Feeling lonely in a marriage can be confusing and frightening, and it can put the relationship at risk. Maybe you've been together for ages, and you and your spouse have experienced so much together—the birthday parties, the vacations, the anniversary trips. But then you woke up one morning and realized you feel lonely in your marriage. What used to be "we" and "us" has become "you" and "me." What used to be a strong bond has started to crack under the pressure of loneliness and the fears that come with it.
Experiencing loneliness in a marriage could be a subtle change over the years, or it could be a sudden shift even after a short time together. Whatever the case, it can feel frustrating that what was once "I do" has shifted to "What do I do?" If this is something you're feeling, read on for a few tips on how to move forward.
What You Can Do
If you're in a lonely marriage and you want a change for the better, you're not alone.
You're still two separate people with unique needs, dreams, and aspirations. So, what are some steps you and your partner can take to grow closer together?
Reflect On Yourself And The Situation
There are two separate people in a marriage—you and your spouse—and if you're feeling lonely in your marriage, you may consider starting by looking at yourself and your own behavior. If you think your spouse is distanced and emotionally unavailable, check in with yourself first. Have you, perhaps, pulled away from them? Has work been overwhelming? Have you put in a lot of overtime? Have you had difficulty sleeping? Are there unresolved issues from your past that could play a part? There may even be mental health challenges that need to be addressed.
Dig into your emotions as well, and consider your partner's behavior: why exactly are you feeling lonely? Perhaps you wish you had deeper conversations, feel physically disconnected, or don't think you spend enough time together, for example. Try to be honest with yourself and your emotions so that you have a clearer sense of what might be going on.
Communicate With Your Partner
Once you've done some reflection to better understand the situation and what you're feeling, it may be time to bring your thoughts to your partner. Try to communicate openly and honestly, saying what you're feeling and why. Try to be loving, gentle, caring, and honest with your spouse about your feelings, concerns, and desires. Refrain from being judgmental and accusatory. They may not realize that you're feeling lonely, or perhaps they are feeling lonely, too. You can tell your perspective with them, and then you can ask them to say their thoughts as well. Truly listen to your partner by using active listening techniques.
Start With Small Steps
After you and your partner have discussed your individual thoughts and concerns, you can start taking action to address them. It's okay to start slowly or small at first. If you have expressed that you feel physically disconnected from them, you could start by holding hands while watching TV or resting your head on their shoulder for a moment at night. If they have expressed that they feel unappreciated, you can thank them for the little things they do each day or tell them more often how proud you are of their hard work and accomplishments. If you both are feeling emotionally disconnected, you could ask them to go for a short walk in the evenings to talk about your days.
Spend Time Together
Spending more quality time together can be an effective tool for addressing a wide range of reasons for feeling lonely in a relationship. The way that you two spend time together may vary based on your specific concerns and interests. For instance, if you are feeling lonely because you are both working more than usual lately, leaving you both little time to connect, perhaps you can find ways to spend more intentional time together on the weekends. You could decide to have weekly dates every Sunday, where you go to your favorite restaurant, see a movie, or go on a hike together. Or, if you are feeling emotionally disconnected, perhaps you both make a rule to put away phones and devices for dinner each night to focus on having real conversations with each other.
Sustain The Positive Changes
As you take these steps to strengthen your relationship, consider how you and your partner will maintain the positive changes you've created. Maintaining a strong and healthy relationship often takes continued effort, so try to determine how you and your partner will sustain this closeness moving forward and ward off that feeling of loneliness that you once had. Relish the progress you and your spouse have made together, and then continue to work toward ensuring your marriage is loving, strong, and healthy. Keep a close eye on subtle regressions and seek out a mental health professional if necessary to continue to forge a stronger and more confident relationship.
A Deeper Connection Through Therapy
Creating and maintaining a strong, healthy relationship can be challenging, and if you need additional support, you can consider seeking help through individual or couples therapy.
In a relationship where you feel lonely, concerns may pop up at unexpected times—for instance, perhaps you suddenly feel especially lonely after they are emotionally distant one night, or perhaps you feel alone after they have to work late all week consistently. In these cases, you may find reaching out to your counselor outside of sessions helpful. With online therapy, you can use in-app messaging to reach out to your therapist in those moments, and they will respond as soon as they can.
Plus, research has found that online couples therapy delivered through videoconferencing can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy.
Read below for counselor reviews from those who have experienced similar concerns.
