September 21, 2018 |Gideon

 

Loneliness in Marriage and How to Deal With It

A quick Google search shows that 1000 people per month search the phrase “loneliness in marriage.”

Now, why would so many people feel lonely in their marriages?

In fact, you might be wondering, how can one be married to somebody and actually feel lonely at all?

Is loneliness in marriage actually possible?

Well, it is, actually. And easily so.

There are so many people who feel completely and utterly alone in their relationships, and in many cases, their partners aren’t even aware of it.

So the question here today is, how do you deal with loneliness in marriage?

A good and relevant question.

So the way I’m going to tackle this is slightly different from normal.

Instead of writing a long article on loneliness in marriage, I’m going to pretend like an answering a few questions from a fictitious client.

Now, these questions are real questions, but the client (we can call her Sarah) with her husband (Steve) are not.

My suggestions are going to be real and raw.

My hope is that you would read yourself into this dialogue, and apply it to your situation any way you want.

Let’s dive in!

Q: I have been married to Steve for 12 years. However, I feel extremely lonely and depressed. Our marriage isn’t the same as it was 12 years ago. Steve rarely spends time with me and doesn’t seem interested in doing things together. 

How can I deal with the loneliness in my marriage? 

A: I believe, Sarah, that marriage evolves over time, and loneliness can easily become an issue. Although it may seem unusual that a married couple could experience loneliness, this is actually a common phenomenon, which means, you’re not alone. The truth is, couples can grow apart and feel isolated from each other while they’re still married.

Loneliness in marriage  happens.

And there’s no point blaming anyone for it.

But, it is important to recognise that it is happening, and you’ve therefore already taken the first step in dealing with the loneliness in your marriage.

You’ve identified that your marriage needs work.

Now it’s time to talk with Steve and share your feelings.

No point hiding the fact.

It’s important that he understands you are feeling alone and unhappy.

But, in saying that, avoid placing blame or guilt during the conversation so Steve doesn’t feel attacked.

That won’t help at all.

Instead, you want him to listen and understand your concerns and how YOU feel.

That doesn’t mean he needs to understand or respond in any shape or form.

You just need him to hear your heart, for a start.

Q: I’ll try talking to Steve again, but I’ve used this method before. We just end up arguing, and we both get upset. Steve gets defensive and feels that he isn’t responsible for entertaining me. I get angry and feel he doesn’t understand me. 

What can I do to make Steve listen and understand that I’m just really lonely?

A: First, choose an appropriate time for the conversation. If you’re both angry and upset about other things going on in your life at the moment, then it’s not the best time to bring this up. Select a time that gives you the opportunity to have an open discussion in a calm setting, when you’re both able to be fully present.

Firstly, remember that routine is important to men.

There are times when you simply do not want to make him have a heart to heart.

Men run for the hills when they sense that coming.

So, right after work is usually a bad time.

He most likely wants to de-stress and be on his own before doing anything else.

If you see Netflix going on or him opening a beer and heading for his favourite spot, let him do that.

Trust me. Now, is NOT a good time.

While he’s watching sports on TV is another example of a bad time.

When he’s working on his car, also not a good time. Especially if he does this often.

You do not want to interrupt a man’s rituals or routines to have a heart to heart.

That might work with your girlfriends, but not any man, including Steve.

You need to be wise with this and make a time when he’ll be fully present and open to hearing you out.

It will also help if he doesn’t sense that you’re expecting anything from him apart from just hearing your heart.

It’s also best to have this conversation at home.

Second, start the conversation by expressing your own thoughts and feelings.

You don’t want to make Steve feel uncomfortable and angry.

And he will become angry when he feels threatened or in some sense ashamed for failing you.

You feeling lonely is enough to make him think he’s failing his job as a man.

If he feels he cannot fix that (which he will initially), he will resort to frustration or even anger (men are wired this way).

So, focus on statements that show how the loneliness is affecting YOU.

That makes it less threatening to him, as it’s about you, and not how he’s falling short in some way.

Also try to discuss possible solutions: how you can make adjustments in your marriage to eliminate the loneliness?

Solutions are the language of men.

Give a man a specific project or mission to complete and they’ll be all over it.

Keep things wishy-washy and general, and you lose him.

