The term ‘married but lonely’ sounds like a classified ad in the back of a sleazy magazine. Unfortunately, it is the state of one in every three marriages.
A 2018 study by AARP revealed that 31% of couples over the age of 45 were lonely in their marriage.
If you are lonely in your marriage, here’s how to reclaim the connection and intimacy you desire.
Defining Marriage Loneliness
Loneliness isn’t just about physical aloneness; it is emotional isolation. It occurs when you feel you are not part of your partners’ thoughts, feelings, and awareness. In other words, you feel like you don’t exist in the eyes of your spouse.
People describe loneliness in various ways:
- It feels like being in a room full of people and still feeling alone.
- It feels like your friends and family are too busy to listen to you or care about what’s going on in your life.
- It feels like you’re the only one who feels this way and that you’ll never find anyone who understands what it’s like to be in your shoes.
The common feeling is that you are disconnected from your partner and no longer feel connected with them. You may even feel as if they have moved away from you emotionally.
There are many levels of loneliness couples experience, but the common feeling is a lack of emotional intimacy. You don’t feel close anymore. Or you don’t feel as close as you used to.
Negative Effects of Loneliness
Research shows that feeling lonely can be bad for your physical and emotional health, so don’t feel bad if you’re experiencing loneliness.
- Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol)
- Atherosclerosis (coronary heart disease)
- Sleep devrivation
- Weakened immunity
- Hormonal issues
Stress affects metabolism by causing the body to release hormones that prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response. This causes the body to release energy from storage and to increase the heart rate and blood pressure.
There are also relationship consequences when we feel lonely in a relationship. These include:
- One or both partners may feel like they’re not being heard or understood.
- One or both partners may feel like they’re not being appreciated.
- One or both partners may feel like they’re not being supported.
- One or both partners may feel like they’re not being respected.
- One or both partners may feel like they’re not being valued.
General Causes of Loneliness in Marriage
Loneliness is a feeling of isolation or emptiness that can occur even when surrounded by other people. It is often described as a lack of companionship or social interaction. While everyone feels lonely at times, some people experience chronic loneliness that can last for months or even years. There are a number of common reasons why people may feel lonely.
There are many reasons people feel disconnected, isolated, and lonely.
1. Unrealistic expectations
There are reasonable expectations and unrealistic expectations in marriage.
According to relationship expert Pepper Schwartz, couples who struggle often have a higher than normal expectation of their marriage.
“A partner is expected to be the best friend, excellent lover, close intimate, fun entertainer, stimulating intellectual and more — but one relationship was never meant to provide such a diverse fulfillment of needs.”
This puts stress on the relationship. Anytime we expect our partner to met all our social, emotional, and connection needs, we run the risk of putting too much stress on the marriage.
2. Major Life Changes
Researchers are learning that as couples age their social network and status often change. Friends move away, family members die, and relationships evolve and change. This can cause stress in a couple’s relationship because it alters their relationship connections.
Pete and Janice have been together since High School. They are now in their late 50’s. They’ve been married for over 30 years.
They remained in their small hometown after they married. When friends moved away to seek better work opportunities, and several family members passed away, they found their marriage struggle.
At first, they couldn’t put their finger on the reason. When their youngest child married and moved away, they realized their entire social life had changed over the years. They had trouble connecting with each other because they had to relearn how to do life in their new environment.
It took time to understand how those changes made them feel alone and isolated.
Another major life change is a diagnosis of a chronic illness. This is because both can lead to a loss of social contact and a decrease in activities that were once enjoyed.
In addition, some people may feel lonely when they transition into retirement. Their routine changes dramatically, so they experience stress and struggle to establish new routines.
3) Stress Over Increased Responsibilities
As relationships mature, so do responsibilities. Children (for the majority of couples) come along, workloads increase, and taking care of household chores and issues are added. This can bring stress into the marriage, which often means less time to connect.
Increased responsibility at work and home cause tension and stress because people have to juggle more tasks and responsibilities. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
When people are under a lot of stress, it can affect their mood, sleep, and ability to concentrate. This makes it difficult to cope with everyday life and can cause problems in relationships.When people are under a lot of stress, it can affect their mood, sleep, and ability to concentrate. This makes it difficult to cope with everyday life and can cause problems in relationships. Click To Tweet
Along with this, work and home responsibilities can often conflict with each other. For example, if you have a big project due at work and your child is sick, you may have to choose between taking care of your child or meeting your work deadline. This can cause a lot of guilt and stress.
