marriage, you also know that divorce brings emotional pain, heartache to the whole family, and sometimes even financial devastation. You are not alone; I wrote this article for a reader who loves her husband even though they live completely separate lives.

“We have been married for three years, together for nine,” says Beatrice on Is Your Marriage Over? 6 Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore. “I have been unhappy in my marriage for two years. Everything is separate in our relationship – especially money. His is his, mine is mine. This is very frustrating when it comes to bills, going out, planning vacations, etc. I feel like we’ve lost our connection. We’re married roommates. We have been doing everything separately lately. We had a big talk about our relationship and I wanted to separate, but because I am ‘too nice’ and don’t want to hurt him, I have stayed and tried to stick it out. I feel stuck and confused…what should I do? Should I stay married and keep living like roommates?”

You don’t want to live like roommates, but you can’t save your marriage alone.

How to Decide if You Should Stay Married

“I do love my husband and he’s been my best friend since before we got married, but I feel that we’re merely roommates,” says this reader. “I think taking a break would be a good idea, I just don’t know what to do to get there. I have had these feelings for a year at least! I don’t know what I am scared of. It gets frustrating at home; I feel that everything I do is not good enough. He is always pointing out the negative things or things I have not done, or are doing wrong. I feel like everything with him is a competition. Part of me wants to separate or possibly divorce, but then the other part is thinking maybe I do really love him deep down enough and that this can be fixed.”

Divorce isn’t an easy decision, even for the unhealthiest marriages and unhappiest wives. Getting divorce is painful and scary even when you live with a difficult husband who treats you badly.

Give yourself time and space

Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?
Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?

This may be one of the biggest decisions you’ve ever faced in your life. Take time by yourself to reflect, be quiet, and listen to your intuition. I like to think of it as God’s still small voice. It’s that inner knowing or discernment that knows the next step to take…and you can only hear it when you’re quiet.

Consider spending 10 or 20 minutes every morning with a cup of coffee and yourself. Bring a journal along; write about your feelings, thoughts, opinions, experiences, and life. This is what Julia Cameron calls Morning Pages; it can be a valuable way to figure out if you should stay married even though you live like roommates. You might also learn what you’re scared of, why you’re stuck, and how to move forward in your life.

Dig into the root of your unhappiness

When my husband and I went to Hawaii a few years ago, I was a disaster. Because I was so unhappy we fought almost every night – I blamed him for everything from cold pancakes to leaky snorkel masks. While we were there, I knew I was unhappy and it wasn’t my husband’s fault…and I blamed him heavily and often.

Later I realized that I was so upset and unhappy because my grandmother, who died 15 years ago, took me there twice. She was like a mother to me, and I didn’t give her the love or respect she deserved. I took her love, care, time and attention for granted. I was dealing with some pretty unhappy memories when I went to Hawaii with my husband, and he took the brunt of my pain.

Sometimes our deep-seated personal issues, grief and pain are triggered by our spouses. We may not even know we’re reacting to something in our past, but it affects how we treat our husbands. One of those responses is living like married roommates — especially if marriage has caused problems or pain in the past. Or, growing up with a single mom or dad can lead to living like roommates with your spouse because you just haven’t learned how to be married.

Living like roommates isn’t the main source of problem. The problem is what is causing you to live like married roommates. Your job is to dig up the root of the problem.

Remember that feelings of love come and go – but good marriages do not depend on feelings

You can’t love your husband with all your heart all the time! Well, you can act like you do, but you can’t sustain constant romantic, sexy, loving feelings for him or your marriage. That’s a Hollywood movie, not real life or a real marriage.

Reasons to Stay Married When You Live Like Roommates
Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?

You know marriage is hard work; that’s why you’re living like married roommates! You and your spouse have given up on your relationship. Your feelings of love and attraction have passed and you’re not sure if you want to do the work it takes to build a strong, healthy, happy marriage. You need to decide if you want to be married or if you’re happy living like roommates with your husband. If you want to build a strong, healthy, happy marriage then you have to talk to your spouse.

Consider spending six months completely, totally investing in your marriage. Tell your husband you want to commit wholeheartedly to saving your marriage because you don’t want to live like married roommates the rest of your life. Then, learn how to build a stronger, happier relationship.

