I'm Married and Lonely. What Do I Do?
Updated February 03, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell
The last twenty years have seemingly flown by. Three children later—and lots of memories tucked away in photo albums—and you and your spouse have experienced so much together. The birthday parties, the vacations, the anniversary trips away from the kids just to get away and have some much needed time alone. Early on in the marriage, before the kids were born, you still acted like the high school sweethearts you used to be—flirtatious, sexual, fun. And then you woke up one morning, and you realized that you no longer recognized the person staring back at you in the mirror. It wasn’t so much the graying hair and wrinkled skin—it was the look in your eyes. You’re lonely in your marriage.
Having a lonely marriage is not rare. This scenario plays in households across America—husbands and wives married yet lonely. It’s usually a subtle change over the years. It’s the joy and happiness that once took center stage in your marriage, with the children smiling at Mom and Dad dancing in the living room, that now succumbs to a hug here and there, and maybe an “I love you” on a good day. And as you look in the mirror, you ponder, “Am I alone? What happened?” What was once “I do” has shifted to “What do I do?”
Being lonely in a marriage can be confusing, frightening, and can put the relationshipat risk. 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 and temptations that come with it. The weight of having to put the “happy mask” on when you leave the house is getting tiresome and outdated. You may experience mental health issues like depression, feelings of abandonment, or anxiety. You feel like your spouse doesn’t pay attention to you. Compliments have decreased while arguments have increased. You even revert to arguing with your spouse because that’s the only time they pay attention to you for more than a few seconds.
You’re in a lonely marriage, and you want a change for the better; you want to feel like a loving, close married couple again. So, what steps can you take to mend what was once sealed tightly and unbreakable but is now cracking at the seams? How do you tighten your wedding rings that seem to be loosening?
Well, you’re not alone. Even in the very best of relationships, there are going to be times when one or both partners drift apart and feel somewhat distant and estranged from one another. It’s normal to have a season of feeling disconnected. Even though you’re married, you’re still two separate people with unique needs, dreams, and aspirations. So, what are some steps you and your spouse can take to physically and emotionally grow closer together?
I’m Married And Lonely. What Do I Do?
- Look In The Mirror
More likely, the reason you feel like you’re in a lonely marriage has something to do with both you and your spouse, to some degree. If you think your spouse is distanced and emotionally unavailable, check in with yourself first. You want to avoid putting any blame on your spouse, especially before you’ve performed a self-analysis. Again, you’re two separate people, and along with your separate desires and needs, you also have separate upbringings, triggers, and baggage that you’ve brought into the marriage. There may even be deep-rooted mental health issues that need to be addressed. Get away for the day and meditate on you. Has work been overwhelming? Have you put in a lot of overtime? Have you had difficulty sleeping? Are there triggers from your childhood that play a part? Find that person within and be honest with your emotions. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to make your move.
- Make The First Move
When someone is in a lonely marriage, it sometimes takes making that first move; and although it’s always reassuring and easier when your spouse makes the first move toward closing the gap (not to mention comforting that they do actually care), it’s better to make a choice to make that very important and necessary first move. Your spouse may be feeling insecure orafraid, or maybe resentment has started to slowly seep through; but nevertheless, it’s time to approach your spouse in a loving and safe way. It probably took a long while for the marriage to become lonely. Maybe even years. So, bridging that gap doesn’t have to be immediate, drastic, or abrupt. In fact, the slower approach is probably a safer and more effective one. Hold his hand while watching TV, tell her how beautiful she looks, tell him you’re proud of how hard he works, or do some gardening together. The subject of loneliness doesn’t necessarily need to come up in this early stage. Sometimes gentle and subtle actions such as a kiss on the cheek or rubbing your hand across your spouse’s back as you walk by are just as powerful, if not more, especially when you’re making that first courageous move to put the flame back in your marriage.
Now it’s time to verbally communicate.
