Sometimes it feels like my husband and I are more like roommates than lovers. We still get along fine, but the sizzle has disappeared from our relationship. How do we get out of this rut?

Dear Struggling,

Donalyn: Well, first of all, we’ve been there a number of times. The worst of these periods of disconnection was dissimilar to what you have described because we weren’t even getting along anymore. At our lowest point, we weren’t even friends anymore. So, Dave and I have a number of vantage points to draw from when it comes to “just sharing space” together.

Dave: Not fun memories, to be sure. The heart of the issue has to do with the lack of priority that has been given to the relationship. You wouldn’t ever admit this at first, nor do you intentionally take the relationship casually. But you get busy, demands from work steal hours, kids come along and make you even busier, other good but time-consuming activities take precedence, and bingo: there’s no real-time left to connect with your mate. You can’t romance in a vacuum.

Donalyn: Actual time together, with each other and for each other is what gets lost.

Dave: That’s right. As well, there are many other variables in our lives that make it too easy to slide into this rut. You get a lot of ego strokes for doing well at work. Success is so easy to justify because you are really doing it “for the family.” Meanwhile, there is less time at home. An unbalanced preoccupation with the children’s agenda at the expense of couple time is also very common. It is important to spend time with kids and to support them in their sports, their music, and their other pursuits. But, as noble as it sounds to be super-committed to your children, the best long-term gift you can give them is a strong and vibrant marriage. They blossom in the security and stability provided by a mom and dad who are close and connected. All kinds of activities vie for your time with your mate, and they often win out.

Donalyn: You really just take each other for granted, assuming that the relationship can handle the neglect. After all, you are married and committed to each other. Well, the relationship erodes slowly at first, but soon the distance between you increases, and you wake up one morning with the sense that there’s not much happening between you. You are in a rut that you don’t like, and you feel more like roommates than a married couple. When you get to this point, you’ve actually taken a big step toward recovery if you can just admit it to yourself and make a decision to turn it around.

Dave: The place to start is to agree to have a discussion with your spouse about your relationship. At that time, you should openly acknowledge the emotional void you are feeling and your desire to try to improve things. Be sure to hear them out to find out where they are. Agree that both of you are responsible to take steps to re-ignite the flame.

Donalyn: Romance is a decision. You must take the initiative to begin to make changes. As the wife, when you decide to become more romantic and take the time to plan fun, friendship-building times together, you will find that your own desire to reconnect as both friends and lovers actually returns. I'll bet that you’ll find that he will have a growing interest here too, if you know what I mean.

Dave: Yes, I do know what you mean. There are things that the husband needs to be adjusting, too. Start appreciating your wife. Express your gratitude for what she does for you. Encourage her with your words. If needed, and it often is, apologize for things said and done that were insensitive. Men, admit if you haven’t been making the relationship a priority and ask her to give you a chance to change things. Take time to talk but spend more time listening.

Donalyn: Let him know that you are NOT roommates and that you don’t want to be roommates. Start daily with little things: encouraging words, lots of hugs, tender touching, gentle backrubs, and some slow, long kissing – all away from the bedroom. Look into his eyes when he’s talking to you. Tease him, laugh with him, compliment him, and have fun with him. Decide to be delightful and endearing rather than a negative, critical pain to be avoided. Do everything you can to let him know that you care for him and want to be together.

Dave: Much of what Donalyn said goes both ways. Ask yourself, men, how have you expressed to her that she is a priority? When was the last time you had a night out? Agree to set at least a bi-weekly date night. Make no excuse to keep it. Most men are not the romantic type. If you are, however, then count your blessings, for she will really appreciate that. But, if you are part of the majority of men who are not on more of the sensitive side of things, then here are a few more suggestions.

Donalyn: Let me start. Plan your date times, arrange special dinners at home, and leave notes in places where he’ll see them. Say “I love you” frequently, send flowers with a note of appreciation to his work, and send a suggestive e-mail to his private e-mail address. Try being naked under the covers when he gets into bed!

Dave: Okay, so I know we’re not roommates… and I like it. For the woman’s needs, husbands, don’t stop at being anything less than her best friend. If she can feel safe with you and know that you cherish her, she will be drawn to you in every way. Frankly, sex is good when the relationship is great.

Donalyn: Oh, I forgot to say one more thing… get something new and sexy to wear to bed.

Dave: We wouldn’t want to forget that now, would we men? Remember, for the woman, marital intimacy – real emotional connectedness – comes through being valued, through time spent together, through talking and sharing, and through special acts of thoughtfulness. Write the notes. Buy the flowers. Tell her often that you love her. Do things that let her know that you were thinking about her when you weren’t with her. Plan some intrigue into an evening that takes some work to set up. She will appreciate the effort immensely.

Donalyn: Use your imagination. Surprise each other. Do special things for the other that you know they’ll notice and enjoy. Make the time to be alone together. Talk about the things you love about each other. The point is, once you get yourself into the planning and scheming mode of romance and truly want to be much more than roommates, you start doing whatever you can to please your mate. When you do this, the desire for a growing romantic intimacy with one another will really grow.

Dave: If you haven’t caught our drift yet, it’s about unselfishly putting your mate and your relationship first. That is God’s plan. That’s why you’ll find that it works!

This article was written by: Dr. Dave Currie

Photo Credit: Sebastian Pichler