To be lonely when you’re married can seem contradictory —the two don’t seem like they should go together. It’s like being lonely in a crowd. How is this possible? But it happens, even in the best of marriages.
No marriage can meet your all needs because marriage contains two imperfect people. One imperfect person plus another imperfect person adds up to an imperfect marriage. So it’s not unusual for needs to go unmet.
The Bible says “In your anger, sin not.” But God impressed upon Steve and me to warn you that in your lonely times when you perceive your needs are not met, to “SIN NOT” as well. We see it continually in the letters we receive and the comments posted on the web site that loneliness brings out a vulnerabilities that many try to escape at all costs. And the costs are great. To combat this problem, we encourage you to prayerfully consider the following thoughts:
Shana Schutte (in “The Gift of Loneliness” article) writes,
“Everyone experiences loneliness at some time. It’s a common denominator in the equation of life. It’s also something no one likes to feel, so our natural response is to run from it, avoid it or deny it by filling our lives with a million distractions. God has a better way.
“When we sink into loneliness and allow it to do its redemptive work by embracing it, it can be a powerful teacher. And as Henri Nouwen writes in his book, The Inner Voice of Love, we may find our ‘loneliness not only tolerable,’ but even fruitful.
“Luke 5:16 says, ‘Jesus withdrew into lonely places and he prayed.’ True, Christ may not have been lonely, but just ‘withdrew into lonely places.’ However, in the same way that his lonely places provided a place of hope for Him, the loneliness you sometimes feel can promote positive change in your life.”
I’ve personally learned this to be true. When Steve is away on business trips or busy with other matters, God has shown me ways to turn these alone times into positives where I do things that will make the time special and help the time to go by faster (like spending one-on one time with God, family, friends, hobbies, interests, and such).
I’ve also learned that being alone can sometimes be a blessing in disguise because you can learn some things during that time. For one:
“Spend time alone to think about what you are expecting from your partner. Are they aware of what you are looking for? Remember that we all grow and change over time. Perhaps your needs have changed. Discuss this with your partner. Sometimes we assume our partners know things that we haven’t communicated to them” (From an eHow article titled “How to Overcome Loneliness in Marriage“).
In the above article, the writer gives other suggestions for marriage partners who are lonely (which you may want to read by clicking into the link provided). But there is another way to view this “alone time” as well where God may want to teach you something else or use the time in an entirely different way. That’s what author Rosemary Gwaltney discovered and she wrote about it in her article “Loneliness in Marriage” (where she described what she learned through books written by Elisabeth Elliot, as well as what the Lord taught her through life experiences). She wrote:
“Without some ‘down time’ spent alone, with yearnings unfulfilled, when would we take time to communicate WITH God? Not just talk TO Him, but LISTEN for His guidance. It is fascinating to me that our great, omnipotent God, does not speak by thundering from the clouds, as He could. (Would we, in our human immaturity, rebel against that powerful, resounding voice, call it ‘bossy’, and reject it?)
“Well, God created us, complete with immaturity and everything. And the fact is, He has chosen to speak in a still, small voice. That forces us to be quiet, and listen, in order to hear. In other words, we can’t hear, unless we want to, and try to. We hear best, when in a quiet place, undisturbed.
“I have learned much about forced isolation, since this present marriage. This is a good marriage; my husband a good man, and a good father. He is usually deeply absorbed in his own work, and emotionally unavailable; but is a steady, calm, and pleasant husband, with a rich sense of humor. I absolutely love his laughter! I long to be a godly and pleasant wife.
“When I yearn for attention or affection, and the time is not right, I go straight to God, searching for grace. I’m on a mission for peace in my own heart. I want to be able to accept that my husband’s desires are not always going to match up with mine; and be satisfied and happy with that. It’s much harder than it sounds. It takes a lot of prayer, humility, and ‘dying to self.’
“One thing is plain for me to see. God has put me here, in a marriage that I wanted to be in, and am glad to be in. He knew I was going to experience loneliness in a new way. Therefore, He clearly sees this as being good for me… I am able to leave the future in God’s hands, and not worry about it. It is the present that I must deal with. It is minutes, hours, and days, when I have to again pray for grace, acceptance, and the absence of resentment or bitterness.”
Veda Ylandra Taylor writes the following on loneliness (which can apply whether you are married or single):
“God never promised that things would be easy but I know that God is faithful and as alone as the enemy wants me to believe that I am I know that I am not. As I read and meditate on God’s Holy Word I find evidence of it through out the scriptures. I know that he has a plan for my life.