Pursue the desires of your heart – your yearnings

“It is yearning that sparks the creation of everything from inspiring art, soul-stirring music, majestic cathedrals, and cures for diseases to great love and service,” write Wright and Wright in The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. “Unacknowledged, unchanneled, and unmet yearning makes you unhappy, unsatisfied, and miserable in your relationship and your life.”

What are you yearning for? Besides the obvious: a happy marriage that is more than two roommates living together!

A “Universal Yearnings” chart

Use this chart to help you learn what you’re yearning for in your life and marriage. The best way to identify the most important yearnings is to read this chart out loud. Speaking your yearnings will help you learn which ones are most significant to you.

You yearn to be secure

  • To exist
  • To be safe and secure both physically and emotionally
  • To trust

You yearn to love and care for others

  • To nurture
  • To love
  • To respond to others

You yearn to relate, to see and be seen

  • To know and be known
  • To see, hear, and know others
  • To touch and be touched
  • To feel “felt”
  • To empathize
  • To connect with others

You yearn to have your existence appreciated

  • To love and be loved
  • To be affirmed and appreciated
  • To be cared for
  • To be respected

You yearn to express your essence and your sense of self

  • To experience life and yourself fully
  • To express yourself
  • To create and grow
  • To be separate, to have your own identity
  • To influence
  • To excel
  • To fulfill your potential

You yearn to matter

  • To be valued and to value others
  • To contribute
  • To feel like you make a difference
  • To do what God created you to do
  • To be who God created you to be
  • To matter to God
  • To fulfill your purpose
  • To unfold your destiny

You yearn to connect with others

  • To belong
  • To connect
  • To matter
  • To be close
  • To communicate with others
  • To commune with others
  • To make deep contact with another
  • To be intimate

You yearn to connect to something greater

  • To be connected with God, the Source of life, energy, and Spirit
  • To feel connected to the greater whole
  • To be one with all
  • To know God or the Creator
  • To unite with all that exists

If you can identify – and name – what you yearn for in your marriage and life, you can start pursuing what you need and want. Sometimes it helps to know what you’re yearning for. This is a personal journey that can bring you more contentment in your own self…and your inner peace might help you decide how to handle your marriage. Maybe you’ll decide that living like roommates is fine for now.

Get counseling – not necessarily “marriage therapy”

Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?

If you can’t or don’t want to try marriage counseling, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert.

Dr John Gottman studied couples over a period of years; he learned the habits that can make—and break—a marriage. Here is the culmination of that work: the seven principles that guide couples on a path toward a harmonious and long-lasting relationship.

Dr Gottman offers strategies and resources to help couples collaborate more effectively to resolve any problem, whether dealing with issues related to sex, money, religion, work, family, or anything else. If you want to stop living like married roommates, you may be ready to work towards a stronger, happier relationship.

For more thoughts on staying married or getting divorced, read Considering Divorce? Signs You Should Leave Your Husband.


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29 thoughts on “Should You Stay Married Even Though You Live Like Roommates?”

  1. I’ve been married to my second wife for 16 years . Were both I our mid 60s. Both semi retired and both still work part time jobs. We usually get along well talk about our day work out children like most couples do. I really feel left out of her life for awhile now. She doesn’t help around the house, cook clean or want sex anymore. Usually takes up most of our bed an shoves me to the edge. I’ve experienced her anger at night on several occasions when she hauls off and hits me in my sleep. I’ve never harmed her rarely raise my voice. No I’m not some cucked man that lets her run all over me. She knows ill only take so much. I don’t know where to start here. I’m rather heartbroken.

  2. After reading these comments, my only response is this… ladies love yourself first!! Love you like he should! If you are unhappy do something about it! Most of the women on this thread say they are older l, have kids,and my lose the life they have if they divorce. I think this is the biggest issue with ladies born in older generations. To much faith in marriage and not enough in YOU! It’s never to late to get out and secure your life. And let’s be honest if you were a stay at home mom or your husband is the breadwinner you will not leave empty handed. Stop giving up your power! It’s your right to be happy! If you are telling yourself you can’t ever be happy or have a certain lifestyle then you want. Plan for life after your marriage. I am 37 and have been married for 17 years! We went through a rough patch, I told my husband get it together or watch me end this marriage. Don’t allow anyone to mistreat you. My mother divorced her husband when my sis younger sister was a senior (18) and I was 30. She was 50! She was afraid to lose the lifestyle she lived but she tried of being neglected and lonely. It was the best thing she would have done, she is now happier than ever and he is wishing he had been a better husband. Stand up for yourself! Start doing things that make you happy, love you before him. Best of luck!

