Many single woman look forward to marriage as a time when they will never be alone again. According to Dr. Gail Saltz, “Most women I see tell me they are happy that they found someone special and are married because they would not want to be alone. What’s more curious, however, is how many women tell me that they really feel lonely IN their marriage.” Single and lonely is bearable if you can look forward to a future with a loving spouse to keep you company. But married and lonely, well that just stinks. “Your loneliness feels infinite and hopeless. You wonder, is it me, is it him or is it us?”
Dr. Saltz defines loneliness as a feeling of emptiness, abandonment and rejection. Courtship is often a time of emotional intimacy and pleasure in being together. But sometimes married couples get into a rut, taking the other for granted and being consumed by other cares such as work, children, finances, etc. Couples grow apart if there’s an inability to share feelings and be understood. A relationship can become purely functional, like two players on the same team – you do the shopping and I’ll drive carpool – instead of the deep, soul mate connection you probably envisioned.
“Even when a woman does sit down with her husband it’s to zone out in front of the TV. She often wants to talk, but he wants to watch the game. The distance grows and soon she feels like she’s alone while she’s sitting next to him.”
It’s no newsflash that women communicate differently then men. Girlfriends tend to bond by talking, sharing their experiences and feelings. Men tend to bond over shared activities, like watching a ball game. Many women wish (and even expect that) their husbands would talk to them like their girlfriends. When that doesn’t happen they feel disappointed, rejected and lonely. They feel like even if they tried to share their deeper feelings, he won’t really get it.
“This is not the same as the man who either doesn’t notice when something is really up with you or worse yet, doesn’t care,” Dr. Saltz points out. “The above reasons women feel lonely are really… normal bumps in the road that you need to and can contend with.” (Obviously, a relationship where he criticizes often, belittles you, threatens to leave or hurt you, constitutes emotional abuse. If he tries to isolate you from friends and family in order to maintain control, this is a relationship you need to get out of.)
What can you do about it? Here are some of Dr. Saltz’s suggestions:
- Give attention to get attention. Don’t wait for him to make the first move. If your husband isn’t holding your hand, then take his. Tell him you really like to snuggle up in bed and talk. Ask him what is on his mind. Give him the same kind of attention and interaction you’d like to receive. Be a model of the change. Then ask him to do the same for you. Guys can be pretty clueless, but the more specific you are about your needs, the more likely it is that he’ll catch on.
- Seek satisfaction on your own. Learning to enjoy your own company is the first step to diminishing loneliness. Allow some separate time for each of you to explore your interests. By nurturing some independence, you build your own confidence and will feel less needy. This “self-possession” will create a person that the other one wants to know more about and have fun with. Make a list of things you might like to do alone like reading, gardening, painting, listening to music…then go through each and give it a try.
- Don’t neglect your social life. Nurturing your women friends can be stimulating and gratifying. This is not instead of your spouse; it’s simply in addition and will leave you feeling less alone.