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 know divorce isn’t always worth the emotional pain, family heartache, or financial devastation.
These tips are inspired by 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 relationship alone.
If you want to save your marriage, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman is an excellent place to start. This marriage counselor reveals the key elements of healthy relationships, emphasizing the importance of emotional connection.
Deciding if You Should Stay Married to Your “Roommate”
“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 to think and listen
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 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 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.
Here’s an idea: spend 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.
Get counseling – not necessarily marriage therapy
If you’re not into marriage counseling, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert.
Dr John Gottman’s 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 need to work towards a stronger, better, brighter relationship.
For more thoughts on staying married or getting divorced, read Considering Divorce? Signs You Should Leave Your Husband.
Your thoughts, big and little, are welcome below.