When Happily Ever After Becomes We’re Like Room Mates

A common complaint voiced by marriage partners goes like this: We’ve grown apart and we’re more like room mates than best friends. If marriage is suppose to be growing in love together over the years, what happens that leads to the complaint, We’ve grown apart? Here’s how it goes:

Mike and Marcie are winding down from a heavily scheduled day. The time is around 9:30p.m. and Marcie has just finished putting the kids to bed. The routine is key for both mother and children. Marcie; however, is bone tired as she takes her make up off. Fantasizing about her head hitting the pillow, she looks forward to be alone and that is what she has come to expect. On the other side of the house, Mike is parked in front of the computer. He is wrapping up an hours worth of replies to the numerous e-mails that seem to multiply throughout the day like ants on a piece of candy. He notices the house has quieted which helps him concentrate. Mike is running on empty and he feels alone.

Both Marcie and Mike have put their best efforts into managing the day, and yet, both feel lonely and misunderstood. When they have time to be alone together, they seem to fall into the same old arguments that have been circling their relationship for years without end. Rather than relaxing in each other’s arms, like they did when they were courting, they find ways to avoid each other. Better alone to recover from the day, they reason, than to get something started and go to bed angry.

Mike and Marcie have developed a parallel marriage. To people on the outside looking in, they are doing all the right things to raise a family. However, to Marcie and Mike, the marriage is suffering. They have grown apart and feel alone. Unbeknownst to them, they are part of an epidemic that is afflicting modern marriages and unless it is addressed, many of these marriages end in divorce. When your marriage feels more like an arrangement between room mates, chances are you have developed a parallel marriage.

Warning signs of a parallel marriage

  1. Limited time together alone as a couple. You allow other activities to become more important than time with your spouse. If you rationalize you don’t have time for each other, you are on thin marital ice. Ask yourself this question, “Would we have married if, while we were dating, you only took 5 minutes a day to talk to each other?” Your answer, please.
  2. Quick start-ups to arguments that circle back and repeat themselves without resolution. When this occurs, many couples create exits in their relationships. An exit is an activity into which you place your energies in order to meet a need that isn’t being met in your marriage. Exits can be as innocent as working extra hours for professional advancement or volunteering for PTA. They can be as damaging as an affair or developing an addiction.
  3. Experiencing your spouse as the source of frustration in your day, rather than, the source of joy. You no longer find your partner’s quirks as being cute. Now they are extremely annoying. An example is when your partner’s tendency of running late was seen as their ability to be carefree and exciting. Now it is seen as disrespectful and thoughtless. A power struggle ensues with one partner complaining, “If you loved me you would change your behavior!” The other retorts, “You knew this about me before we got married. Why are you sooooo upset?”
  4. Blame your partner for the loss of passion in the marriage. Ever since Adam and Eve, couples have employed the proverbial pointed finger to ascribe blame when love diminishes in a marriage. Truth be told, if you aren’t getting the passion in your marriage that you desire, chances are you are giving the passion. Spouses in a parallel marriage do a lot of finger pointing.


  • Develop a strategy of re-connecting using the following 5 R’s of Re-connection.
  • Re-commit to the relationship. Close the exits and make your marriage the priority of your life. Ask not what you relationship can do for you, ask what you can do for your relationship.
  • Re-imagine your partner. Re-connect with your partner’s finer qualities. That which we focus on will grow. The person you fell in love with still has those great traits. Get re-acquainted with them.
  • Resolve your frustrations. Begin identifying behaviors you would be willing to change in order to help the relationship to grow. Most of these changes will be small ones with big results. Pay attention to the tone of your voice. It says it all.
  • Re-romanticize your relationship. Practice date night weekly and develop other high energy fun activities. Couples in love do fun and exciting activities. Break out of the weekly ruts and have some fun.
  • Re-vision your relationship. Dynamic marriages develop a vision at different junctures of the relationship to set the course.  Develop your dream relationship through goal setting and strategies promoting the growth of love.

We married folk need all the support we can receive. Find couples who are marriage friendly and associate with them. Plug into your church offerings that promote marriage growth. Attend to your spiritual growth, as well as, your relationship’s spiritual growth.

Several  fine resources to begin with are Getting the Love You Want : A Couple’s Guide by Harville Hendrix, The Truth About Love: The Highs, the Lows and How You Can Make It Last Forever, by Pat Love and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman.

Recommended Reading

  • Getting the Love You Want   ISB 0-8050-6895-3
  • The Truth About Love   ISB 0-684-87188-2
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work ISB 0-609-80579-7