Do you worry that you and your partner have become more roommates than lovers? Does this make you feel sad and confused, as you can’t quite figure out how the two of you got here? Worse, are you terrified you will both stay this way forever and will ultimately break up? I want you to know you’re not alone, as many, if not most, couples endure this experience: getting stuck in the “roommate phase” in your relationship.
Here are the facts
This incredible study on time spent by couples demonstrates this reality. In 2002, the Sloan Center at UCLA sent social scientists into busy families’ homes, where they studied these families. They compiled 1,540 hours of videotape that they then reviewed to create an understanding of how couples operate in the real world. They discovered that husbands and wives were alone together in the same room only 10 percent of the time. Further, they were shocked to learn that the average amount of time couples spent in conversation with each other was just 35 minutes per week. And, most of these conversations were about logistics, such as bills and who is going to take care of various responsibilities.
Essentially, this study revealed that for “the vast majority of couples, their lives had become this infinite-to-do list, and they were neglecting the relationship that was at the center of it all…[it showed most couples] get work-oriented and exhausted; by the time they come home at night, they just want to crash on the couch and watch something on TV. They might be in the same room, but they often aren’t talking to each other” (Gottman & Gottman, The Love Prescription: 7 Days to More Intimacy, Connection, and Joy, p. 129).
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to relax sometimes, especially given the busy lives many, if not most, of us lead. The problem lies in doing this on a daily basis. When we do, we lose track of each other. Our “love maps” (or how much we know about each other inside and out) fades, and so too does that exhilarating connection we once had.
So, you are likely wondering, “What can we do to shake things up and get us out of the roommate phase and back into that exhilarating place?” Here’s the biggest answer:
Date Again, Date Right, and Date Consistently
Remember that first few weeks or months in your relationship — the honeymoon phase? It’s this magical time when we are so excited to get to know this new person and so exhilarated by the idea that this new person likes us.
I bet you thought it was supposed to end as we get more comfortable sharing the more unpleasant parts of ourselves with each other. You might have this belief that, inevitably, you and your partner are bound to start getting into more fights, more discomfort, and less adventurous dating. The reality is far different, though.
Every relationship, from the ones we have as babies with our moms, to the ones we have with our spouse or husband, is marked by three phases: harmony, disharmony, and repair. So, yes, there will be more fights/conflicts as you move out of that initial honeymoon (harmony) phase.
However, by no means do you have to lose that adventurous and fulfilling dating lifestyle. In fact, you owe it to yourself, your partner, and the relationship to maintain that way of living.
When we prioritize having consistent quality dates in our relationship, we are well on our way to protecting our relationship from the dreaded “roommate phase.” Additionally, if we lose our way, reprioritizing consistent quality dating has a high likelihood of moving us out of this roommate phase and back into a fulfilling, thrilling relationship.
It’s crucial, though, that we date in the right kind of ways.
The following are 9 rules to create the best dating:
1. No screens of any kind, which includes movies.
Real dating means person-to-person face time. It doesn’t mean you never watch tv or movies together; it just means that you both should know that when you are, it doesn’t count as a date.
2. Regularly express interest and curiosity largely through open-ended questions.
These open the heart and improve intimacy. You could ask each other questions like, “Catch me up on your life? How’s your week been? Are any really interesting events that made you smile or made you sad? What are you dreaming of in your life right now? The reality is we are always changing, so it’s paramount that we keep checking in with each other so that we best ensure we change together.
3. Keep it exclusive.
Do not invite friends, family, or the kids. This is about the two of you who cherish each other.
4. Be flexible about how the night will unfold.
It’s inevitable that a noteworthy number of these dates won’t go perfectly or even particularly well. That’s normal. We’re human and we’re not always going to be our best selves. Remember that and embrace the reality of some percentage of poor dates. You’ll try again the next time to have it go much better!
5. Don’t expect sex.
It’s just too much pressure to go in expecting sex. If it happens, great; if it doesn’t, it’s okay. Given you and your partner are making quality dating a habit, there will be other dates and therefore plenty of other opportunities for this.
6. Ensure you both agree with the night’s adventure.
This is about the two of you, which means it’s critical you both ensure you are comfortable with the proposed plan for the date night. If you two disagree, then it could be a great opportunity for you to practice healthy communication and compromise skills, which will only improve the likelihood that you move out of the roommate phase and back into that terrific, exciting relationship!
7. Keep alcohol to a minimum.
Drinking is a fine way to let loose and have fun. It can become problematic, though, when you and/or your partner drink so much that you’re no longer present and your best selves.
8. Make a pact to have at least 1 date night a week and stick with it.
The sad reality is dating often falls to the bottom of our priority lists, especially when other things in life ramp up. Something will always try to steal date night from you, but you have to make it and keep it a priority. Get used to saying no to other people and things that threaten that minimum of one night you have devoted for date night. So, agree with each other that this is “an investment in the two of you, a way to continue to keep things fresh and exciting, to protect you/pull you out of that dreaded roommate phase, and one that is regular and non-negotiable” (Gottman & Gottman, 2022, p. 139).
9. Most important of all, make it an adventure.
In their book, the Love Prescription: 7 Days to More Intimacy, Connection, and Joy, married psychologists, Dr. John and Julie Gottman explain that this is the most critical element of dating. They detail, “This could be a literal adventure: going someplace new together, like sneaking into a fancy hotel. Or, it might be more of a metaphorical adventure: sitting on the porch together watching the sun set behind the trees, and seeing where the conversation takes you” (Gottman & Gottman, 2022, p. 136).
Understand More About How to Get Out of the Roommate Phase Through Online Couples Therapy in California, Oregon, and Florida
We know it can be difficult to imagine how to resurrect the exciting passion you and your partner once had, especially if it’s been months or even years since you last felt it. We have worked with countless couples over the decade to help them reconnect with their best selves through practical skills and approaches, such as engaging in the right kind of dating. At Stress Solutions, we are devoted to helping you and your partner understand how you both got to a difficult place and, as quickly as possible, help you use the right kinds of approaches to get back what you deserve.
To learn more about how to transform your relationship or to schedule a consultation with a couples therapist in California, Oregon, or Florida, we encourage you to reach out to us.