If you and your spouse are in a sexless marriage, have intimacy issues, and have been living more like roommates than a couple, you can make changes to save your relationship and reclaim your romance.
Relationships can be maddeningly complicated. But that doesn’t stop us from seeking them. Add romance and those judgment-warping hormones to the mix, and things can get really messy.
Fast forward to marriage, kids, and the boredom of routine, and your spouse may suddenly feel more like a roommate than a partner in passion.
It’s no secret that love has its predictable stages. And yet, most people instinctively yearn (and prepare) for the excitement of dating, while pulling away from the monotony of an established relationship. You like getting there — you just get bored and fidgety once you’ve been there a while.
The emotional rollercoaster of the hormone-driven mating call may be unsustainable. But you spend more time preparing yourself to access this entry into commitment than you do preparing yourself for the long haul.
Enter sweatpants, unregretted belching and flatulence, separate checking accounts, device-driven communication, and sex-as-a-far-away-memory.
Suddenly you are roommates with all the obligations of marriage but none of its benefits.
A study revealed that as many as 20 percent of married couples are in sexless marriages, according to the criteria for sexual frequency. And the reasons range from physical issues to emotional wounds to poor communication and emotional disconnection.
Before you dive head-first into relationship-shaming yourself and your spouse, know that it’s perfectly normal to evolve into a comfortable, “more-like-friends” stage of marriage. People are living twice as long as they were “back in the day,” so they have a lot more time for their marriages to navigate through stages once curtailed by death-by-forty.
What’s not normal — or at least not healthy — is the complacency that leads to no longer trying to impress your spouse. Granted, you both did a good job of pouring on the charm and keeping one another enchanted enough to make it down the aisle. But now the real work begins.
If you and your spouse have been living more like roommates than a couple, you have choices to make. And you will either make them by intention or by omission. It’s up to you.
If you want to save your relationship from its current “roomies” arrangement, here are 6 guidelines to restore your once passionate mindset:
1. Take time for yourself
Yes, time together requires time alone. But retreating into solitude as a way of avoiding your partner isn’t relationship-nurturing time alone. Taking time for yourself is about intentionally honoring yourself so that you can be grounded in who you are as an individual.
There was a time, believe it or not, when you were a completely unique individual. And your not-yet spouse fell in love with that person for all the wonderful reasons that you may have lost sight of.
Set aside time every day — even ten to twenty minutes in the morning — to think, meditate, and listen.
On a larger scale, re-commit to doing activities that you enjoy outside of your relationship. Get back into your creativity. Schedule time to get together with friends who inspire your happiest, best self.
Making time to refuel without your spouse will give you that much more interesting energy to bring to and share in your marriage.
2. Explore your own discontent
Contemplate why you are uncomfortable or unhappy. Listen to that deep inner voice that intuitively knows what the conscious mind often doesn’t want to acknowledge.
What issues have you brought to the marriage that might need to be unraveled in order to be fully present to your spouse?
What dimensions of your individuality have you allowed to wane due to “becoming one” with your spouse?
3. Initiate expressions of love
The more comfortable you become with being comfortable, the more difficult it is to energize and try new things. But if you want to dig your marriage out of its roommate rut, you will have to start initiating displays of love.
Start with the small things that ultimately mean the most and have staying power. Remember what it was like when you were dating and every little affectionate gesture left you dreamy-eyed for days?
Re-create some of those simple surprises and confirmations of love.
Do you know your partner’s love language? Tapping into and responding to your partner’s unique desires and needs is incredibly validating.
Learning about your love languages is something you can do together. And you will both become armed with powerful information to revitalize your marriage.
4. Play together
Make it a point to try new things on a level playing field. Find and create adventures that are new to both of you.
Leave your competitive streaks behind. And instead of embarking as roommates, embark as partners who are there to learn, have fun, and support one another.
There are verifiable reasons why recess is important and essential for children. And there are just as many reasons that it is important for couples.
5. Work on your communication
The first sign of retreating into a roommate-style marriage is a diminishment in communication. Either it decreases altogether or it changes in content and tone.
This is where personal accountability is imperative. You can be responsible only for your own communication and hope that any positive efforts you make will be recognized and reflected by your spouse.
It takes courage and a willingness to take risks in order to share painful feelings, dissatisfactions, fears, and new requests. But this kind of sharing is what separates intimate partners from “just friends” (with or without the benefits).
6. Welcome support
Hey, nothing great is ever accomplished in isolation. Marriage is no different.
Those who thrive do so, in part, because they are committed to the outcome. They are also willing to reach out for help when they need it. Counseling is a no-shame zone. And marriage should be the same.
When you have a highly skilled therapist or team working with you, you have a world of enlightenment and support at your disposal.
Falling into a relationship rut can easily happen. Given the high-paced demands of dual-career families, parenthood, and remembering anniversaries, marriage is often left with the crumbs.
In order to save your relationship when you’ve been living more like roommates than a couple, it’s important to see with new eyes.
Instead of viewing your spouse through the layers of hardship, dissatisfaction, and negativity that are inevitable in relationships, start fresh. Commit to this moment. See your spouse in the now, not the past. Seek to know him or her in a new way. And be willing to treat him or her to a new you, as well.
If you and your spouse are struggling with a sexless marriage, consider reaching out to schedule a couple of telephone or Skype sessions with us. You will learn effective communication skills and get clarity about possible underlying issues that are getting in the way of truly connecting with each other.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.