Dealing with a lonely divide in marriage
Mo and Phindi give couples pointers for how to reconnect in their relationship
Marriage and loneliness are strange bedfellows and are quite revealing of the complexities of a relationship.
By its very definition, marriage is the joining of two separate lives into one unified family.
Over a period of time, the two are soul-tied into one spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally in a healthy soul tie. God designed it that way.
What loneliness looks like in marriage
People sometimes believe marriage can insulate them from the effects of loneliness, but that’s not the case.
Loneliness is determined by the subjective quality of our relationships, not their objective quantity – nor just by whether we happen to be living with a spouse.
Loneliness in marriage often happens slowly, as the disconnection you feel from your spouse gradually increases over time.
It happens when you both are at one place, but fail to connect with each other.
In fact, you may even feel awkward to be alone with each other.
In simple words, you are a couple to the world out there, but are privately living separate lives.
Your interaction with each other often becomes hostile and argumentative, and you start assuming things.
Communication gets quite transactional, like “We need milk”; “Your mother called”; or “Kids have school soccer on Friday”.Even worse, you give excessive attention to the children even at the expense of your spouse.Intimate conversations about mutual interests, happenings around you, your personal dreams, and even where the marriage is going, cease altogether.You stop sharing your feelings because you know your spouse will most probably be critical or not be empathetic.Furthermore, you become less dependable, forget special days, and you try filling the void through work, studies or keeping toxic friendships.Sexual and emotional intimacy literally goes out of the window.Couples also tend to fall into daily routines that foster emotional distance – like one partner watches television in the evening while the other is on the computer, or one goes to bed at 9pm and wakes at 5am while the other goes to bed at midnight and wakes at 8 am.In short, you lose the love and the affection but stay in the marriage; ironically, often out of a fear of being lonely.There’s a range of ways to deal with loneliness in marriage. The following are just few of suggestions:Initiate conversationsIf you’re lonely in your marriage, it means there has been a breakdown of communication. It may feel awkward initially, but you need to start talking again. Start by taking interest in each other’s day, and be deliberate about listening.Avoid unnecessarily criticising your spouse, and rather show empathy. Gradually, your communication will grow to laughing together and talk about your hopes, fears, and dreams.Develop a culture of “bed conversations” in the evening before you sleep, and in the morning before you start your day. You need to reconnect, and conversation is the bridge that will get you there.Develop family prayer lifeBuilding your faith as a couple affords you an opportunity to look beyond your spouse for security, happiness and self-worth.Praying together also allows you the platform to be vulnerable, and gives you an opportunity to eavesdrop on your spouse’s intimate thoughts.Your first prayer may be just asking God to help you get out of this lonely time in your marriage, and then you can add to your prayer list together.Do small favoursIs he struggling with his necktie? Help him do it. Is she a foodie? Prepare a delicious breakfast for her.Doing small favours for one another will build trust and make you dependable. You’ll rely on each other for assistance with any problem.You’ll be each other’s first destination in distress.Let your spouse know how much they mean to youIndependence is the enemy of marriage. Being your own person, who has developed their own individual life in marriage, is one sure way of splitting the relationship apart.Rather what you want to achieve is interdependence. When you allow one another to flourish in your differences without seeking to change each other, you’re emphasising one another’s importance among other things.When you call or text your spouse during the day for no reason other than “I love you”, you’re letting them know how much they mean to you.Vocalise your appreciation of your spouse, and their importance in the relationship.Create shared experiencesIf you’re lonely, chances are so is your spouse. But they are also probably trapped in a cycle of emotional disconnection and feel helpless to break it.If your spouse is in the other room watching their favourite show, sit next to them and say, “You love this show so much I want to give it a try”.You can also suggest certain activities that require little effort. It’s amazing what walks around the block or cooking a meal together can do.Shared experiences strengthen common interests and some of these activities will remind you of more connected times in your relationship.