Let’s face it—communication in a marriage can go from flirting, compliments, and promising the world to each other to discussions around bills, chores, and Jimmy’s latest report card from his 3rd-grade teacher. Now is the time to focus on communication that revolves around healing, closeness, and your love for your spouse. Remember when you first dated your spouse.Try to communicate the way you used to. Keep it light and easy. Again, you would benefit by taking it slow. Rediscover your spouse. Reestablish the emotional connection. See the things about your spouse that once used to make you smile and stay up all night but have now been put away. Be loving, gentle, caring, and honest with your spouse about your feelings, concerns, and desires. Refrain from being judgmental and accusatory. Furthermore, be sensitive to the possibility that there may be mental health issues such as anxiety or depression that haveslowly taken root. Don’t rush the discussion but instead nurture it. Truly listen to your partner. Use active listening techniques.
- Spend Time Together
At this point in the reconciliation process, one can be tempted to expect the healing process and reciprocation from the spouse to go quicker than it might be. It’s important to remember that your spouse may need more time than you to meet you halfway. Your spouse may still be feeling lonely. Continuing to focus on yourself and your marriage will help to lessen the triggers you might be carrying, like abandonment issues or self-esteem. It’s time to spend more quality time together. Take your wife on a date, go to the movies, buy your husband tickets to his favorite musical act. Do whatever it takes to show your spouse that they are the priority, that they mean the world to you, that you made a special effort to make them feel important. Spending quality, uninterrupted time together can significantly improve the health of your marriage, as well as the mental health of each of you, individually.
- Get Physical
It’s imperative to read the signs from your spouse as each step is approached to ensure that you’re not moving too fast or slow. It’s time to love your spouse physically. One of the things that had probably dissipated is physical intimacy with your spouse. Yes, you may be physical, but you may not be genuinely physical like you were before. This is again a valuable time to be trusting, loving, and safe as you move to this next stage. Don’t let go of the emotional connection and communication, and continue to make that extra effort to spend quality time with your spouse because all of these steps need to be coordinated for a successful re-bridging of what once was. Remember how spontaneous and fun you both were in the early days of your marriage, and reenact that. Kiss her in public, hold his hand – whatever it takes to continue healing and recreating what has waned.
Congratulations. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a high five. You were once in a lonely marriage, and now you’re not only back to where you were, but by persevering and working through this as a couple, you’ve contributed toward possibly making the marriage even more potent than it was. There’s something about achievingvictory as a couple that tightens and strengthens the bond between you two, and will, in turn, be essential should you ever have to face another struggle as a couple again. Now’s the time to keep working on the steps you’ve accomplished. However, keep a close eye on subtle regressions and seek out a mental health professional, if necessary, in order to continue to forge a stronger and more confident relationship.
You’re dating like high school sweethearts again, your spouse is making your favorite dinner, and the kids feel safe, confident, and giddy that their parents are dancing in the kitchen to Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé—all while cooking together. The mental health of your marriage and family is healthier than it’s been in years! It’s time exhale. It’s time to recognize your accomplishments and to identify that marriages have ebbs and flows that can sometimes run ashore. Relish this moment and continue to work toward ensuring that your marriage is loving, strong, and protected.
A Deeper Connection Through BetterHelp
Studies show that individuals who are experiencing complex emotions arising out their relationship, such as loneliness, can benefit from online couples counseling. In one study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, the effects of online couples therapy were examined. According to researchers, a small percentage of couples seek out counseling due to certain limitations. This study makes the case that online interventions are accessible, cost-efficient, and flexible, and that they are effective in providing counseling to both distressed and satisfied couples. Researchers found that online couples counseling participants experienced increases in constructive communication, as well as commitment, and overall relationship satisfaction.
BetterHelp’s online platform, you’ll have the opportunity to reach out to your counselor outside of sessions. If you have a concern about your relationship, would like to ask a question, or simply want to chat, simply send your counselor a message and they’ll get back to you as soon as they are able. Also, the messaging and journal features provide you with a record of some of your interactions, so you can go back and review certain conversation topics or important ideas. The licensed counselors at BetterHelp know how to get your marriage on the right track. Read below for counselor reviews, from those who have experienced similar issues.
“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 as well 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. Me and my wife are again on speaking terms with a small glimmer of hope. I honestly wouldn't be where I am now without her support.”
The subtle and unnoticed falling apart in a marriage is common. And the loneness that is felt as a result is also not out of the norm. Although a lonely marriage may feel uncertain, scary, and unnerving, it’s something that can be healed and strengthened.
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