So, brainstorm with Steve what you can do to feel like a couple again and restore your happiness?

And be open for his suggestions. Shooting him down here will bite you in the arse.

You can always steer things in different directions later, but make him feel confident in his ability to meet your needs.

You can explore different suggestions together, but it’s crucial that you allow Steve a chance to talk and share his feelings and come up with solutions … even if they suck!

Accept what he’s offering you.

That will open him more for you later on.

Q: I’m not sure I know how to restore my marriage and get rid of this loneliness in marriage. I don’t know where to start with Steve.

What are some suggestions I can use to work on our marriage?

We don’t have a huge budget, so vacations are out of the question.

We’re also not in the position to leave our jobs. We’re both working full-time and extremely busy.

Plus, we have two kids and help our parents.

A: I get it, Sarah. A busy lifestyle is a common issue and complaint among couples who struggle with loneliness in marriage. Work, kids, and other obligations can quickly fill your time. However, as I say to all my clients, it’s vitally important to find room in your schedule to focus on your marriage. You must make your marriage a priority.

Now, you don’t have to go on a fancy vacation or quit your job.

Instead, you can make small changes each day that will bring you closer together.

For example, you can find make a date night once a month.

This will help you reconnect with Steve and make your marriage the focus.

It will also help you feel closer as you spend more time together.

A small budget doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying your date night.

You can find free or inexpensive events and destinations.

For example, local groups may have free art shows or exhibits.

In addition, you may find inexpensive movie or theatre tickets in your area.

Most parks are also free and safe to enjoy – pack some food and go have a simple picnic.

Dates are just one part of the plan to eliminate loneliness in your marriage.

You also want to find small gestures throughout the week that make you both feel loved and special.

You may want to leave each other sweet notes if you pack lunch.

Or text each other “love notes” during the day.

You can also buy each other small gifts or tackle the to-do list without being prompted.

These little gestures can build up over time and make the loneliness vanish.

Q: I’m going to try to set up a date night with Steve. However, I’m worried that it’ll just be a waste of time. One of our issues is that we end up not really talking to each other.

I actually feel we’ve grown apart, and Steve doesn’t seem to have the same interests as me.

We used to have deep and long conversations about our future and ideas.

Now, we can’t even talk for two minutes without getting upset or bored.

I feel detached from Steve.

I’m worried that we’ve become different people and don’t share the same goals anymore.

This is why I feel so alone all the time.

What can I do to make our conversations interesting again?

I don’t want the date night to turn into a boring nightmare with no conversations.

I want us to talk like we used to at the beginning of our marriage.

A: Sarah, it’s important to understand that you can’t reverse time and go back to the marriage of your past. You’ve both changed and evolved as human beings since you walked down the aisle. You need to acknowledge these changes and embrace them.

You mentioned that Steve doesn’t seem to share your interests anymore.

There are 2 things I would mention here that might be important:

One, men, in general, are not biologically hardwired to easily have long and deep conversations about feelings.

It doesn’t mean that they can’t do it, it simply means it doesn’t come as naturally for them as for a woman.

Many women make the mistake of thinking that when they have met with silence from their male partners, that it either means they’re not interested or don’t care.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Most of the times, it simply because men react differently to deep conversations focused on feelings. 

It actually stresses them out, physically.

Women, on the other hand, actually get de-stressed by talking about how they feel, which is why it is natural for them to want to do that with their male partners.

But that’s not how a man’s brain works.

What de-stresses you as a woman, actually elevates his stress levels.

That’s why doing something physically with a man is a much better idea than making him sit down for a talk.

In fact, you might actually find that by doing something with them (being active) will open him up to talk more.

Think, guys on a boat fishing.

It gives them a space to be occupied with their own thoughts but there’s also a lot of talking (banter) going on at times.

Secondly, it’s normal for couples to have different dreams and goals over time.

This doesn’t mean their marriage is over and that they’re doomed to loneliness.

You can make adjustments and reconnect with each other.

The question, however, is how can you align your dreams and goals with Steve’s current interests?

But a more important question before that one is actually whether you still know what Steve’s dreams and goals are.

And in order to find out, as mentioned earlier, you may want to try joining him while he does his favourite hobbies.

Men simply connect better when doing something.

Sitting down and “just” talking is like torture for most.

