Reasons to Stay Married – Even When You Live Like Roommates

Why stay married when you live like roommates? Because sometimes divorce isn’t worth the pain and destruction. These tips are inspired by a reader who loves her husband, but they live separate lives.

husband lives like roommatesThe Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman is an excellent place to start. He reveals the key elements of healthy relationships, emphasizing the importance of emotional connection.

“We have been married for three years, been together for 9,” says Beatrice on How to Be Happy Even in an Unhealthy Relationship. “I have been unhappy for about two years now. Everything is separate in our marriage, money especially. His is his, mine is mine, which is very frustrating when it comes to bills, going out, etc. I feel like we’ve lost our connection, we have been doing everything separately lately. We had a big talk about everything in May, 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?”

Why Stay Married When You Live Like Roommates?

“I do love him and he is my best friend, but I feel that we’re merely roommates,” says B. “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 unhappiest marriages. But, it may be easier in the long run to separate. If you aren’t sure, read 7 Tips for Letting Go of Toxic Relationships.

Figure out what you’re scared of…working on your marriage? Divorce?

In Why Do Women Stay in Loveless Marriages? I describe a few reasons women don’t leave their husbands. Take a look at that article, and see where you fit in.

Also, I want you to take 20 minutes every morning to write about your feelings, thoughts, opinions, experiences, and life. This is what Julia Cameron calls Morning Pages; it’s an invaluable tool for cleaning out your internal closets. Writing down whatever is in your head will help you figure out what you’re scared of. It’ll help you figure out if you want to stay married, or if you’re serious about – not just flirting with – divorce.

Dig into the source of your unhappiness

When my husband and I went to Hawaii a few months ago, I was an emotional wreck. 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 desperately unhappy…and I blamed the nearest, dearest person in my life: my husband.

In hindsight, I see that the reason I was so emotional was because my grandmother (may she rest in peace) took me there twice. She was like a mother to me, and I feel like I didn’t give her the love or respect she deserved. I’ve got some unresolved issues there. And my sister joined us on one of those vacations; she and I have had some pretty painful relationship problems since them. More unresolved crap.

Fix Your Marriage

What’s the point? Sometimes we have personal issues that our marriages, husbands, or kids trigger…that don’t have anything to do with the marriage itself. Sometimes we’re reacting to our own pasts, emotional baggage, and burdens. That’s what I was doing in Hawaii…and sometimes that’s the (unfounded, unreasonable) basis of divorce.

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

Remember that feelings of love come and go – but marriage should 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 possibly sustain constant romantic, sexy, loving feelings for him or your marriage. That’s the stuffHollywood movies are made of. The lovey dovey romantic marriages in movies are false, misleading lies.

Reasons to Stay Married When You Live Like Roommates

Reasons to Stay Married – Even When You Live Like Roommates

In reality, marriage is hard work. It’s a lot harder than most people realize, which is why so many couples end up divorce. You need to decide if you want to be married, and then you need to focus on building a happy, healthy marriage. If you keep waffling on whether you should stay or leave your husband, your marriage will suffer. You won’t just be living like roommates with your husband, you’ll start to destroy each other.

Why not take six months to do everything you can to stay married? Invest some time and energy into figuring out what you want out of your marriage and how you can get it. Read 6 Reasons to Stay Married.

If you’re still living like roommates after six months of trying to save your marriage, then you know it’s time for a Big Change.

Get professional counseling – not necessarily marriage counseling

The reason I suggested The Self-Sabotage Cycle is because she loves her husband and is best friends with him, yet she thinks he’s the source of her unhappiness. I don’t know if he is or he isn’t, but the problems she mentioned are normal parts of being married. Well, not all couples have totally separate bank accounts and lives – but all couples have issues they need to work through, and all couples go through periods of disconnection and separate-ness.

The best way to figure out if your husband is the source of your unhappiness is to look inside you. A visit or two to a counselor can help you figure it out – and so can the Morning Pages, books about marriage, and resources for strong, healthy women.

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

What do you think – are you wondering why stay married when you and your spouse live separate lives, like roommates? I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and helps you hear the still small voice.

Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.


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17 thoughts on “Reasons to Stay Married – Even When You Live Like Roommates

  • Sara

    I have been contemplating the idea of getting divorced. My husband and I have grown apart. We basically have been living parallel lives for the past year and a half. He sleeps upstairs and I stay downstairs with the kids. I work from home (child care) because he refuses to care for the children so that I can invest in my career, even when that was the plan. We are basically roomates caring for the kids. Quite frankly, I am too tired to try to save the marriage. Maybe getting a divorce is the only way to get a bit of a break from the kids and actually take some time for myself. I worry because, he owns the house and I don’t have a car; what’s worst, I depend on this residence to provide child care services to make my own money. Should I sit down with him and figure this out; and just be honest about the way I feel? I just see no need in staying in the marriage. The other day I told him that I was going back to work, as soon as all the kids are school age. He was not very happy. He said, I should just get a mindless job and work part-time for the rest of my life. He doesn’t like the idea of me being vey independent. I really need to feel like I can provide for myself and my kids too. He doesn’t get that. He even said that this situation right now was my future. I think he needs me to stay put so that he doesn’t have to care for the kids as much. I feel like he is pulling me down and makes me feel helpless.