This means that people who have increased responsibility at work and home have to learn how to manage their time and stress levels. Otherwise, they may start to feel overwhelmed and burnt out.
The Association Between Loneliness and Gender
Loneliness in married couples is not something that affects only one gender; both men and women feel isolated and alone in their relationship at times.
Lonely Married Women
Loneliness is a universal emotion, felt by people of all genders, ages, and walks of life. But for married women, loneliness can often be a hidden struggle.
For many women, getting married is a dream come true. But for some, the reality of marriage doesn’t quite live up to the fairytale. In fact, married women are some of the most likely to feel lonely.
There are a number of reasons why loneliness is more common among married women. First, women are often the ones who take on the majority of household and child-rearing responsibilities, even if they also work outside the home. This can leave them feeling isolated and without any adult interaction during the day.
Second, marriages often go through rough patches. Even the happiest couples can find themselves feeling disconnected and lonely at times. This is normal, but it can be difficult to cope with.
Finally, many women feel like they can’t be honest about their feelings of loneliness to their husbands. They worry that admitting they’re lonely will make their husband think they’re not happy with the marriage.
If you’re a married woman who’s feeling lonely, know that you’re not alone. There are a number of things you can do to cope with your loneliness.
We discuss these solutions in the section below.
Married But Lonely Man
According to a study byAshley Ermer of Montclair State University, wives’ initial levels of marital loneliness appear to drive their husband’s patterns of loneliness over time, regardless of whether they’re married for five years or 50.
Many men feel lonely in their marriage because they feel like they are not able to connect with their wife on a deeper level. They may feel like they are always doing things for their wife and never really getting anything in return. This can lead to a feeling of being unappreciated and can eventually lead to resentment.
Many men also feel like they are not able to be themselves in their marriage. They may feel like they have to put on a facade in order to please their wife or they may feel like they can never truly be themselves around their spouse. This can lead to a feeling of loneliness and isolation.
It is important for men to understand that they are not alone in feeling this way. Many men feel the same way in their marriage. It is important to talk to your wife about how you are feeling and to try to find ways to connect on a deeper level.
In the next section, we will discuss practical solutions to resolve these marriage conflicts.
Solutions To Marital Loneliness
Connection is the remedy for emotional isolation and loneliness. Reconnecting with your spouse is the goal.
First, it allows you to feel more connected to your partner and feel like you’re part of a team.
Second, it can help you feel more supported and loved. Third, it can help you feel more secure in your relationship and feel like you’re not alone.
Finally, it can help you to feel more fulfilled in your marriage and feel like you’re doing something that matters.Connection is the remedy for emotional isolation and loneliness Click To Tweet
When you feel lonely in your marriage, it can be tempting to withdraw and disconnect from your spouse. But that is usually the opposite of what you need to do. Instead, try to reach out and connect with your spouse. Talk to them about how you are feeling and why you are feeling lonely. See if there are ways that the two of you can connect more.
Maybe you can spend more time together or find ways to support each other. Whatever you do, make sure that you are communicating with each other and trying to find ways to connect.
6 Steps To Reconnect
Reconnecting takes time and energy, and a little ‘know-how.’
Here are 6 practical things you can do to reconnect with your spouse.
1) Keep The Lines Of Communication Open
I realize this can be difficult; especially if your spouse seems to be different. But communication is the bridge to connection. It’s possible to reconnect without communicating with your spouse, but it is difficult.
The best way to cross the bridge of communication is by asking questions. The goal is to get them to talk. It’s not about bombarding them or making them feel interrogated. It’s about entering their world.
- What are they interested in?
- Why are their hobbies?
- What do they do for a living? What does their job entail?
- Who are your mutual friends?
Ask them questions about these issues. It can be starting place to get a conversation going. Remember, it’s not about an interrogation; it is about conversation. Entering their world is as simple as caring about what they care about.
