9 minute read
Are you and your partner best friends? Could you chat all night and never run out of things to say? Go away for an amazing holiday together and have the time of your life? These are all great signs you’re in a relationship built to last.
But what if you have all of that – yet you’re not having sex anymore?
If this resonates – you’ve officially entered the roommate stage of marriage and relationships. One where you’re more “friends” than you are lovers.
And this can feel downright confusing, scary and isolating.
First off – please know you’re not alone in experiencing this – even if none of your friends have mentioned it.
The trap of marital or committed roommates is something many people avoid talking about because they feel like they’re the only ones, which can feel shameful in and of itself.
It’s also something a lot of couples don’t even talk about amongst themselves, for fear of rocking the boat.
And for a time, it’s often easier to not do anything other than hope things will get better. To hope that your physical connection returns and that electricity between you two will spark one more.
Unfortunately – hope isn’t always enough to bring sex and desire back.
And while sex and intimate connection are very important to a lot of people – it’s not necessarily the most important thing for everyone. It largely depends on how you feel love from your partner. And the more important sex is to you – the more it can cause you to question almost everything about your partnership – when the sex stops..
It very easily can amplify all of the other questions you have about your relationship. Even when you’re happily connected in every other way.
The roommate stage is when you and your partner start to feel more like friends than you feel like lovers. And when you’re in this stage, a lot of things have often happened slowly over time – to culminate in this roommate feeling.
For most couples, the roommate stage includes getting on really, really well together.
You have fun.
Find each other interesting.
You truly enjoy your time together.
In fact, you often feel a lot like a team and are committed to the same goals and plans.
The trouble is that for most “roommates” they often stopped having sex quite a long time ago.
And while there might still be a lot of physical intimacy in terms of kisses and hugs (perhaps even lying naked together), the next step rarely – if ever – happens.
And that causes a lot of stress for the person in the relationship who wants to, in fact, be more than just roommates.
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The truth is – it’s usually a gradual process.
Many couples don’t even notice the sexual intimacy or the feeling of romance starting to wane. Perhaps one of you is really stressed at work, and so you’re not really in the mood for sex, and your partner is fine with that for the time being.
Or you have a new baby at home and all your available energy is spent caregiving – so you grab every second of missed sleep you can.
Maybe you’re struggling with a health challenge that distracts you from anything that’s unrelated to feeling better.
No matter what – the roommate stage of marriage and relationships often starts with something small.
Over time, these small things become fully-fledged habits, where all the things you used to do to create that sexual closeness – start to get removed bit by bit.
The tricky thing for a lot of couples who feel more like friends – is that you don’t feel like your relationship even needs a date night anyway – because you work so well together without it.
You’re still best friends. You still get along.
Maybe things aren’t as exciting as they used to be – but it’s just for the time being, right?
It’s just “this moment in time” – a time that will pass.
But what you’ll likely find over time is this: the removal of the things that distinguish your relationship from that of a really close friendship – leads to you waking up one day realizing you haven’t had sex in months or even years.
And while you may be kind of okay with it – part of it is freaking you out. Because you realize that you’ve lost that thing you used to share together.
Sex and romance used to be your special way of connecting and now that you’ve lost it – you have no idea how to get it back.
To begin, you have to get honest and acknowledge what’s going on. This usually entails talking about it with your partner – even if it feels awkward. Because for all you know, your partner isn’t thinking about it at all.
Or they’re thinking about it and they secretly would like things to change. But they’re afraid of shifting the good place your relationship is in and causing a problem that might not be a problem for you.
When you talk about it, you’ll want to acknowledge this with your partner. And you’ll want to talk about the fact that you’ve noticed neither one of you initiates sex anymore. And you’ll want to ask your partner if this is something you would both like to change.
The big question from there is; how do you change things?
There are a few different things we don’t really talk about in our culture when it comes to this roommate phase of marriage.
