You’re married, yet you feel alone and lonely. You thought marriage would involve companionship and connection; instead, you’re living with loneliness and isolation. Feeling alone in a marriage isn’t one of the topics covered in the premarital counseling classes I took – but it should have been! I’ve been married for 15 years, and am still learning that being lonely is sometimes part of marriage.
I wrote What to Remember When You Miss Your Husband when my husband was away on a business trip (in fact, he’s working in Mexico right now!). That article addressed the physical sense of loneliness, of feeling bored and lonely at home because my husband was away. It was about missing the companionship of a spouse who was expected to come home in the near future.
This article is different. This is about the emotional loneliness, the psychological feeling of being lonely and unconnected when your husband or wife is sitting right next to you. That kind of loneliness is more painful than the loneliness of missing someone who is physically absent. That emotional loneliness is sadder and harder to bear because you feel disconnected and misunderstood. My tips won’t erase the loneliness you feel in your marriage, but they might help you find ways to feel less alone in the world
A reader’s comment inspired me to share these ideas. “I have always felt alone, unloved by my husband,” said Verna on How to Save an Unhappy Marriage Without Couples Counseling. I don’t know why I married him. He doesn’t love or support me in any way, though he never stops or discourages me from doing anything. Sometimes I feel like we are just cordial roommates. He will go out of his way to assist anyone except me. I never know what he does with his money, he has huge debts that he has made while we were together but I never saw the money or what he did with it. Every time I tell him I feel lonely in our marriage, he either ignores me or says I’m insecure. I am so lonely and lost.”
Do you feel the same way she does – lonely in your marriage, lost, insecure, disappointed? Maybe you got married thinking your life would be more complete and fulfilling. Instead, you find yourself coping with loneliness you didn’t even know was possible when you were single. Feeling alone in your marriage is worse than feeling alone when you’re single.
6 Tips for Coping With Being Married and Lonely
“In some marriages, trying harder does not engender a reciprocal response,” writes Leslie Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope. “It has the opposite effect. It feeds the fantasy that the sole purpose of your life is to serve your husband, make him happy, and meet his every need. It feeds his belief of entitlement and his selfishness, and it solidifies his self-deception that it is indeed all about him.”
I also quoted Vernick in How to Deal With a Husband Who Complains About Your Clothes. If you’re lonely because your spouse is critical and judgmental, you’ll find that article helpful. Vernick sees to the heart of marriage problems, and clearly describes how to identify damaging behaviors. Her books are easy to read and applicable to all relationships. Remember that feeling alone even though you’re married is emotionally destructive. That’s why a book like Vernick’s is a healthy way to cope with loneliness in relationships.
1. Learn how to apply ASLAN to your marriage
The big lesson I’m learning in my life right now is accepting circumstances and people the way they are. I practice Aslan, which stands for Acceptance, Surrender, Live And Know this is the way it’s supposed to be. Accepting my life and surrendering to what is right now frees my energy. Accepting the loneliness in my marriage motivates and strengthens me to live fully, knowing things won’t always be this way.
Does this idea make sense to you? In other words, fighting your loneliness or wishing you didn’t feel lonely in your marriage is a waste of energy. You can’t change anything by wishing it wasn’t so, or even regretting you got married in the first place! Instead of resisting your loneliness or wishing things were different, accept and surrender to this relationship. Use the energy that has been freed up to live differently and start making changes in your life.
2. Acknowledge what you wish your husband could give you
What role does your husband play in your feelings of being married and alone? Some husbands are completely oblivious to their wives’ needs the because wives haven’t said anything, asked for anything, or set healthy boundaries. Other husbands are emotionally unhealthy or even abusive. Most husbands are in the middle: regular guys who are living their lives. Some care deeply about their wives’ happiness, while others are more focused on work, hobbies, possessions.