You also mentioned that you’re worried you won’t have a pleasant conversation on date night.

To avoid that, I would suggest that you plan ahead and think of topics you can discuss.

What current news events or local information can you share?

Can you talk about your family, friends, or work?

Your conversation doesn’t have to be life changing on a date night.

This is simply about giving you the chance to explore topics and reconnect with each other.

It’s about creating a connection.

One you can build on.

Q: I’ll try to plan ahead and think of conversation topics. However, I’m bothered by something else. Part of my loneliness comes from feeling like I don’t have enough support at home. Steve lets me handle everything, and he doesn’t seem interested in helping. Or he always has excuses.

The kids, our parents, the finances, and other issues are all on my shoulders.

Steve doesn’t seem to care what I decide or what happens to them.

He’s constantly telling the kids to talk to me or wait for me to get home.

He doesn’t want to take the responsibility of making decisions.

This makes me feel alone and burdened at the same time.

I feel like I’m the only one making any choices in the marriage.

He doesn’t want to be bothered with any difficult topics.

What can I do to change this and make Steve realise I need his help while running the household?

I’m tired of doing everything alone.

A: Listen, although this disparity creates an unfair burden, this issue also occurs frequently among couples. It’s a delicate, but tricky, matter because you want to share responsibilities without making Steve feel like there’s no other choice. Men hate feeling like they’re being told or controlled. It goes against their biology, literally.

Also, Steve may have grown up in a household where the mother made all the choices, so he may think this is normal.

And we know that a person’s past experiences influence their future relationships or marriage in many ways.

Perhaps, next time, involve Steve when you have to make a decision about the kids or bills.

Invite him to share his opinion and ask him questions.

Men love giving their opinions and feel needed.

He may not be used to these changes, but he’ll learn to contribute over time if you take this approach consistently from now on.

You don’t have to put pressure on him the first couple of times.

Instead, just let him make suggestions and listen to his ideas.

Steve may not be aware that or even HOW you want his input around the house.

Men can be thick sometimes, I tell you.

It’s almost like you need to take them by the hand and show or tell them specifically what to do before they get it.

And even then, there is a chance that they don’t.

This is why consistent, clear communication is the key.

You have to take the initiative and ask Steve for help in a very clear, specific way.

Hints simply don’t work with most men.

Women, for the most part, are intuitive and will know what you’re on about when you drop a hint.

Men don’t.

You can also teach your children to reach out to Steve the next time they have an issue.

Instead of waiting for you to come home, they can go to Steve for help.

You can ask them to encourage Steve to get involved.

You may also want to create a family schedule and hang it up in a prominent part of the house.

You can assign chores and let Steve know you need his help too. 

Again, make it specific.

Men like seeing and taking control of a task or project with a very definite end in mind.

So rather than saying,

“I really can’t do everything by myself Steve (frustration) and wish you would do something around the house (disappointment and blame) …,”

you can say instead,

“I’m really struggling to get to everything this week (vulnerability); it would really help me if you could go to Countdown today and buy XYZ (specific task with an end).”

Q: I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who feels loneliness in marriage. Steve doesn’t share his feelings often, and he tends to stay quiet most of the time. Is it possible he’s also lonely? 

And if he’s also lonely, then why hasn’t he said anything to me?

A: As I’ve said before, men are simply not hardwired to talk about their feelings with others as the first port of call. Also, it’s not always easy to share feelings with your loved ones. You may feel like you’re letting them down or hurting them. Men in particular from this strongly and try to avoid it. Also, Steve may simply be uncomfortable with the idea of letting another person see his vulnerable side.

Now, in saying that, openness and vulnerability are a key part of any marriage, and it’s important to share your concerns.

But, we need to take into account the differences between people – in experience, personality, and biology.

If we simply pursue or expect our partners to approach situations in our marriage the same way we do, we are setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment.

So it’s important that you get a better understanding of Steve.

Both as your husband as well as a man.

Also, it is very possible that Steve is also lonely in your marriage, and he’s too scared to bring it up.

But, that would be speculation on our part.

Furthermore, he would most likely avoid confessing anything out of fear that you will laugh at him.

So, if you think Steve is also lonely, then try to approach the subject delicately.

