I had a couple in my practice this week who described themselves as ‘married roommates’ – you may be surprised to hear that this is not uncommon and it can happen surprisingly quickly in a relationship. While some married roommates can function perfectly happily in a polite friend or sibling like dynamic there are others that turn into angry, resentful, contemptuous and ugly relationships.
In the beginning the connection seems quite effortless fueled by attraction and excitement and these new couples enjoy working hard to understand each other. Those behaviors also reinforce your mutual interest in each other. But once the initial novelty fades partners often stop putting in the effort required, there’s no longer the need to impress nor the need for fun and excitement and the downward spiral begins. While the initial phases of setting up home together were exciting, as the days pass the new reality of the routines can become truly disappointing. The incredible connection the couple first had at the beginning of the relationship has become a hum drum list of transactional events from managing careers, financial pressure, health management, retirement planning, house, friends and kids. The emotional side of the relationship is surpassed by the functional aspects of everyday life. As the months and years pass the functional aspects only increase – the bills, extended families, finances, meal planning, chores etc. Responsibilities are slowly prioritized over quality time together. You quickly go from being a fun loving and carefree couple to a stressed and busy duo and conversations sound like one big long to-do list. In the evenings the couples now find themselves in different rooms partaking in different activities.
Often when a couple do marry there has been little or no explanation or preparation for what lies ahead and this is particularly so for those who have not lived together before the wedding day. No one has prepared you for just how hard it can be and how you need to adapt to the challenges you’re likely to face. Nor does our culture assist – weddings are romanticized and the realities of marriage glossed over. Young couples tend to focus on the wedding and honeymoon and not on what it means to actually ‘be married’. Consequently many have a very hard time adjusting.
The first part of our lives is about the self and self discovery – the time when we learn to be comfortable in our skin. You are a self-driven individual entity. The second major phase of your life is characterized by committing to another person which means sharing your life with that other. Now you have to shift from making choices for yourself to having to compromise as well as share every aspect of your life. The level of selflessness required to do this can come as a great shock. And many of the problems that arise in this period have to do with the inability to change expectations or behaviors accordingly. In this phase in your life – every aspect of your life will change. That’s massive! If you don’t manage to work as a team in this phase and instead you do your own thing you slowly cease to need the other for support and naturally you drift apart and the distance between you grows. It is in this phase that those hopes and dreams that you had at the beginning need to be rekindled. Belief in the other is so important. Indulging only your own needs will have catastrophic consequences. In order to cope in this phase your mind set has to be readjusted. The third phase is the phase where the child rearing is complete and life slows down. (more about this in another post).
Yet most people understand that getting married means one’s life will change but an awareness of just how profound those changes will be often doesn’t hit home until well into it. The difference between our original fantasies and expectations can be miles apart from the actual reality leading to the feeling of a profound disillusionment. And it becomes easy to see your partner as different from the person you thought they were.
Being roommates is a highly unsatisfying position to be in for couples – characterized by a major emotional disconnect. The love and lust, intense interest has seemingly disappeared. The initial romance, laughter and fooling around has vanished. Instead replaced by parallel lives subsisting together often in harmony, carrying out their individual roles and responsibilities. The only connection now are the household responsibilities and family obligations. This disconnect happens as soon as the partners stop doing things for and with each other. The individuals in these relationships are often sad, lonely and deeply frustrated.
Examples of things that rob couples of opportunities to connect with each other: eating in front of the television, letting phones interrupt time together, and different sleeping patterns.
Yet there is hope! You always have the power to change your reality. The light at the end of the tunnel can be reached through defining shared goals and working toward those goals together. A team mentality is required for success. When a couple puts effort into their relationship they create accountability and growth. Don’t underestimate just how important it is to constantly maintain the quality and longevity of the relationship. Start today! That emotional bond between you requires constant work. The connection between you is like a living organism – if it is not fed and nurtured it will die. So in order to assist the process do the following:
- Don’t make decisions alone e.g. plan your vacations together
- Accept that marriage is a trade-off, you must give and take
- Stop and think before reacting- is this battle worth it?
- Learn to act as team mates and work toward common goals
- Stop the ‘me and mine’ mentality – it is not helpful in a relationship setting
- Do compromise to reach consensus
- Don’t get stuck into pet annoyances and allow them to blossom in your mind – this will simply trap you in a cycle of unhappiness
- Concentrating on the good in your partner is a choice you each have to make – no one is perfect
- Don’t have negative thoughts about the other as this will ultimately poison your relationship
- Getting stuck on your own individual viewpoint will hijack your ability to work together
- Learn to recognize and accept your differences – this is what attracted you to each other in the first place.
Effort put in today will result in an investment in your future happiness together.
This post is based on this book. It may help those of you in this situation.
If you need to talk about your situation with a professional – contact us: https://milestherapie.com/contact-the-gingko-leaf-for-an-appointment/