I have a friend whose husband sits in his recliner chair from the time he gets home from work until the time he goes to bed. She serves him dinner, fetches his beer, and hands him the remote control as soon as he sits down. She calls the circumference around the recliner his “island,” and finds it practically impossible to get next to him. She says she’s lonely even when they’re in the same room.
I have another friend whose wife is everywhere and anywhere with the kids or her co-workers, yet makes no time, in his eyes, for their marriage. He’s told me on numerous occasions that he has no friends, and that he feels abandoned in his own home.
As a divorce mediator, I frequently hear about loneliness in a marriage. It happens to couples of all ages, and in all stages of their relationships. My clients talk about not being a priority for the other, about disparate interests, about growing apart. This seems to be happening more frequently among older couples, a situation labeled “grey divorce.” Psychologists sometimes call it emotional withdrawal.
Yet, newlyweds can also experience loneliness in their marriages. It generally starts slowly and sometimes we choose to either ignore it or explain it away. Typically, couples in committed relationships experience the ebb and flow of emotions. Passions level out as the day-to-day business of managing their lives takes precedence. Child rearing, bill paying, laundry, aging parents, meddling mothers-in-law, all can play a part in changing “what used to be” to “the new normal.” Differing daily routines can also contribute to loneliness in a relationship. When one partner works days and the other works nights, it can be challenging to connect. Challenging, but not impossible.
Combating the typical loneliness that can occur in a relationship is possible, but as with all things worthwhile, it takes persistence and patience. Maybe you can take some initiative and find a new interest that the two of you can share. And while you’re at it, take an honest look at your relationship from your partner’s perspective. Maybe you haven’t paid as much attention to the marriage as you once did.
Some things to consider:
If the loneliness in your marriage is not typical, when you are staying in a relationship that no longer fulfills you nor brings you joy, it’s time to think about whether to end it or stick it out.
If the pain of being there is worse than the fear of being alone, it’s time to end the relationship.
If you’re happy more times than you’re lonely, it’s possible to repair and refresh.
In any event, please don’t think you have to go at this alone. Whether you seek the help of a trusted friend, an attorney, a therapist, or a mediator, I urge you to reach out for assistance. Asking for help isn’t admitting failure. It’s searching for success.
You deserve it.