  3. I’m mid fifties. Been married 25+ years. I’ve stayed for many reasons – kids, finances, religion mainly. I’m depressed. I feel I have no place in my home, living in an upstairs room for years now. My husband calls all the shots – what he cooks, I eat, and then clean up after him (because he wants to cook). What he says we do, we do. I’ve lost all self confidence in making decisions. I look forward to going to work, though work is exhausting and I look forward to going home. I honestly don’t know that my spouse would care if I were gone, other than he’d no longer be in control of my choices (or have insurance coverage). But he would make my life as miserable as he could. I live well within my means – trying to put his needs ahead of mine. I give so much more than I get in return. That would even be okay, but I long for companionship – someone to want to carry on a conversation with me that’s not completely about himself. I wish just once my wants or needs would be put ahead of his or his kids/grandkids (as we’re a blended family). With all this, I know it’s never going to change. I will likely stay for the reasons mentioned earlier, but any advice on gaining back some sense of control of my life would be appreciated.

    1. I’ve been living as roommates with my wife for at least the last two years. It was her decision to remove sex from our lives, and it hurts me that it doesn’t seem like much consideration was made to how that choice affects me. The only difference between a couple and a pair of friends is physical intimacy – if you don’t agree with that statement, please at least try to understand that your man does.

      All I’ve ever wanted for my wife is for her to be financially and emotionally independent. The less she needs me, the more I want her. There’s a huge amount of resentment now between us; me for feeling like I’ve acquired a teenage daughter instead of a partner (a defiant dependent) and her for feeling like I’m crushing her with expectations and demands (an overbearing parent). It’s a grotesque situation that’s always been in her power to solve by going out into the world and having a job. She’s stubbornly refused, building her own nest of shame and guilt over disappointing me and being unable to independently provide for her son (I’m not the father but have paid all the bills).

      Ladies – don’t fool yourself that doing laundry and cleaning the house is a substitute for earning an income. As soon as the kids are in school and out that door, you could be too. There are laundromats your husband can drop the clothes off at in the evenings. There are house cleaning services who will make the kitchen and bathroom look much nicer than you can – they’re professionals. The income you could be bringing in can pay for these luxuries with plenty left over for your husband to feel like you’re contributing in a way that he can see on paper (and yes, things on paper mean a lot to us).

      As soon as your husband starts feeling like he’s carrying all the weight while you sleep in and go on coffee dates, he will start to resent you and pull away, and you will resent him for pulling away, and your marriage will fail. It’s vital to remember that men don’t *need* anyone else in their lives, We are built and bred for solitude. When you agree to marry a man you agree to make his life better, not only burden it with added responsibility and obligation. He will gladly and gratefully accept those obligations as long as he feels appreciated and loved in return; as long as he feels that you’re doing your part too.

      Sex makes men’s lives better.
      Blended incomes to achieve a lifestyle he couldn’t afford on his own makes men’s lives better.
      Clean underwear makes men’s lives better, but honestly ask a man if he’d wear dirty underwear every day if it meant more sex in his life. Laundry isn’t a substitute for the two things above.

      If you can’t stand the man your man has become, by all means talk about it and separate – but don’t blame him. Chances are you’re no longer the fierce, independent woman he first fell in love with and all he’s done over the years has been his desperately trying to find her again.

      1. I work full time, take care of 2 kids around my work schedule and that is full time. I do laundry, and cook every night but minimum cleaning due to psychical issues. Husband knew this when we got together. I was working 2-3 part time jobs. I had a baby, went back at 5 weeks (after c-sections). and continued to work until just a day or two before I had the kids. My husband does not have this story as you have. I am sorry you are in this situation but it is not a black and white picture for all.
        He works full time, does laundry often, gives the boys a bath/shower and cleans but pretty much complains about this all the time. To me that is pretty even. I bring in an income very close to his, and I pay all the bills (our money) but I make sure bills are paid. He doesn’t see this as me doing anything.

