Why Do We Feel Like Roommates?

A heterosexual couple sitting in their living room on the floor. The man is resting his head on his right hand that is propped up on his right knee. The women is looking over her right shoulder towards the man. They look upset.

After the initial six or so months of being in a relationship, we start to feel more comfortable with our new significant other. We may feel more secure and safe with them, which creates a natural shift within the relationship towards leaving the honeymoon stage.

While feeling safe and secure is key for a healthy relationship, a new challenge comes.

Becoming roommates.

However, this roommate feeling can creep in at any time later in a relationship. If there’s anything this pandemic has led us to experience is the feeling of being stuck at home with our significant other day in and day out. Sharing the same space and not leaving the house or connecting with others for months has shown just how easy it is to fall into feeling like roommates.

Take a moment to reflect on what you think some of the key things you and your partner need to be doing to ensure that you are not becoming roommates. The concept might sound simple, but sometimes it can be hard to identify these things in the moment when we are stuck feeling like roommates.

We want to make sure that we are nurturing the parts of our relationship that bring us passion and excitement – the parts that make us lovers (and not roommates). Here are some ideas to consider:

Make Time For You
Hear me out on this one. Your relationship needs you to also have an identity that is separate from your partner. When we set time for ourselves we are nurturing our own identity. Whether this is around self-care and needing to refill our own cups (which allows us to give to our partners), or though doing things that are simply for pleasure and joy for ourselves. This allows you to then come back to your partner with a renewed sense of excitement and joy about your own individuality. Sharing your separate experiences can then lead to a greater sense of connection and deeper level of intimacy. 

Build Rituals of Daily Connection
Daily rituals can be a powerful part of our relationships, and it can be through the small moments each day. Perhaps the way you greet each other at the start of the day or when one partner returns home, or how you say goodnight or part from each other when one partner leaves the house could provide a moment for a ritual. Think back to when you first started dating. How did you greet and part from each other? Start bringing this back into your relationship.

Set Limits On Your Phone Use
We all have moments of scrolling and numbing, especially with the added stress of this pandemic. Commonly expressed experiences from partners include, “we just end up being on our phones at night, sitting beside each other” or “my partner is on their phone and they aren’t paying attention to me.” There is a term for this – it’s called phubbing. If your devices are part of your wind-down strategy, try taking turns asking each other what the other person is looking at to help bridge a connection. Develop shared boundaries around phone use. Find one or two nights each week where there is a period of time that your devices are put on silent and in another room.

Develop a Culture of Appreciation
A strong friendship is key for any relationship, and shifting out of roommate status means showing that we appreciate our partners and are grateful for how they contribute to our lives. Dr. John Gottman talks about how building appreciation in our relationships is key for healthy bonds. Appreciation does not need to be a gold sticker chart of who is doing what. Instead, bring acknowledgement for something that your partner did that made you smile. Did they text you a message that felt good? Express appreciation. Did they bring you a glass of water when they heard you coughing? Let them know you see them and that you appreciate them. The key with appreciation is that the small moments frequently help build up our “relationship bank.”

Schedule Date Nights That Bring Excitement and Joy
A common challenge is that we get stuck doing things that are routine and mundane. While sometimes we need to destress after a busy week, we also want to make sure that we are scheduling times where we are connecting with our partner. Appreciating that we are in a pandemic, here are some ideas to help you think out of the box:

  • Try a new recipe together after the kids go to bed
  • Open your favourite bottle or box of whatever and enjoy it together 
  • Play a game you used to play in your early days or find a new one to try 
  • Take on a small house project that you can complete together 

Scheduling points of connection without distractions allows us to feel joy and excitement – and this shared experience helps bridge the connection between roommate to lover. 

Shift From Parents to Partners
Many partners tell me that they’ve lost talking to their significant other because their conversations have focused largely around the children. When the kids go to bed, or they are off playing on their own, step out of your parenting role and into your individual role. Share things that excite you. Share memories of each other from the past. Talk about what you hope to build in the future. Share experiences during the day that made you excited or were difficult for you. This sharing of internal experiences, your thoughts, feelings, opinions, desires, wishes, and memories all create an emotionally intimate space. 

Schedule Sex
Many people will raise their eyebrows when they first read this, and it often comes from the belief that sex should be spontaneous and unplanned to make it exciting. Being locked in the same house definitely takes away the spontaneity that we may feel in our relationships, which means that time is likely to pass by with the busy demands that you have been juggling. We know that nothing gets done if we don’t set a time, plan, or intention. The idea here is not to become so routined that sex itself is no longer fun and exciting. Instead, set an intention on the day of the week and prioritize your intimacy. Whatever distractions come up, save them for another day.

The key to shifting out of roommate status during this pandemic? The strength in your bond does not come from big moments. Instead, it is about the small moments that you can do each day over the coming months that reignites what feels exciting and joyful – the parts that you once experienced when you were dating, only better.