“Even when I decide that there is a temptation so great that I am not able to overcome it, He still does not let it come to pass. That alone tells me that His will for my life is too important for Him to allow me to mess it up over something that will not even benefit me in the long run. Yes, it may satisfy a need right now but it will only hinder what God has for me in the future.
So I have decided to fight on another day. To keep trusting and believing that he will come through. I may not see it now but it shall come to pass. I hold on to that and I am able to go on” (Veda Ylandra Taylor, from the web site article “Confessions of a Lonely Christian“).
It may be that God impresses upon you to “speak the truth in love” to your spouse on this matter. If so, you may want to do what Jeannette and Robert Lauer suggest,
“Write a list of the kinds of activities and changes that will relieve your loneliness. Ask yourself if the items are realistic. It’s not realistic, for example, to expect a personality change. It is realistic to ask for extra effort. Although an introvert won’t become an extravert, for instance, he can become more outgoing.
“Next, ask if the suggested changes on your action list are sufficiently specific. Diane’s first effort— ‘We need to spend more time together’ —was too general. She finally came up with more specific suggestions: ‘We need to spend time together each day —lingering over a cup of coffee after dinner, walking the dog around the block, or talking about the events of the day. And we need to go on dates at least twice a month.’
“The more specific, the better. For instance, saying, ‘I need you to be more communicative’ is so general that your spouse may find it difficult to respond. But saying, ‘I need you share with me one feeling you have each day’ is a specific request to which he can respond.” (From the article “Married but Lonely“)
Also consider what Tim Gardner writes (in the Marriage Partnership Magazine article Alone Together):
“The act of getting married won’t put an end to your loneliness. To achieve that goal, you have to follow your initial commitment with appropriate action. When couples come to me for counseling, we often discuss the need for a ‘married mindset.’ It sounds obvious, but the truth is married couples often continue to think like single people. They agree to be places and do things without considering their partner’s schedule —or even his or her preferences. They are married, but their actions don’t reflect it. That’s what leads to loneliness.
“I have yet to meet the couple who say, ‘You know, we think about each other constantly. We never commit to a weekend or evening activity until we discuss it. We’re always calling each other during the day to touch base. But you know what? I just wish this loneliness would end.’
“God proclaimed that it was ‘not good’ for Adam to be alone, and it’s not good for us either. When couples are guided by a married mindset they don’t struggle with loneliness. Considering one another’s needs, wants and preferences shows that they are committed to loving each other, to nurturing and caring for one another, to treating each other with respect. They solve their own loneliness by working to obliterate their mate’s loneliness. Sounds odd, maybe, but that’s how it works.
“Spouses become lonely because one or both partners focus most of their energy on something other than their mate. Their communication dwindles to ‘what’s for supper?’ ‘where’s the mail?’ and ‘here’s what I’m doing this weekend.’ Without communication, there can be no emotional connection. And without a strong emotional connection, there can be no relationship.
To help you further in this, we have quite a few articles, conversation starters, and communication tools posted on our web site.
But, what if you don’t have a spouse who will partner with you in this mission? First off, guard your heart. This can be a vulnerable time in your life to fall into temptation —to do that which you shouldn’t, but you want to because of the ache of loneliness.
Susie Larson, author of Alone in Marriage: Encouragement For the Times When It’s All Up to You, talks in the following Focus on the Family web site audio exclusive, about avoiding temptation during a lonely season of marriage. We recommend you listen to:
Please know that loneliness is not what God intended for you in your marriage. But even so, He can help you. If your spouse won’t join God to help you in your loneliness, then look to the Lord even more to fill this void. Cindy McMenamin writes:
“We’re told in the Bible that God saw that Leah was unloved, so He allowed her to conceive a child (Genesis 29:31). When Leah bore her first son, she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” But Jacob’s love didn’t follow. So Leah had another son. And another. And after bearing that third son, she again hoped that would do the trick, saying, “Surely my husband will love me now.” But still, he didn’t.
“After giving Jacob a fourth son, and seeing that her husband still favored Rachel, Leah simply said, “This time I will praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:35).
“I love how Leah’s focus finally shifted. No longer did she seek after her husband’s love; instead, she looked to the Lord who loved her. (And, incidentally, it was that fourth son, named Judah, that God chose as the bloodline through whom His Son, Jesus, would eventually be born. Could it be that God’s reward followed when Leah finally gained her focus?).” (From the article, “Married and Lonely: Looking to Your Heavenly Husband“)
If you’re lonely in your marriage we encourage you to keep seeking the Lord on this matter. And don’t give up. Somehow He will help you as you seek Him. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).