  • Monica

    Thank you for this information. I found it helpful.
    My husband of 17 years is officially sleeping in the basement. He preferred this over moving out. Ours kids, 15 and 12, are unaware of this. Our lives have pretty much continued minus the intimacy and arguing. For now it seems he’s waiting to call my bluff. Since his long term infedelity was discovered 3 years ago, I have spent so much effort understanding my emotional self, forgave him, and in turn our marriage survived. But it hasn’t been enough. I believe his unwillingness to do the same has left him always leaning on me to accept him no matter what has brought me to a breaking point. It’s seems he blames his internal anger, our differences in parenting, my lack of sexuality, and so much more on why he behaves the way he does. He has isolated himself from friends and family and therefore needs us to constantly reassure him that he is loved and respected without giving back in return. It seems the only way he is able to acknowledge any of this is when his wife and kids are hurting. He has disappointed me so much that I feel numb. I want nothing else than to stay married. I am willing to work at it as I always have in the past, but I am not willing to allow him to blame me for his emotional sadness anymore. If divorcing him forces him to be a better father, that is for the best. I do not know what the emotional price will be for the kids, but it has to be better than a father who is constantly irritable.

  • cody

    Why are all these written from the the scourned wife’s position? I’m a man and a husband and also feeling the same as these for three years…….why is the male the reason for this so wholeheartedly? I hurt inside too

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Eva,

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s painful and shocking to find out your husband cheated, and that he still wants to stay married and live like roommates. That’s not a real marriage, and it’s not an ideal way to raise a child.

    I wish I had good advice to give you. If I were you, I’d find a way to make a fresh start…but I don’t know what it’s like to be you and have a four year old son. So, I can’t tell you what you should do.

    Here’s an article that may help you decide what to do:

    How to Make a Decision by Looking Forwards

    You might be encouraged by my free weekly newsletter, called SheBlossoms. I help women look upwards to grow healthy and strong, emotionally and spiritually. You may find it helpful, and you can sign up here:

    I will keep you in my prayers, for strength and healing and comfort. May you reach out and find support and love in your friends and family.


  • Eva

    Hello!!!.. I just want to share my sad story that just happened. I’ve being married for 10 years we had a son, he is 4 years old. We just got our first home. Everything seemed like the American Dream but a couples months ago my husband just told he got involved with someone at work and got her pregnant. He also told me he doesn’t love anymore. He felt in love with this person that is married too and she is gay. I told him that she only used him to have a kid because she couldn’t get pregnant with insemination, this person doesn’t love him she just had the kid and she is now living her life. I’m very depressed for my son and myself. My husband wants to live like roommates but how? I love him. Please I would appreciate any advice. Thank you

  • Bianca S

    I was really happy to come across this blog post offering reasons to stay married. I think a lot of couples get stuck in roommate mode and its hard to get out of that. Sex and passion are such an important part in relationships and I am always looking for books/websites/advice to help me keep things alive in the bedroom with my husband. I think having open communication about what you want and desire is key!

    You and your readers should check out the book “Boredom or Love Till the Very End” by Andrey Rider. It is fiction meets self help and its definitely a stimulating and super helpful read. If you find yourself in a bit of a boring sexual routine than this is the book to read alone (or with your partner). The book is about gender relations psychologist Daria and her determination to keep things fresh and interesting in her marriage. Thanks again for sharing this with your readers and I hope you will check out this book!

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Dear Anony-mouse,

    Thank you for sharing your experience! You’re not alone – many women (and men) are wondering about their reasons for staying married even when they live like roommates. But not everyone has the courage to talk about what they’re going through.

    Here are a few questions that occurred to me:

    Have you considered working part-time, even at Walmart, so you can assess how your health is affected? Going to work, earning money, and becoming more independent may give you strength and energy, which you don’t have now.

    What will you do if he decides that your having nowhere to go isn’t his problem? Then you’ll be forced to take a job or home that isn’t what you’d choose if you had more freedom. It’s better to start becoming independent now, not later when you’re under the gun.

    Can you see yourself living this life for the next 50 years? You are very young. It’s a long road of not working and struggling with health issues.

    Taking care of your health is the most important thing. If the meds aren’t working, then you may need to try different solutions.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s hard, especially when your health is holding you back. But I believe you’re strong than you think and smarter than you realize! You CAN get through this, and get back on your feet….it’s just a question of figuring out how to stand up again.

    What is the light at the end of the tunnel?

