You’re married, you live together, you spend so much time together… so the feeling of actually being lonely in marriage can seem crazy. You may question your feelings, wondering how you can feel so alone, when you’re always with this other person. The truth is, sometimes when you’ve been with someone a long time you can get so comfortable that you begin to drift apart. Splitting up or ending the marriage is something you would never consider, so how do you stop feeling lonely?
Experts share some things you can do when you suddenly realize that you’re lonely and feeling isolated within your own marriage…
Explore why you feel lonely.
This is one of the first things you should do, and you should definitely do it before you approach your spouse to talk. “You can’t solve what you don’t investigate so investigate yourself,” says certified Relationship Coach, Chris Armstrong. “Ask yourself what you had that’s now missing. Or, what did you have in abundance that is now less frequent. I always ask clients to look at the intimacy PIE (physical, intellectual, emotional) and ask themselves if they feel fulfilled in each of these distinct areas.” Simply put, get clear on what’s missing and what you want and need from your partner first.
Don’t rationalize away the fact that you’re lonely.
Perhaps you’ve been doing this all along… Every time you feel lonely, you make excuses for it, blaming yourself. But, licensed psychotherapist, Dr. Jill Murray, says don’t give your partner a pass for not being emotionally or physically connected. “He works so hard, he never learned how to express himself, I’m sure she loves me; she had a bad childhood, he’s just going through a rough patch, etc. You have feelings too; don’t deny them.”
Get up the courage to talk to him/her.
Once you identify that you’re lonely in your marriage and realize what it is you need, it’s time to talk to your spouse. Murray suggests that before you do so, make a bullet point list of items you want to discuss with examples of the reasons you feel lonely. “Don’t blame or shame. Make sure the discussion is centered on how YOU feel: lonely, depressed, wanting connection, etc.” Lists are helpful because once the time comes, your mind may go blank!
Choose your words wisely.
Approach this talk calmly and not in a way that gives off the impression you’re about to ask for a divorce. You can’t expect the other person to read your mind and know what you’re feeling, so be open with your feelings. Murray adds, “In your talk, make sure you also give concrete ways to fix it, from your point of view.” For example, What I would like is…, I think we need to start doing this…, etc.
“When discussing it avoid ‘you statements’ stick with how you feel, such as feelings of sadness, loneliness, rejected, etc. For example, instead of saying, ‘you never spend any time with me you’re so selfish’ say ‘I feel really lonely in our marriage and it makes me sad,” says licensed psychologist, Dr. Wyatt Fisher. “Avoiding ‘you statements’ and sticking with your tender feelings will help bring out an empathetic response from your spouse instead of a defensive one.”
Now that you’ve talked about your feelings in non-attacking ways, brainstorm solutions. Fisher says, “Discuss what it would take to better meet both of your needs in the relationship and what changes are needed to get you there.” This could be in regards to how time and money is spent, a change to schedules or responsibilities, etc.
Consider counseling and self-help books.
If talking isn’t getting you’re the results you’ve hoped for, Murray suggests marriage/couples counseling as a great way to enlist an impartial third party for help and advice. “Oftentimes, counseling is just a few sessions and homework is given to help you strengthen your bond and give you tools to reconnect. In addition, self-help marriage books are a good resource as well. The key is to buy two copies. You and your partner each read a chapter at the same time and then make a date to discuss it from your standpoint and talking about the way in which what you read can be used in your marriage.”
Being lonely in a marriage can be distressing but it’s also natural. Talking it over and addressing what’s causing the feelings may actually help you and your spouse be closer than ever.