Do you want your husband to support you, spend more time with you, talk to you, or accompany you to events? Get clear in your own mind what you want from your marriage. What will help you feel connected and understood? Coping with when you feel alone in your marriage means you need to do some heavy lifting. Think about what you want and if your husband can give it to you. Your husband may not be able to give you everything you need, but you need to be clear on what you want.
If you simply want more time with him, read What to Do When Your Boyfriend Doesn’t Have Time for You.
3. Cope with your loneliness in healthy ways
What role do you play in your loneliness? Feeling connected, healthy, and fulfilled isn’t just about a happy marriage. Your husband can’t make you happy, nor is he responsible for making sure you never feel alone or unloved. You have to find internal joy and peace that will carry you through all situations, no matter how lonely your marriage is.
In 6 Signs Your Marriage is Over, I encourage readers to take care of their own emotional and social needs. If you’re married and alone, create a life outside of your marriage. Take responsibility for your own actions, activities, friendships, health, and future plans. Maybe your husband will be part of your new life, or maybe not. You can’t control him, nor can you force him to be around when you feel lonely. But you can control your own responses, thoughts, and choices. This where the typical “get a life” advice comes in: make friends by doing volunteer work, joining book clubs or hiking groups, joining a church or spiritual organization, or taking continuing education classes. Challenge yourself by pursuing a different career or going back to school.
4. Realize that “married yet alone” often go hand in hand
Hollywood movies and romance books have created expectations that are not real. Worse, they’re destructive! We see movies where beautiful couples have amazing relationships and exciting marriages. We don’t see the lonely parts of being married – unless, of course, the husband is an explorer or an astronaut. Then we know a happy ending is coming.
What do you expect from your marriage – and your husband? It’s normal and even healthy to feel lonely sometimes. Even when you’re married. Even when you’re surrounded by people, family, friends! Loneliness is just part of who we are.
We’re not lonely for more of each other, we’re lonely for more God. That divine spark of power, love, joy and light is what we hunger for…and what we can’t get enough of. We think we’re lonely for romantic love, but we’re really yearning for the presence of God.
5. Learn how to give yourself what you need
Your past – even a years-ago childhood – affects how lonely you feel in your marriage today. So does mine. My mom has schizophrenia; I grew up in foster homes. I didn’t realize how lonely and neglected I was until I was in my late 20s, when I met my dad for the first time. As an adult, I learned that I have to give myself the encouragement, love, support, and compassion I need. I love my husband, but nobody can fill my emotional needs the way I need.
A husband can’t fill all your emotional and spiritual needs. He might not even be able to fill your physical or social needs! It’s not fair to expect him to make you whole or happy. Learn how to cope with loneliness in marriage by finding fulfillment and meaning in something that can never die, betray you, or get lost. Find your inner self, that true you who can rest in the peace, joy and love of God. That is your true self, and she never gets lonely.
6. Learn how to sit alone happily and enjoy your own company
Do you like who you are? Can you be alone with yourself for a few hours, and not feel lonely or bored or even crazy? If you can’t be alone happily, you’ll always struggle with loneliness in your relationships. Your companionship and connection has to come from within because people can’t meet your spiritual or emotional yearnings. It’s impossible.
On 10 Ways to Stop Being a Needy Girlfriend and Feel Confident Again, a reader said that she can’t be alone. She isn’t comfortable being alone because she feels uncertain and lost. She hasn’t found herself, her self-identity, her self-confidence. She hasn’t learned to enjoy her own company. More importantly, she hasn’t learned how to take care of her own needs. She’s setting herself – and her future husband – up for problems because she expects too much from relationships.
Can you go to restaurants, movies, art galleries, parties by yourself? What about travel, or even day trips? Learn how to be happy without feeling lonely. This won’t just help ease the loneliness in your marriage, it will make you a happier, more peaceful person. You’ll be a joy to be around, for both you and others.
What do you think? Your comments are welcome below.
The last word goes to Leslie Vernick: “There are times you must risk unraveling the life you have in order to create the life God wants for you.”
In peace and passion,