Roommate Marriage: Why Does It Happen?

Roommate Marriage: Why Does It Happen?

A lot of couples who struggle with intimacy and loneliness issues seek marriage counseling in the office, virtually, or by doing an intensive with a couples counselor.

Partners who come for marriage counseling to my Wake Forest office usually say they still consider each other best friends. They have gotten through some happy and hard times together and feel like they can be themselves with each other. So, what’s the issue?

Well, there is a fine line between friendship and marriage. And many couples cross it without even noticing. However, you can still recall those happy times when the two of you shared affection and passion and you wonder what the hell happened. And more importantly, why did it happen to your marriage??

1.     No Boundaries

Some people in the long-lasting relationships often give up on their privacy believing that they need to be their true selves in front of the spouse. Nevertheless, just because two people are in a loving and dedicated relationship doesn’t mean they should erase all their boundaries. Staying private in certain situations and respecting each other’s boundaries will not hurt intimacy. Quite the opposite, a bit of privacy can keep the spark alive between you and your SO.

For instance, some people stop dressing up for each other like they used to do when going out on dates. Or they stop dressing up in the bedroom, believing that they don’t have to seduce their partner anymore, since they have been married for years.

A boundary-free relationship may make you and your partner feel more like roommates. Little by little, you could increase the risk of losing interest in each other and falling out of love. A little bit of mystery between you and your partner can actually do good for your relationship in the long run.

2.     Incompatibility

How often have you heard that the opposites attract? While this may be true sometimes, the sad truth is that for many couples those differences become a huge obstacle in their relationship over time and the main reason they finally drift apart.

Some couples find themselves in the midst of obvious differences such as lifestyle choices and viewpoints or not wanting the same things in life. You may find these differences attractive at the beginning of your relationship. For example, one of my marriage counseling in Raleigh, NC clients said that at the very beginning of their relationship, she found her husband’s adventurous spirit exciting, while he found her groundedness comforting. However, the different things they wanted out of life turned them with time in two unfulfilled people who lived like roommates.

Relationship experts believe that a long-term relationship success depends on how compatible you and your partner are. Although it is not possible to find someone who is exactly same as you (because, hey, there are no two same people in the world!), being with someone who is completely different from you can make your relationship very challenging.

In addition, if two people with incompatible qualities are not committed to learning positive communication skills, it is likely that their relationship won’t work.

3.     Sexual Differences

If you are very sexual (have a strong need to engage in sexual activity frequently and regularly) and your partner is not (and vice versa), you need to understand each other’s needs. A partner who is not very sexual may feel pressured to be sexual and unhappy because that’s not really something he/she wants. Finally, who wants to be pressured into anything? Moreover, at the same time, a less-sexual person may feel guilty and deficient. On the other side, a very sexual partner will most likely feel frustrated most of the time. And this can be a big one.

You may settle thinking things will work themselves out somehow. But, for a great number of couples, they don’t, unfortunately. If you don’t address your sexual differences and expectations early on, things will get challenging in the bedroom sooner or later. And you’ll find yourself married to a roommate.

4.     Turning Against or Away from Emotional Bids

Dr. John Gottman, who has studied relationships for decades, found that partners who stay together after years of marriage tend to turn towards each other’s emotional bids for connection 86% of the time. The secret of a successful marriage is turning towards. But what are emotional bids and what turning towards means?

An emotional bid is an attempt from one partner to another for affection, attention or any other form of positive connection. For example, when you ask your partner: “How do I look”? what you actually mean is “Pay attention to me”. Or when your spouse playfully throws a teddy bear at you, what he asks for is affection.

However, bids can get tricky, and you can easily miss some of them. This behavior Dr. Gottman calls turning away. Also, you can consciously turn against or reject your partner’s bids and respond with disrespect, critic, or resentment, which is the greatest killer of a relationship, according to Dr. Gottman.

Turning away or against emotional bids kills closeness and it may easily turn soulmates and lovers into roommates.


Marriage is a challenge that tests you every day. A lack of boundaries, mismatch, and sexual differences are some of the factors that can cause your relationship to turn from passionate into a roommate one. In addition, if you constantly miss each other’s bids for connection, your intimacy and attachment will most likely fade with time.

I hope this information helps you learn more about roommate marriage and different factors that can turn your once thriving relationship into a roommate marriage. I would like to help you explore why people might end up feeling disconnected and distant and what is that you can do to rebuild the exciting feeling that comes with a marriage, so stay tuned for more blog posts or give me a call to discuss your unique situation. 

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call at (703)-347-3200 for your free of charge 15-min consultation and/or to schedule an appointment in my Wake Forest office or online.


Irina Baechle,LCSW is a founder, owner, and a licensed therapist at IrinaBaechleCounselingLLC. She specializes in helping distant couples and anxious singles build truly connected and meaningful relationships. She currently offers online and in-home counseling services to residents of Virginia and North Carolina (and most countries abroad). Click here to schedule your free 15 min consultation. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Youtube for useful tips and resources.

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