Instead of confronting him and asking him if he’s also experiencing loneliness in the marriage, you want him to open up about his feelings without fear.

And the best way of doing that is by starting to share your own thoughts and feelings, and gently asking if Steve feels the same way.

By being vulnerable and honest with your partner, you can build a stronger bond.

Q: I understand that we both have to work on our marriage, but I often blame myself. I feel like the loneliness is entirely my fault.

I should be happy to be married to Steve because he’s a kind man.

Steve has his faults, but he’s generous and thoughtful.

He doesn’t hit me or the kids, and he’s patient with everyone.

He doesn’t share his feelings often, but I can tell he loves the children.

So why do I feel so lonely in this marriage and why does it bother me so much?

I feel like I must be doing something wrong because none of my friends ever talk about experiencing loneliness in marriage.

They seem to be happily married.

The guilt makes me feel like a failure at marriage. I feel like I’m not a good enough wife or mother.

How can I get over these feelings of blame and guilt?

They make the loneliness even worse.

A: It’s not your fault that you feel lonely, and you shouldn’t blame yourself. Although your friends may seem to have happy marriages, they may be hiding the truth from you. It’s embarrassing and difficult to share that you’re lonely in a marriage. Your friends may be struggling with the same issues and simply staying quiet about them.

You can’t tell the real issues in a marriage from a distance, so comparing yourself to your friends is a waste of time and energy.

It’s impossible to know the issues and challenges they face.

It’s essential that you stop blaming yourself.

These feelings are actually a signal that you’re ready for a change.

Shift your focus to solutions, instead.

Q: I’m scared that my marriage is doomed, and I’ll end up divorced. I think the loneliness in marriage is a sign that our relationship is failing. But I love Steve and don’t want our marriage to end. I have hope that we can work things out, and my loneliness will be temporary.

I’m not sure how we’ll avoid divorce.

It seems we have issues communicating, and it’s getting worse each year.

I feel so alone all the time and afraid my marriage is falling apart. 

A: Each marriage has its own unique challenges and issues.

Loneliness in marriage isn’t an automatic prerequisite for divorce.

It simply indicates you’ve grown apart, lost some connection, and need to work on your relationship.

Fortunately, it’s quite possible for your relationship to survive the turmoil.

Many marriages on the brink of falling apart have been saved by thoughtful partners who made a commitment to change.

Instead of comparing your marriage to your friends, focus on Steve.

Work on ways to reconnect.

Use your creativity to save your marriage.

And let love motivate you.

Q: I want to discuss my marriage with my sister because she always has helpful advice, but I’m worried. I haven’t shared my feelings of loneliness with any family members because I’m too embarrassed.

I don’t want them to think I’m weird or a failure for feeling alone while I’m still married.

My sister is starting to suspect something is wrong and keeps pushing me to talk.

However, I’m too scared to discuss these things with her.

I know she’ll discuss my fears with the rest of the family, and I’m not sure I’m ready for this. 

A: Your sister has probably noticed you’re unhappy and wants to help. Family tends to be the first to notice changes. You won’t be able to hide your feelings forever, so you may want to plan how you’ll deal with the subject.

Instead of trying to hide your unhappiness, be upfront and explain your feelings of loneliness.

Give examples, so she understands the situation.

Your sister may have useful advice that can help.

She can also provide a unique perspective on the situation since she knows both of you.

Avoid being afraid of your family finding out the truth.

They may be able to help.

For instance, maybe they’ll volunteer to babysit the kids while you’re on a date night.

They can also help around the house, so you can spend more time with Steve.

They may be able to find unique answers to help eliminate your loneliness.

If you’re not comfortable discussing the issues with your sister, then you may benefit from counselling or relationship coaching.

It’s important to have an outlet for your concerns, so you’re not bottling up your feelings.

Individual or couples coaching might also benefit you and Steve.

You don’t have to face loneliness in the marriage by yourself.

You can use the resources and individuals around you who want to help.

Both you and Steve can learn from others and strengthen your relationship.

I hope you do!

Live and love fully my Friend.

Gideon H.

PS. Remember to download my free eguide below ????

About the author

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) focused on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He is currently pursuing further graduate Psychology studies at Massey University while working as a relationship and dating blogger the majority of the time. He has been married to his wife for over fifteen years and is the father of two children.

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