2) Create Connection Rituals
Carol Bruess (Ph.D.) calls this ‘rituals of connection.’ She explains it like this:
Do things to make your partner happy, even if it’s just a small thing. Something as simple as helping them cook dinner or listening to their favorite music together can make a big difference in your relationship. The goal is to create more shared experiences together in order to strengthen their relationship.
3) Be Honest About Your Feelings
Many people believe that it is not important to be honest with their spouse about their feelings, but there are actually many good reasons why it is essential to do so.
For one, when you are honest with your spouse about your feelings, it allows them to understand you better.
Additionally, being honest with your spouse can help to improve communication, and it can help to prevent arguments and conflict.
Finally, being honest with your spouse about your feelings can help to build trust between you and your spouse.
4) Build friendships outside of your marriage.
This doesn’t mean you push your spouse out of your social network. It simply means they shouldn’t be the only one in your network.
The goal is for them to be a part of your social life, but NOT your social life.
Couples who have a wide array of friendships are happier in their marriage.
A word of caution: We do not recommend overly close relationships with those of the opposite sex. It’s normal to have acquaintances of the opposite sex, but proper boundaries are important.
A study by Ashley Ermer (Montclair State University) showed that older couples who had a rich network of friends were less likely to feel lonely.
5) Demonstrate Appreciation and Gratitude
Studies show that when we express appreciation and gratitude we open the door for a deeper connection.
Everyone wants to be appreciated. When we give it to them it triggers an automatic response of reciprocation. In other words, when we meet someone’s emotional needs, they are more likely to give back and meet ours.
When we give appreciation we are demonstrating our partner matters. It is a way of paying attention to our spouse.
6) Focus on Quality Time
When couples spend quality time together, they are able to share experiences and connect on a deeper level. This can help them feel more connected to each other and build a stronger relationship. It is difficult to feel connected to someone if you never spend any time with them, so quality time is essential for a healthy relationship.
You can learn a lot about someone by spending quality time with them. This can help you understand them better and build a stronger connection. Quality time doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, it can be simple things like taking a walk together, cooking dinner together, or just sitting and talking. The important thing is that you are spending time together and focusing on each other.
What If Reconnection Doesn’t Happen; What Then?
What if your attempt to connect with your spouse doesn’t work? What can you do if they don’t respond?
1. Focus on Caring For Yourself.
Surround yourself with things (and do things) that make you feel positive and good.
Another thing we recommend is to make sure you are consistently getting positive input into your life. Our emotions are generally driven by our state of mind. The more positive you are, the better you feel. Then it becomes a positive cycle that repeats itself.
Here is a list of encouraging books we recommend when you feel alone.
2. Establish outside social connections.
This shouldn’t be done to exclude your spouse. However, if your partner refuses to meet your emotional and social needs, you have options. Focus on building friendships outside of your marriage.
3. Build a strong spiritual foundation.
We believe people are much more than physical creatures. We are created in the image of God. Since we are spiritual beings, it’s important to build a solid foundation in our relationship with God.
Our deepest needs are spiritual in nature. In that sense, only God can meet certain needs. Focusing on this can ease the tension and isolation you might feel in your marriage.
4. Never Stop Building Bridges of Connection
Many individuals give up trying to get their spouse to engage in the relationship. There is certainly a time to back off, but it is important to never lose hope, and never stop creating opportunities for your spouse to reconnect.
Building bridges is about making sure there is always an opportunity for your spouse to join you in your daily life. it is about removing the distance so they feel free to respond to your offer.
Also read: How To Stay Happy In A Loveless Marriage
5. Enroll In A Program Designed To Help You Reconnect
Sometimes we need help figuring out what is happening in our marriage and how to deal with specific issues that are damaging our chances of reconnecting.
We recommend several programs for couples who are desperate for help. Click the links to find out more about these programs.
Save the Marriage System by Lee Baucom
Mend the Marriage by Brad Browning
Both programs are a great place to start.
Final Thoughts On Married But Lonely
Feelings of loneliness are common in any relationship. When those feelings become the standard for your marriage, it is a symptom of a deeper problem. It is a sign there is a disconnect in your relationship.
- Defining Marriage Loneliness
- Negative Effects of Loneliness
- General Causes of Loneliness in Marriage
- The Association Between Loneliness and Gender
- Solutions To Marital Loneliness