  • Anony-mouse

    I am still young, (30) but I’ve got the body of someone much older. I have arthritis, frequent migraines, and fatigue. My doctors have me on meds to treat them all, but I depend on my husband financially and don’t work outside the house at all. We’ve only been married 6 years and we’re already living like roommates… Except I have to ask him for money when I need to go shopping. We have separate bank accounts, and he transfers the money into mine. When he gets off work, he spends most of his time in his home office working on his hobbies… And once a week he goes out with his best friend after work.
    I don’t know what I can or would do. He told me the other day he was thinking about divorcing me, but changed his mind because “he loves me and I’d have nowhere to go”.
    I’m at the point where I’m considering sacrificing my health just to work at WalMart… The only place who’ll likely hire me with my lack of skills.

    What can I do?

  • In a loveless married

    Married woman and others. I been married 32 years, I to totally agreed about older women getting out on there own. Older woman suffer the most they lose their husband money and go down step in living. My husband and I hardly talk anymore, If we and when we talk it about five words if that. I talk to friends an co-workers if I need a answer to something.

    Trust me, I did everything to save it. He was number one ,his happiness came first, Now, my happiness come first. Sex, what that anymore, I had a co-worker hug me once. All I could think was how nice it felt for someone to do, that. He goes into the bedroom all the time. I couldn’t even told are car got broken into. But like the rest of the women here I’m 57 who really gong to want me. At this age you should not be thinking about reasons to stay married.

  • seekinganswers

    Wow…well spoken Marriedwoman. I’m in a loveless marriage as well after 25 years and I’m no longer good enough for him. I gave up everything for his success and our children, moving year after year, raising our children and without his help most of the time. But I loved him and thought that is what I’m suppose to do….be the good wife and mother. Now that our children are grown….well let’s just say he’s not interested in me (and yes he actually said that) I’m in the situation do I get a divorce …if so how do I support myself, and where do I even begin to find a job…what qualifications or certifications. Sure go back to school but at my age..I’ll never make enough to live the quality of life as the pervious years. Or stay in our loveless marriage. What does this say to my chdren…what example am I setting for them? Do i teach them to figure a way to be happy in marriage or stand up for themselfs and find love again! So I’m in a condrum. Stay in a loveless marriage or rough it on my own. Hard choices to make….and such a lose.

  • Amy

    We have been married 47 years and we live more like house mates. I live upstairs and he lives in the basement, He really had no interest in me, we had sex once and he hated it didn’t understand what people saw in sex. He works midnights all weekends, holidays and special occasions. If he’s not at work he’s sleeping or working in his garage or doing yard stuff. He’s not gay or into some one else, I’ve had him followed plus I spent months following him. He has no friends that I can find. no TV, radio, phone, computer, he has cut himself off from any one and the world.

  • Laurie Post author

    One way to stay married even when you live like roommates is to claim positive stories. Research shows that sharing “we-stories” can help couples that have become distant, strained and stressed find ways to connect and strengthen their relationships.

    In Positive Couple Therapy: Using We-Stories to Enhance Resilience, Dr. Karen Skerrett helps couples discover significant memories that help them reconnect and fall in love again. It’s worth reading, if you want to find ways to stay married even thought you live like roommates.

  • michael

    After reading this article I am amaze that you have no clue what you talking about . Try reading in between the lines, this woman want to love her husband but he is constantly criticizing her and not showing. For some unknown reason (be it some religious belief that states you must stay married no matter what the cost is or that she will bring shame to her family or she will feel like a loser if she gets divorce) this woman is trying to convince herself that she is in love with her husband when she is not. So your advised for her to do all the work and try to save the marriages on her own efforts. sorry it takes two people to save a marriage and if one party is unwilling to work at saving the marriage than two things will happen this person is trying to save the marriage will be stuck in a loveless marriage and will be unhappy all their life or the couple will get divorce. which is a better alternative than condemning that poor woman to a miserable without love.

    • MarriedWoman

      Michael, it is good to read something from a man that is sensitive to what the woman in the loveless marriage feels. I cannot afford to live without my husband’s money. Jobs are scarce at my age, we have been married 32 years, I am no longer young. Before, I stayed with him for our kids and they are now grown and gone. Now.. it seems I stay because I cannot afford to live alone. Love and happiness is important, but so is financial stability. Some ladies I know divorced their husbands. Sure they no longer have to deal with rejection and sadness of their unfeeling partner, but now they have other problems relative to a greatly reduced standard of living. One lives in a crappy apartment and has a succession of worthless lovers – an endless quest for “Mr. Right.” Another lives unhappily and depressed with her ex-husband under the same roof because rents are too high to move out on her own. Still another lives in a tiny condo and works hard every day to make the ends meet – she is getting older, her back hurts, but she gets in her dumpy car and goes to work because she has to. It is hard for women, particularly older women, to survive on their own. Sure, some do it, but I do not feel they are any happier than I am really… unless they married a rich man with enough money to sue him for spousal support, or get a large settlement of land and money. Then, it would be worth it. For a woman like myself who married for love… and didn’t care about how rich he was… it is too hard to go it alone. She would find herself broke, jobless and penniless. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.