Do you ever find yourself feeling alone together, even though you’re married? You married each other expecting that you would each fill up the lonely spots in your hearts. But you aren’t feeling that way right now. You could even be sitting next to each other. And yet you feel lonely. How is that possible? And is that normal? Yes, many times it is. (Other times, it is because of sin… but we won’t go there this time.)
Actually, feeling alone in marriage happens a lot. Most likely every one of us feels that way at some point. We have; and it will probably happen again in the future. That’s just the way it is. But why? Actually, there are many different reasons for this. Here are a few of them.
Feeling Alone Together
The first one is that we buy into the “loneliness lie.” This happens when spouses believe, “Marriage by itself will put an end to loneliness.” It’s a lie because there is no way any one person can (or should) fulfill our every need for companionship. We are not embracing the truth. There are different dynamics that go into everyday living. And sometimes our spouse can’t (or won’t) be there for us as often as we feel we need. That’s when we have to do some adjusting. God can help us with that, if we let Him. Sometimes He will help us work on the situation. Other times He will help us to adjust.
Here’s another reason we find ourselves feeling alone together in marriage. It happens because of the ups and downs—the ebb and flow of married life. We have all kinds of things happening during the different seasons of our life together. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t reconnect with each other. Sometimes it will take time, and usually, it will take intentionality.
Feeling Alone Together Truth
To better make this point, the following is one of our favorite marriage quotes. We like it because it holds so much truth to it. We’ve seen this quite often. (So please note that feeling alone together at different times in marriage is not all that uncommon.) Dr Steve Stephens’ gave the following insight in his book, “Marriage: Experiencing the Best” that you might find helpful:
“Relationships go up and down while love comes and goes. Someone once asked Alan Alda, the famous television and movie star, how he managed to have such a long and successful marriage. His answer was that most relationships begin with a ‘vibrant’ love, but soon fade into ‘utter discontent.’ It’s easy to give up and forget that ‘love returns in waves… you just have to wait it out.’
“Alan Alda was right; love is like the tides of the ocean. Sometimes they come in and the passion is high. You feel the love and the relationship is wonderful. Then there are times when the tide is out —sometimes way out. The relationship is dry and lifeless. The love is gone. You look out at the sea and wonder if the tide will ever return. But if you’re patient and stay at the beach, the waves will again crash on the shore. The excitement and romance will return. You will feel love again.”
That has been our experience (and the experience of a number of couples we have observed). That “in love” … “feeling connected” experience just isn’t sustainable all the time. But if you “stay” and work on the situation, most of the time you will eventually feel connected again.
We’ve cited the following study before, but it bears repeating. There is a very insightful married study that Prevention Magazine (and other publications) have pointed out:
“In studies of 700 miserable, ready-to-split spouses, researchers found that two-thirds of those who stayed married were happy five years later. They toughed out some of the most difficult problems a couple could face… What was their strategy? A mix of stubborn commitment, a willingness to work together on issues, and a healthy lowering of expectations.”
Did you read that? They’re HAPPY—not miserable.
And then here is our next point as far as feeling alone together. We can become too busy. Sometimes we become so busy in our married life that we lose our focus on being a couple—spending our energies on other “important” matters instead. As a result, we become more of reporters, rather than partners.
Author Tim Gardner puts it this way:
“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.”
Could that be you and your spouse?
Next Point on Feeling Alone Together
This leads us into our next point of how we can arrive at feeling alone together. To better connect in marriage, you need to adopt the “married mindset.” Tim Gardner makes this point:
“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.” (From Tim Gardner’s article, Together Alone”)
Asking for Too Much?
Truthfully consider if that may be what’s happening in your marriage. And then ask God to give you insight into what you can do about it, even if it’s just an attitude adjustment.
But sometimes, when we’re feeling alone together in our marriage, it’s because we are asking too much of our marriage partner. We want him or her to fill places in our hearts that we should work on filling. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen talks about this in her article, 6 Ways to Cope with a Lonely Marriage. She addresses this to wives, but the same point applies to husbands. Here is one of her points (just change the pronouns, if you are a husband reading this):
“Learn how to give yourself what you need.
Your past – even a years-ago childhood—affects how lonely you feel in your marriage today. So does mine. My mom has schizophrenia; I grew up in foster homes. I didn’t realize how lonely and neglected I was until I was in my late 20s, when I met my dad for the first time. As an adult, I learned that I have to give myself the encouragement, love, support, and compassion I need. I love my husband, but nobody can fill my emotional needs the way I need.
“A husband can’t fill all your emotional and spiritual needs. He might not even be able to fill your physical or social needs! It’s not fair to expect him to make you whole or happy. Learn how to cope with loneliness in marriage by finding fulfillment and meaning in something that can never die, betray you, or get lost. Find your inner self. It’s that true you, who can rest in the peace, joy and love of God.”
And this leads us to our last point: When you are feeling alone together, it may also be a “God opportunity.” It may be that God wants to use it to draw you closer to Him. The fact is: loneliness can lead us to God. That might sound like a strange statement. But again, our spouse cannot fulfill every longing in our hearts.
Look Around, Within, and Up
Sometimes we are to look to others, or within—to self-sooth. But it can especially be a time to spend time with God. He longs to be connected with us. And too often we forget that. Here’s something that Rosemary Gwaltney wrote that hit home with us. We believe it will challenge you, as well. In her Internet article, Loneliness in Marriage Rosemary talks about her experiences of feeling alone together in her marriage. She writes:
“I’ve always thought of loneliness as a scourge, or, at best, a trial that God had allowed, to help me become a better person, somehow. But is it a gift given by God? This sounds like the God who loves me, has PLANNED empty, lonely, miserable spots for me to endure, for my good. How could this make any sense? Well, the following are thoughts that have sprung from new ideas and concepts that I have learned from [Elisabeth Elliot’s] books.
“Without some ‘down time’ spent alone, with yearnings unfulfilled, when would we take time to communicate WITH God? We’re not just to talk TO Him—but also to 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. Plus we need to try to. We hear best, when we’re in a quiet place, undisturbed.
“I have learned much about forced isolation, since marriage. This is a good marriage. My husband is a good man, and a good father. He is usually deeply absorbed in his own work, and emotionally unavailable. But he 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. But I want to be satisfied and happy with that. It’s much harder than it sounds. It takes a lot of prayer, humility, and ‘dying to self.'”
We could go on and on, as far as the many reasons you may be feeling alone together in marriage. We didn’t even go into the whole social media point, and pornography point where spouses are “connecting” with others instead of the person sitting right next to them. As far as the social media point, we need to BE PRESENT with our spouse who is sitting next to us. We should instead connect with others when our spouse is somewhere else. Connect with him or her when he or she isn’t longing for us to be present with him or her.
And the pornography or cybersex point… well, that’s just plain sin. We have a whole topic titled, Pornography and Cybersex you can read through on that one.
Feeling Alone Together is a Common Feeling
But our main point in this Marriage Insight is for us to recognize that it’s not unusual for us to sometimes be feeling alone together in marriage. There are times when we need to work on our connection. (We offer a lot of articles, and videos that can help you in this mission. We also have a PRAYER WALL available for you to post your marriage prayer request.) There are other times when we are to look to others (in healthy ways), or look within to address our loneliness. Other times we are to look to God to fulfill our longings. He especially needs our time and connection.
We’re told in Colossians 1:16:
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.“
May we never forget that!
We hope this helps! We pray God speaks to you in your individual situation. May He give you the wisdom you need to work through it to a healthy place! And may you feel God’s presence!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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