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
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.
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”
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.