Lonely in Love

When you were single, you may have expected marriage to solve your problem with loneliness. After all, didn't God say, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18)? Marriage was God's solution to loneliness.

But now, perhaps you've learned that marriage isn't an automatic solution to loneliness. Your expectations of intimate companionship haven't come true. Your marriage may even have left you more lonely than before.

All marriages go through rough times and hardships, of course. With careers, children, education, church activities, community service and the thousand-and-one other demands on you, your relationship is stretched to its limit.

a happy elderly couple
Marriage is dynamic. All marriages are moving toward either intimacy or isolation.

But if you as a couple understand that these stressful times are temporary, then they needn't cause major marital problems. It's when the occasional moments of loneliness become the standard that you worry.

Loneliness often begins with small decisions. "He will understand if I stay late at work again." "She doesn't mind if I go out with the guys."

You still love each other, but other priorities take up more and more of your time. You may end up seeing each other at home only between other responsibilities.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

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You share your house, your expenses, your children and your church, but you aren't sharing your love, your goals, your dreams and your life. Rather than husband and wife, you feel like roommates.

Men feel loneliness as often as women. Many men will not define the discontent that they feel as loneliness, but that's what it is.

One husband explained it like this: "I have a stressful job. Sometimes the pressures are so great that I can't help but want to bring the frustrations home with me. However, I don't feel comfortable telling my wife about work. She just wants to talk about how hard she has it with her own job and the kids. But I miss all the discussions we used to have about our plans and goals. There was a time when all we wanted to do was be together. Oh well, I guess we have hit real life."

Some women identify loneliness quickly and may respond emotionally. This young wife explains: "When we are able to come home together, he finds the newspaper, sits in front of the television and waits for dinner. When we do eat together, it is in front of the television set. After we finish, I clear the dishes and straighten the kitchen. Then we settle in for an evening of more television. I don't want to change my husband — much. I don't think it is too much to ask him to talk to me. But when I bring up spending more time together talking, he thinks I'm emotional and overreacting."

Sound familiar? You can tell you are heading toward loneliness in marriage when you need to turn to others for support, when you want to be with your friends more than your spouse. You slip into a routine of separate hobbies, separate schedules, separate goals and separate lives. You become separate.

Most husbands and wives do not intentionally neglect their marriage. But family counselor Dennis Rainey, in Staying Close, warns: "Unless you lovingly and energetically nurture and maintain your marriage, you will begin to drift away from your mate. You'll live together, but you will live alone." Marriage is a dynamic relationship. In Dr. Rainey's opinion, all marriages are moving toward either intimacy or isolation.

You can make your marriage relationship happier by understanding and being tolerant of the differences between you and your spouse. a married couple in a grocery store

What can you do if your marriage is moving toward isolation?

Discuss your feelings of loneliness with your spouse. Pick a good time when you won't be interrupted, and talk with your mate about your needs and concerns. Avoid accusing your spouse or overdramatizing your feelings. Simply explain how you feel about the problem. You may even discover that your spouse has also felt the distance in your relationship, and that he or she also wants to improve the situation.

Reassure your spouse that you do love him or her. Change will take effort from both of you, so both of you must commit yourselves to improving your marriage with love and patience. Consider praying together. The old saying, "The family that prays together stays together," is true.

This may be a difficult area to share. Begin small: before meals, in preparation for special activities, before a trip. Realize that it may take time, but praying together can be the springboard for an improved God-centered relationship.

  • Put your marriage second only to your relationship with God. If you are extremely busy with separate activities, then plan time when you can be together.
  • You develop communication and intimacy by spending both quantity and quality time together. If your schedules are overbooked, you may need to evaluate your priorities and forgo some activities.
  • Listen to what your spouse doesn't say. What does this tell you about his or her needs?
  • Discuss what you need. Don't assume that he should know, or she won't understand. Be honest.
  • Discuss specific areas that both can improve to support each other.
  • Try to become receptive to ways to improve yourself for your spouse. What can you do to improve the level of communication? How can you make your mate happier when you are together?
  • Learn to understand the differences between you and your spouse. Then be tolerant.
  • Recognize and accept the limitations in your relationship. Your mate cannot provide 100 percent of your emotional needs and should not feel pressured to do so.

Marriage is not a guarantee that you will never be lonely. But learning to love, give, share, sacrifice and grow alongside the man or woman you love is a guarantee for fulfillment and happiness. You will come to appreciate, from positive experience, why God said it is not good that a person should be alone.

"But What If..."

What if your spouse doesn't respond to your needs? There are still ways to improve your situation.

  • Pray for your mate. Praying for your mate's growth, happiness and success is a positive first step. Pray that your mate will learn to understand and respond to you with God's help.

  • Love you mate. It is more difficult to give to someone who does not respond. But if you can avoid seeking revenge for the hurts inflicted on you and return good for bad, you will improve yourself and your relationship.

  • Make it easier for your mate to love you. Are you consistently complaining and overly critical? If you are, these traits will make your mate defensive and cause your spouse to want to push you away. Instead, be a good companion. If the time you are together is enjoyable, your mate will want to be with you.

  • Seek advice from a close friend or minister on how to remain loving without becoming resentful of your mate. Complaining to friends about your mate's shortcomings is not constructive.

  • Realize that you can change only yourself. This is one of the most difficult lessons for any of us to learn. Even though you cannot force your spouse to change, you can change how you view your situation. With God's guidance and help, you can overcome the loneliness you feel.

Finding the right type of help is important. In some cases, you may need to get professional counseling. Marriage counseling can help husbands and wives learn how to communicate better with each other.

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