"Steve has helped me personally in so many ways to better myself and tackle life's struggles and navigate me through tough times. Not only me personally but my wife and our marriage as a whole. I truly believe that without Steve's help and guidance, our marriage would not be where it is today."
"Dr. Harrell was there for me and helped me get to the issues of my problems and triggers. I am a much better person and feel like a new person. I am pursuing a dream that I never thought would be possible to achieve. Again, my wife and I are on speaking terms with a small glimmer of hope. I honestly wouldn't be where I am now without her support."
What do you do when you are married and lonely?
Marital loneliness can happen slowly over many years or suddenly over a short period of time. Even in good relationships, there can be times when one or both partners drift apart and feel isolated from one another. If you’re in a lonely marriage, there are steps you can take to build a healthier relationship.
- Reflect on yourself and the situation: You may consider evaluating yourself and your own behavior. Have you, perhaps, pulled away from your spouse? Have busy schedules been overwhelming? Are there underlying issues from your past that could play a part? Try to be honest with yourself and your emotions so that you have a clearer sense of what might be going on and why you’re feeling isolated.
- Communicate with your partner: Once you've done some internal reflection, it may be time to express your thoughts to your partner. Try to communicate openly and honestly, saying what you're feeling and why. They may not realize you feel lonely, or perhaps they feel lonely, too. Give them your perspective, and then ask them for their thoughts as well. Using active listening techniques can help foster positive communication.
- Spend time together: Making an effort to spend quality time together can be an effective tool for addressing feelings of loneliness in a relationship. For instance, if you are feeling lonely because you are both working long hours, you can find ways to spend more time together on the weekends. This might include a weekly date night to your favorite restaurant or to see a movie.
- Get professional help: Creating and maintaining a strong, emotionally supportive relationship can be challenging, and if you need additional help communicating with your partner or identifying causes of loneliness, you can consider seeking support through individual or couples therapy.
Is it normal to feel lonely when married?
According to experts, it’s common for people in long-term relationships to experience loneliness. This can happen for various reasons. Perhaps an aspect of the relationship isn’t working for one or both partners or specific needs feel like they aren’t being adequately met. Regardless of the reasons, there are many ways for married couples to address those feelings, including open communication, self-reflection, quality time, and therapeutic intervention.
What are the hardest years of marriage?
Though newlywed bliss can provide an initial bump, the first few years of marriage are typically considered the most difficult. Partners are working to build a strong foundation and manage big life transitions, which can create tension and frustration. Recent research has shown that the first two years of marriage may be prone to dissatisfaction due to unrealistic expectations around topics such as serious responsibilities, relationship roles, sex, family loyalties, letdowns, and the “little things.”
Can a marriage survive without emotional intimacy?
Emotional intimacy is an important component of a healthy marriage. It’s a feeling of closeness that allows you to be authentically yourself with your partner in your daily life together and still feel safe and loved. Though the absence of emotional intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean a marriage is wrong for one or both partners, a relationship can suffer from a lack of emotional intimacy.
What is walkaway wife syndrome?
Walkaway Wife Syndrome is a term coined by therapist Michele Weiner-Davis to explain why two thirds of divorces are initiated by women. It is a colloquial phrase, not an actual condition or diagnosis. It refers to a common set of behaviors exhibited by unhappy wives who are no longer committed to maintaining their relationships and feel ready to “walk away.”
Why do I feel empty in my marriage?
There are many reasons you may feel empty in your marriage, depending on your specific set of circumstances and personality. A few of the most common reasons married people may feel empty include lack of communication, feeling disconnected from their partner, lacking intimacy, lacking other relationships such as friends, and mental health challenges such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
How much alone time is too much in a marriage?
There is no fixed consensus around how much time alone is too much. For example, introverted partners may need more time alone than their extroverted counterparts. Though quality time together is important to nurture a relationship, alone time is also key for individuals to recharge, recalibrate, and nurture independent hobbies and connections. As you work toward finding the best balance for your relationship, it can be helpful to start by using the 70/30 model, where you spend 70% of your time with your partner and 30% of your time doing independent activities.
What is emotional abandonment in marriage?
In the context of a marriage, emotional abandonment is the feeling of being neglected and not being heard in a relationship. This could be marked by a lack of affection, absence of consideration, or failure to respond to emotional and physical needs, leaving one of both spouses feeling unwanted by their partner.
- Previous Article
- Next Article