As mentioned before, you rarely notice the transition from lovers to friends. Oftentimes, people I work with as a sex therapist and sex coach describe it as waking up one day – noticing you’re there. But not having noticed the gradual steps you took as partners – to end up in the roommate phase.
It’s usually harder than couples expect to recreate butterflies and desire each other once more.
Because it’s easy to assume that if you’re in a relationship where your general communication works really well – that it’s easy to change things. Easy to fall back in love again.
Because let’s be honest, you’re still having fun, you feel like you really love your partner, and there’s not a lot of conflict in your day-to-day. Your relationship isn’t “in trouble” the way others seem to be.
But when you feel more like buddies than I-need-to-have-you-right-now, or even like siblings – where it’s unnatural to take that kiss any further – it can be tricky.
Simply because you’re not tapped into that romantic feeling at all and haven’t been for a long time.
Even if the transition from friends to lovers isn’t always easy – being in this place in your relationship doesn’t mean it’s all over.
That low desire, or low libido, is a normal phase of marriage.
The truth is that while this does happen for people and they may be completely okay with it – a lot of couples in the roommate stage of marriage or their relationship – aren’t that happy about it at all.
Unfortunately, they may have succumbed to the idea that “this is the way things are”. Or they belief “there’s no point trying to change it because you can’t kickstart the romance again.”
After all the years doing this work I can tell you this belief in and of itself is a dangerous myth. And it is hands down one of the key beliefs that is holding you from keeping your relationship alive sexually.
But when you’re knee-deep into this belief, you’re essentially giving up on something that you deep-down really still want.
And instead of talking about it with your partner, you’re resorting to thinking “this is the way life will be”. All the while still feeling like you’re missing the one thing that makes life more worthwhile and fun – truly satisfying and soulful sex.
Sexual intimacy so good that it stops time and makes you forget about the worries of your day.
And the thing is – if you’ve shared sexual intimacy in the past, and have both desired one another – you can get that back.
If you’re committed to getting past the roommate phase in a relationship, it’s a good idea to seek help from a professional. This could either be a couple’s counselor or a couple’s therapist.
But the thing to know is, a lot of couples therapists don’t actually have any formal qualifications when it comes to human sexuality and desire in long-term relationships. It’s strange – I know.
And when you see a therapist who doesn’t have any formal education in Sexology – you’re running the risk of treatment based on their personal morals and values surrounding sex – rather than science.
You also run the risk of seeing a therapist who finds the topic of sex awkward and embarrassing. This can make bringing up all the things you desperately want help with, really tricky. So for these two reasons alone – seeing a sex therapist (or a couples therapist with lots of experience in this area) is usually the best idea.
And if taking time out of work for in-person sessions or virtual appointments isn’t your thing – there are also lots of online courses and programs out there. Ones that help you learn how to create those butterflies again – on your own time and schedule.
By learning how to increase desire in proven ways – you can reconnect with your partner on a sexual level. So you can finally feel more like lovers than buddies.
My 1:1 online support program Re:Desire is how I’ve helped countless couples who are stuck in the roommate phase of their relationship – get unstuck and fall in love all over again.
Many people who’ve joined this program have been in happy relationships – but ones that lack that spark. So even if they don’t fight all the time, they still struggle to talk about those few things that actually don’t work between them.
For many, they’ve been in the roommate stage of marriage for years and have found it impossible to escape it on their own.
If you’re curious about how I can support you with getting out of this sticky situation, please reach out to me to explore how I can help you.
Because the truth is – being the best of friends – yet missing sex and intimacy, isn’t something you have to accept for life.
You’re not stuck as roommates – there are things you can do to untangle your partnership and get back to fireworks. And if you dare to take the plunge, and work on your sex life with your partner – just imagine how much more intimate and fulfilling your life will be.
Get instant access to expert advice, delivered directly to your inbox weekly, when you download The Desire Test.
With 11 years of experience in the helping profession - Leigh helps her clients create stress-free, shame-free, pressure-free sex lives, through her unique combination of sexological science, & psychotherapeutic & coaching tools.
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