We recently received a message on Facebook from a wife who was feeling frustrated, discouraged and hopeless in her marriage. To paraphrase her message, she said…
“I don’t know what to do anymore. My husband and I used to be best friends. We used to be in love. I don’t know what changed or when it changed, but now it feels like we’re just roommates. We’re just two strangers sharing a house and sharing bills and sharing kids, but this isn’t what I wanted our marriage to be. I’m not sure how to get back to what we had before. I can’t keep going on like this. What do I do? Help!”
This probably keeps her awake and night and makes her days much more difficult than they need to be. Her struggle is tragic, but it’s not unique. In our work with married couples from all over the world, we’ve seen a startling trend of many marriages facing similar struggles. Marriages are falling into what I call “The Roommate Trap.”
The Roommate Trap isn’t like a mousetrap that snaps you in an instant. It’s slow and methodical like an elaborate maze. Once a couple enters the maze of life’s busy-ness (work, kids, bills, etc.), they can find themselves wandering around and getting separated from one another. It’s not an intentional separation; it’s just what can happen when life is happening fast.
In the maze, a couple gets into a kind of “autopilot.” Again, it doesn’t happen all at once and it’s rarely an intentional choice to pull away from each other. It’s subtle.
After a long season of just trying to keep their heads above water, one or both spouses begin to notice that the marriage isn’t what it used to be. They’re no longer best friends and lovers. There’s no longer laughter filling the home. There’s no longer much physical affection. They act like roommates and nothing more.
Whether you are one of the countless spouses suffering in silence with this same kind of stagnant marriage or if you’re simply wanting to be proactive to keep your marriage from slipping into the “Roommate Trap,” here are four keys to improving your marriage. These four simple action steps (when done consistently) can help get your marriage out of the Roommate Trap and stay strong!
1. Search for solutions instead of assigning blame.
When you’re struggling in your marriage or feeling alone and isolated, it’s easy to want to assign blame to the other spouse. It’s also easy to blame yourself. Neither of those options are helpful. Instead of blaming, communicate with your spouse about what you’re feeling. Ask him/her how they are feeling. Start to create some action-oriented steps to bring improvement.
2. Do what you did at the beginning of the relationship.
When couples tell me, “Things were so much better back when we were dating,” I usually smile and ask, “Well, then why did you stop dating?” I’m trying to make the point that the dating, romance, and pursuit that happens early in a relationship shouldn’t stop just because a couple marries. Sure, there are practical challenges when kids and bills come along, but there are also beautiful blessings in every season of marriage. You shouldn’t try to recreate the early days of your marriage, because the current days can be even better, but you can start doing some of the positive things you did at the beginning of the relationship like staying up late just to talk, sending love notes, flirting with each other and a million other ways to stay connected.
3. Pray with your spouse and pray for your spouse.
I’m convinced that prayer is one of the most intimate acts a married couple can share. When you pray for your spouse, it changes your perspective about them. It binds you closer to him/her. When you pray with your spouse, it simultaneously brings you closer to God and closer to each other. No marriage problem is bigger than God and when you invite the peace of Christ and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit into your marriage, transformation happens. When you don’t know which way to turn, turn to Jesus and you’ll be headed in the right direction.
4. Don’t give up!
We live in a culture that teaches us to quit the moment something becomes difficult or uncomfortable. Many people seem more committed to their diets, their hobbies, or their exercise routines than they are committed to their marriages. When your marriage is in a tough spot, refuse to give up. Keep fighting for each other and not against each other. You will get through this and overcoming the struggle will make your marriage even stronger.
For more tips and tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, please check out the events, videos, articles and resources at www.xomarriage.com