When you take the plunge, marry “the One”—your life partner—you might think you’re set for life, that you’ve married your best friend, right? “No more lonely nights” as the Paul McCartney song says. But sadly, that’s not necessarily so. Loneliness in marriage affects millions of couples around the globe. And this is where at least one partner, typically the woman, feels emotionally abandoned.
Marriage and loneliness don’t seem like two words that should go hand in hand. Yet, that’s often the case. Loneliness is real for many couples. At this point, you might be wondering why that’s the case—why you and/or your partner may be experiencing loneliness in your marriage—the marriage you imagined would be your safe haven.
Perhaps, the connection you once had has vanished or at least dimmed so much that it’s barely noticeable. Maybe, over the years, your communication has become openly argumentative and hostile. What started as constant little flare-ups, in time, evolved into major blow-ups. And to avoid those destructive interactions, you stop talking altogether.
Lack of emotional intimacy—which, in some cases, can lead to extra-marital affairs—is yet another reason why you might feel lonely in your marriage. Here’s a short video on preventing and surviving infidelity.
Also, you may feel unsupported by your spouse. During times of high duress, your partner may not show enough empathy for your feelings, compelling you to pull away and further cause a slow erosion of your emotional connection.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the variables that can cause loneliness to creep into a marriage.
To further complicate matters, during the early years of your marriage, your partner may have isolated you from your family and/or friends, causing you to feel like you have no one to turn to.
If you want to read more on feeling lonely in an abusive relationship, check out the article The Loneliness of the Emotionally Abusive Relationship. This is a very serious cause of being lonely in marriage and one that needs to be addressed. Living in terror is no way to live.
According to 5 Hacks for Making It Work When You Have Opposite Shifts As Your Spouse by Drew Hendricks, incompatible schedules “can wreak havoc on your relationship, but only if you let it. In every relationship compromises are necessary, and this might be a big one. However, don’t let it come down to comparing which job is more “important” or “stressful” because nobody’s going to win. Every job is important, stressful, and has pros and cons.”
When you prioritize your career and/or your children over your partner, the solidity of your relationship can become highly untenable. Of course, both careers and children need attention, but not at the risk of losing your marriage. There has to be a balance in all aspects of your life together.
Schedules need to be discussed, both around work and children (if you have them), keeping in mind the importance of what’s at stake—your marriage!
For example, let’s say your 90-year-old father dies. You’re devastated because you were very close. But your partner doesn’t say much, and when they do, it’s, “Well, he lived a long life. He’s in a better place.” You don’t want to hear common clichés. You want to feel like you have an anchor in your time of grief.
If that emotional support has been missing from your marriage and your partner has failed to consistently exhibit much compassion or empathy, you can clearly see how that would impair the relationship and germinate seeds of loneliness in your marriage.
In the article What If There Is No Emotional Support In A Relationship? by Lori Jean Glass, she mentions that “in meaningful relationships, emotional support is offered from both individuals and brings them closer to each other. It also helps you establish a foundation for your future together. Additionally, the practice of offering emotional support provides a foundation for being able to resolve conflict kindly, see your partner from a place of reality, and attach securely to one another.”
Those displays of affection may seem insignificant, but they’re not. They are the precursor to sexual intimacy. If you are experiencing none of those, then chances are that you may be feeling lonely.
“Simple moments of touch between spouses are invitations to remember the gift of a shared life. A kiss. A hug. A squeeze on the shoulder forces us to slow down, even for a few seconds. They allow us to notice and be noticed. These PDA moments both ground us and fuel us,” says Jenny Leboffe, in her article Public Displays of Affection are Good for your Marriage and Family.
Why is quality time important? According to Jane Ohm, “it is because, no matter how much you know each other, with time, there will be something new to discover, including their changing interests, passion, aspirations and even friends or enemies. Effective communication and quality time together thus plays a major role in sustaining a relationship, preventing it from becoming boring.”
It’s not necessary to block out large chunks of time for each other, although that would be nice. But it is important that the time you share is meaningful. This allows you to stay actively tuned-in to each others’ lives. All the little things add up to the big stuff. They create a life!
I treat a couple who has been married for six years and currently experiencing this precise situation. Early on in their marriage, the young man’s mother meddled and intervened, upsetting the wife and causing a separation that went on for months. Finally, the mother-in-law apologized, and now things seem to be on the mend, but the old scars remain.
The young man feels stuck in the middle between his wife’s and mother’s relationship. He’s constantly feeling like he needs to take sides. This adds to his feelings of loneliness in the marriage because he doesn’t feel like he can talk to either his wife or mother about his emotions without stirring up a hornet’s nest.
Old wounds need to heal for partners to move forward in marriage. Past hurts need to be resolved and kept where they belong—in the past!
If you are married and feeling lonely and neglected, what can you do to make things better? There are myriad things you can start implementing immediately.
Loneliness doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Here are some things you can do to avoid feeling lonely in your marriage and make your relationship better.
According to the article 5 Less-Knowns Reasons Why Date Night is Important, “social scientists have found that women who spend at least one period of “couple time” a week with their spouse are as much as 7 times happier in their marriage.”
So, go and plan that date!
According to Marni Feuerman:
“These deeper conversations are necessary to make the glue that holds you together and creates the intimacy people desire in their marriage. It’s critical that you talk about the highs and lows that have been sprinkled throughout your week. These topics may be from outside interactions with others or something specifically between you and your spouse.”
Talk to your partner. Talk about everything—your work, your expectations, your disappointments, your joy, your fears, your passions. Always strive to learn more about them.
Taking a trip down memory lane is a great way to bring some spark back into your marriage as well as to eliminate any loneliness that might have wriggled in due to negligence. It’s a way of reconnecting—of feeling the love you initially experienced.
Note: If, for some reason, you can’t physically take that trip down memory lane, go through pictures or just talk about your favorite memories.
For instance, filling up their water bottle, setting out a cup of coffee for them, turning down the bed, making the bed, etc. are little things that show love. Those acts of service add up to big signs of love.
How can you feel lonely if you walk into your bedroom ready to make the bed and it’s already been made for you? I bet you’re not going to feel lonely. You’re going to smile and feel grateful for the nice gesture.
If you treat each other with kindness and respect—are there for each other in every way—no one will feel unheard, which ultimately causes people to feel lonely.
Treat your spouse like you would treat your best friend. Spend time, and show love. Respect who they are as people. Do things to show you love them—regularly, not just on Valentine’s Day or their birthday. Every day is a good day to work on your marriage. And if you do, loneliness won’t be able to catch its breath.
To illustrate, work out together or find a hobby that you can both enjoy. It might be putting a big puzzle together, playing a board game, or maybe it’s taking long bike rides on the weekends, hiking a scenic trail, watching favorite movies or shows together, then talking about it, going for walks, and sharing the highlights of your day. These are all fun ways of tending to your marriage.
Your marriage doesn’t have to include loneliness. If there are problems that are causing the loneliness—except number 1, “Fear of Spouse”, which is quite serious and may require leaving the relationship—address those issues. Couple’s counseling can be a lifesaver, or you can start implementing the above-mentioned suggestions and notice how your marriage suddenly starts to thrive.
Remember, before anything can happen, you need to have a conversation with your spouse. They may not be aware that you’re feeling lonely in your marriage. Talk about it! Then, see what measures can be put into place to eliminate those feelings of isolation.
If you both love each other, and better yet, like each other, there will be a willingness to make things better. Then, all that’s left is putting in the work. And with that, you can make quite a fun adventure!