        Sorry to burst your bubble but you may not be alone out there but it isn’t all the same neither.

        My husband is very verbally abusive and has to always be right. Always makes me feel as if I am wrong in everything I do, don’t do, say or don’t say. Yet he is very immature and doesn’t have any common sense. I asked him numerous times to leave the house and he refuses. We do not agree on parenting at all and I have had enough walking on egg shells to not fight with him therefore we fight all the time because I no longer keep my thoughts to myself.

        Just to clarify he would leave the property as it is not our house. It is a family member’s house, of mine. He is on the lease but in the long run it is more my house then his. He doesn’t seem to get this therefore stays to make everyone miserable. He doesn’t hit or neglect the boys but he torments them and just brings the not so best out of them!

        We started counseling over a year ago. I contemplated divorce since Sept 2017. However, I am now at the point of just needing the money to go through with divorce and custody. Then it will happen.

        1. Yes, that sounds like a bad situation you’re in! Get out as soon as you’re able.

          I myself have separated from my wife and will be filling for divorce in the new year. I’m much less stressed and looking forward to being able to live well again with what I work for!

        2. We’ve been living together for almost 10 yrs, known wach other 5 yrs prior. The last 5 if our relationship have been stressful. (I’m 53 now n been disabled since ’07) We have an acre if land that I use to keep with no help. All he had to do was go to work n come home to his beer. ( i lost my mother after our 1st yr together) Fast forward 3 yrs. We helped my daughter who was pregnant with twi s n a 6 yr old. (Dad walked out) she n the kids lived in our travel trailer while she fought to stay clean n go to school. I kept the grandkids 12 hrs a day. I become stressed n physically exhausted. He n my daughter would stay outside in the evening drink’n, I didn’t mind at first. (Never issues of the 2 of them) Later on my daughter was at a breaking point n almost a menta break down due to an abusive BF. A temporary custody agreement we had if the twins, my older granddaughter went with my ex mnl. This was a mutual agreement between my SO n I. We had the twins, 2 yrs old at the time, for almost 2 yrs. My daughter had to get the twins b4 school had ended. My 20 yr old son was deathly sick n in ICU fighting for his life.
          Our relationship had already started to change when I stopped drink’n. B4 custody of the twins. Communication was becoming less as well as sex. I was gone except for wkend for 4 months, I lived at the hospital. My son was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, Goodpasture’s Syndrome 1 in 2 million. Finally my son was in remission n got to go home. I started noticing things bout his habits, routines etc. But, blew them off. He started doing less n less for me, less affectionate n sex become non existent. He become emotionally, mentally n physically detached. I noticed the he was starting to lie.
          My son passed 16 mos ago. I get no comfort, no emotional support. Zip. Zero.
          We’ve been living like roommates for bout 4 yrs. I’ve tried to make him feel special n do things extra for him. We’ve always had separate bank accounts. We live at my family home, he bought my estranged brother’s half out. He’s always paid the big bills n I took care of the groceries n small bill’s. He makes very good money, he makes in 3 days what I get in a month.
          He’s gotten very lazy, wont even pick up a piece paper on the ground that he’s walked past a 100 times.
          I used the rest of my son’s life ins money n put down on a new MH n used every cent to pay for all the was needed. Including a $100 a month storage unit outa my small check. But, I didn’t mind, I feel good when I contribute.
          Our relationship is non existent, we don’t talk. I’m tired of talking n asking to help me fix us. He’ll try maybe for a few days n then its all back to the same. Now, he just comes home plops in front of the TV n on his phone every time I leave the room. There’s no hugs anymore, kisses have become pecks, like I’m his mother. Never told me bout going to the bar while I’m at the hospital with my son. Uts only the fact that I was told by a friend they saw him there. When I asked him bout it. Ge said he forgot. I believe he’s been seeing someone or doing things online.
          I dont want to give up my family home or our new one. But, I’m to the point I cant live like this anymore.
          My daughter is looking for a place, she moved from a location to her grandmas. So, she’s the only person I have. My best friend passed away 3 yrs ago. He can buy my half out. The MH is in his name due to my credit. I cant afford anywhere on my own n I’m unable to work. In so confused, depressed, been unhappy for a ling time. I’m not even happy like I should be about having a new home, which I’ve never had.