7 Ways to Make Sure Your Spouse Doesn't Become Just a Roommate

Blythe Daniel

Published Feb 14, 2024
7 Ways to Make Sure Your Spouse Doesn't Become Just a Roommate

It's easy to justify going to bed without praying together or without giving each other a good night kiss. Sometimes, even leaving your spouse to clean up the dishes from dinner and retreating to bed without an "I love you" or "Thank you for doing the dishes tonight" can lead to further roommate status when you don't have that time to connect (or the reverse is true in the morning).

Ever notice how the candy aisle in the grocery store dictates what season it is? When my teenagers were younger, we used to call it the "fun aisle." I'd say, "Do you all want to go down the fun aisle today and see what they have"? Still today, it's filled with candy, toys, gifts, dishes, and more!

How is it that we easily want to please our children with candy and toys in the seasonal aisle, but we can let the season we're in at home steal our attention from our spouse? Sometimes, we can become caretakers to our children and more like roommates to our spouses.

I remember thinking early on in marriage, "Who would ever just become like a roommate to their spouse? Certainly not me because that doesn't happen to someone who waited so long to get married (I was 33, he was 41 when we got married)." Boy, was I wrong. Becoming more like a roommate can happen to any of us, especially if we aren't on guard to prioritize our spouse. Little by little, we slip into merely occupying the same physical space but not the same heart space.

It's easy to justify going to bed without praying together or without giving each other a good night kiss. Sometimes, even leaving your spouse to clean up the dishes from dinner and retreating to bed without an "I love you" or "Thank you for doing the dishes tonight" can lead to further roommate status when you don't have that time to connect (or the reverse is true in the morning).

It's easy to give attention to who's the loudest in the room, and sometimes that's our children. They demand a lot from us (but we love them!), and sometimes their requests leave us feeling depleted toward our spouse. All perfect set-ups to think, "I'll talk with her later" or "He knows I love him," and we slip further away from the love and passion we experienced when we first married.

My husband and I both work from home. We're grateful that we have work that allows us to be more flexible in our home and work-life flow. People often say, "Oh, you must go out on romantic dates while you're both home," and we have done that some. But it's not as romantic when you have bed hair, smelly breath, and just want to get some caffeine in you after you drop off the kids at school.

I have seen that I can be a happier spouse when I implement just a few things that show I don't want to become just his roommate but the woman he fell in love with and that he stays in love with.

We all know that, mathematically, seven isn't a perfect number (its factors don't add up to 7 – I had to look that one up!). But to God, it was a perfect number. He created everything within six days and rested on the seventh day. Thus, seven is considered complete or perfect.

We are not perfect (we know!), neither is our love for our spouse. But God's love is perfect and covers us, including how we relate to our spouse. Love is not an easy road moving forward, but actually, love is even more powerful when it comes to the winding paths we take with our spouse and even recovering from the bumps and hills along the way.

No list of things we can do will make marriage more likely to succeed or less likely to feel like you're polar opposites, just like the earth, moon, and stars when they span the sky and don't line up (which only happens 4-7 times per year that they line up as an eclipse, according to NASA). Gives new meaning to the hit song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, doesn't it?

So how do we eclipse the thought, "You're more my roommate than my spouse"? Here are some ideas:

1. It takes an intentional shift, but when you can ask yourself: "How should I show my spouse that I love them by serving them even though they haven't offered this to me?" It puts your heart in a position of humility to love unconditionally, which spouses have promised to do.

2. When you do a chore or job before your spouse has a chance to do it, it shows them that you took the time to notice something they usually do. It's a quiet way of saying, "I notice what you do for me." And if they don't notice, it puts your heart in a place to receive from God, even if not from your spouse. God is always faithful to meet our needs.

3. Often, we're so busy doing what we need to do in a day's time that we don't stop to ask, "What is a highlight of your day right now? What's hard for you right now? How are you feeling about (fill in the blank with something you know they are struggling with)? I often try to ask my husband one question like this each morning or evening. Sometimes, I'm not consistent, but I try to show him that I care about him, not just because we live in the same house but because we are one. God sees us as such, and I want to see him as my life partner, not just the person I share a home with.

4. When you ask your spouse: "What is something that I do that annoys you and what is something I do that affirms you?" you can really take care of anything that you aren't aware of that has come into your relationship. Roommates often move on or move out and don't always address what might be between them. This is where overcoming the roommate syndrome can really be advantageous for you both as a couple to move past barriers.

5. One day I noticed that my husband was always last to sit down at dinner. It felt like I was either eating by myself at the table or with whatever kids were home at the time. Finally, I asked him about it, and he said, "Growing up, it bothered me that dirty dishes were in the sink, so now it's hard for me to sit down and eat when there are dirty dishes in the sink from food prep." After almost 20 years of marriage, that was so helpful to know. He wasn't avoiding conversation or sitting with me at the table; he wanted to take care of the dishes. Unless you ask the questions on your mind, you can't grow closer to understanding each other and your backgrounds.

6. Showing romantic love toward your spouse can look different for men and women. Men often receive love through physical expression and women through emotional empathy and listening. When we flip sides and start thinking more about how our spouse likes to receive love, it can help us to see that in a healthy marriage, one partner is not more need-oriented or selfish. Both need to express themselves in a romantic relationship. It's not always about what your spouse needs from you, but what you can express that will draw your spouse to you. That's true love!

7. It doesn't get lost on me that when I disappoint my husband, or he disappoints me, there is a safety net that catches us. I want to be the one who doesn't hold something against him but releases him into the net. God will meet him there, and God will meet me when I crash into the net. It's natural to blame or shift the focus onto the other person, but when we can treat our spouse with forgiveness and a deep love that roommates don't have, like a married couple, we are able to say, "I forgive you, and my life is matched with yours and yours with mine. You aren't perfect, and I am not, but we are loved by a God who thought enough of us to bring us together and to help us walk out living as life partners, not just temporary roommates."

Do you know the one thing that is good about getting older? We literally forget more easily! Our brains have been retaining so much knowledge and carry so much. I find that if we feel more like roommates one day, we get the chance to start over, and often, one of us will forget something the other said. Roommates often hold onto words because it's all they have. But spouses let go of words said that don't line up with who the person is and instead love them faithfully as if you can't live without them. This is the bond of married couples that God has put in us because he values the covenant relationship between him and each other. So much so that he gives us seasons in life and seasons in our marriage. It's not easy, but like a kid in the "fun aisle," we can enjoy the aisle we have walked down together and continue to look for the treats in life that we get to experience together.

Photo credit: © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Writer Blythe DanielBlythe Daniel is a literary agent, author, and marketer. Her agency markets books through podcasts, blogs, and launch teams and represents books to publishers. Blythe was the publicity director for Thomas Nelson Publishers and has been a literary agent for the past 16 years. Blythe has written for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ann Voskamp, Focus on the Family, CCM Magazine, Christian Retailing, and others. Blythe and her mother have co-authored two books: Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters (Harvest House) and I Love You Mom: Cherished Word Gifts from My Heart to Yours (Tyndale). She is married and lives in Colorado with her family.