Married ... but Lonely
"I thought I'd lost it," said Billie, a wife of eight years. "I was in the grocery store check-out line. The man in front of me glanced back and smiled. He looked so kind. I had an overwhelming impulse to ask him to hug me. When I got to my car, I burst into tears. I finally had to admit how lonely I felt."
"I'm tired of feeling alone," Diane, who's been married 14 years, commented. "My husband, Ben, is into everything. He has a ball game or a meeting nearly every night. If he's home he's on the phone talking over strategies for the next game or meeting. He has time for everyone except me."
"If friends and colleagues were enough," Kim, a wife of 10 years, complained, "I wouldn't have married. I want a husband. I want someone who's with me, who can share my life on a daily basis."
No one expects it to happen. Marriage is supposed to prevent loneliness, isn't it? Unfortunately, it doesn't.
In our work with couples we've frequently heard the same kind of complaint: "I'm married, but I'm lonely." We all crave the physical and emotional intimacy of a spouse who's really there for us. When this doesn't happen, frustration, hurt, and anger mingle with feelings of betrayal. "What's the point of being married," as Billie put it, "if you have to go looking when you need someone?" And the longer those feelings of loneliness exist, the stronger the possibility that a spouse will look outside the marriage for support, affection, companionship, and love.
What are some ways to battle marital loneliness?
Analyze your situation
If you're feeling lonely, ask yourself:
- What's going on in my marriage that makes me feel lonely?
- Is this a short-term situation I can live with or a long-term situation that needs to change?
- Answering these questions can save you from falling into several traps.
(1) Blaming yourself. Both Billie and Diane initially felt guilty about their loneliness. Billie was certain that her painful loneliness meant that she had somehow failed. And Diane felt like an ingrate when she complained about a husband who was faithful, family-oriented, and involved in worthy activities. She thought she needed to change the way she felt. But her feelings weren't the problem; they were a signal that she needed to change her circumstances.
(2) Blaming your spouse. Billie blamed Steve for being self-absorbed and cutting her out of his life. Yet she missed the real source of his behavior—depression rooted in a business venture at the edge of failure. In this case blaming didn't help the situation.