Are you married but lonely?
Being lonely in your marriage is heartbreaking
When Jane and Edwards got married 12 years ago, it was all promises, cuddling and romance.
But nothing prepared them for the phase of loneliness that is now threatening their once loving and peaceful relationship.
Over the course of their marriage, Jane has been feeling abandoned and lonely by her husband due to his inability to effectively communicate with her verbally and sexually.
His frequent absence from their home due to work and social demands didn’t help either. The situation has degenerated into a cold union. It is even sad that it is now revealing cracks in their paradise and threatening to tear them apart.
Instead of having companionship, they now feel alone. Jane felt undiscovered, unknown. Edward felt uncared for. She would bring up a problem. He would quickly deny it or say, “When this phase in our lives passes, things will get better.”
Because their frequent spats became increasingly painful, each retreated and learned to feel safe that way. Both realized that life was smoother when they wore their masks, and they played the marriage game as if there wasn’t anything wrong.
Jane and Edward are not alone in this. Many couples face this situation in their marital journey but how to handle it remains key to maintaining the spark in your union. Many people are married but lonely.
If there’s one thing worse than a miserable, lonely single person, it’s a miserable, lonely married person. The irony is that no husband or wife marries with the intention of being isolated from a mate.
Lonely marriages develop slowly; the disconnection increases incrementally over years. You no longer talk about mutual interests, world events, or your goals and dreams.
Instead your conversations become purely transactional; “We’re out of milk,” “The car is making a weird noise,” or “I left the car keys on the table”. You settle into routines that foster emotional distance such as one person watching Television while the other is on the computer or phone, or going to bed and waking up at very different hours.
There is no real affection, no real intimacy, and it feels as if there is no longer any love between you either. But you stay in the marriage nonetheless, ironically, because you might fear that leaving will mean being lonely forever.
Yet, staying in a disconnected marriage is far more likely to doom you to chronic loneliness unless you can do something about it.
Most people do not conceive of loneliness as a condition that requires urgent intervention but it does. In addition to the mental anguish loneliness creates, it also has devastating effects on one’s mental and physical health.
Loneliness depresses immune system functioning, it increases inflammatory responses that put you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, you are also at greater risk for depression and Alzheimer’s disease and it can even take years off your life expectancy.
Marital loneliness starts when husband and wife slowly drift apart in ways they may not recognize at first. Signs include the following:
- Feeling that your spouse isn’t hearing you and doesn’t understand.
- Having attitudes of, “Who cares?” “Why try?” “Tomorrow we’ll talk about it—let’s just get some sleep.”
- Feeling unable to please or meet the expectations of your spouse.
- Sensing that he’s detached from you.
- Feeling that she’s going her own way.
- Refusing to cope with reality: “That’s your problem, not mine.”
- Feeling that keeping the peace by avoiding the conflict is better than experiencing the pain of dealing with reality.
Couples will present a happy facade, keeping house and playing at marriage while real needs go unmet. While unmet needs indicate isolation’s presence in a marriage, the irony is that slipping into a state of isolation seems to offer protection and self-preservation. Silence feels like a security blanket but is perilously deceptive.
Many marriages continue for years in a state of armed truce. Competition replaces cooperation, and ugly reality dashes the dreams of hope as conflict unravels the fabric of love and concern. Broken hearts stain pillows with bitter tears.
Lonely marriages are hard to change because over time, you become used to it and breaking free from the status quo becomes very difficult. To improve the quality of your relationship, you therefore have to strengthen your marital muscles. Doing so will require practice and patience but it will make a significant difference in the quality of your marital bond and it can deepen your connections with other significant people in your life as well.
Bear these tips in practice and watch the spark return:
Take the initiative
If you are lonely, chances are your partner is lonely as well. But they too are probably trapped in a cycle of emotional disconnection, and they too probably feel helpless about how to break it.
Resolve to pursue oneness with each other. Remember, you don’t have to be married a long time to be isolated. Try to initiate conversations that are not about transactional details. Ask them for their views about something they care about and make sure to demonstrate you are listening by trying to see things from their perspective and understand what fascinates them about it.
Don’t expect your partner to reciprocate right away
Habits are hard to change and disconnection takes time to repair. But know that by continuing to make gestures of good-will, you will eventually invite one in return. Make sure to reinforce such gestures from your spouse when they make them.
Remind yourself and your spouse of shared experiences
Watch your wedding video or your children’s birthday video. Look over old family and vacation pictures, or go over old correspondences. Doing such things will remind you both of happier times when you were more connected.
Suggest simple and innocent activities that require little effort
Even though this might elicit fewer objections, do it anyway. Suggest a walk around the block or in the park, cooking a meal together, having a video call with old friends, your kids or writing a letter together to a family member.
Create intimate moments
Resolve to take time to share intimately with each other. Allow your spouse into your life. Ask questions of your spouse, and listen patiently. Learn the art of healthy, transparent communication.
Take the time to consider your partner’s perspective
The longer you are married, the more you will tend to assume you know what the other person is thinking and the more likely you are to be wrong. To understand your spouse’s perspective, take a few minutes to imagine their world and their point of view.
Gaining a greater understanding of your partner’s thoughts and feelings will allow you to express more sympathy and understanding toward them which in turn, will begin to restore your mutual bond.
Taking these steps can feel emotionally risky because loneliness is an emotional wound that runs deep and impacts us profoundly. Taking an emotional ‘leap of faith’ and being brave is necessary to overcome it. But given how much emotional pain lonely people feel every day and the relief you will feel once you heal, it is a risk worth taking.