I had been single for three years, coming out of a thirteen year long marriage to a very abusive man. My ex-husband and I had been in counseling for nearly the whole duration of our marriage seeing no less than eleven different therapists of varying genres during that time. I thought that I had learned everything that I needed to know about relationships and communication to embark on a new, healthy and successful relationship. One thing I realized was that I never understood why women had affairs until I married my current husband.
And, looking back, I would say that I did have a lot of learned information. I had a very broad toolbox of interpersonal skills that my ex-husband and I paid a lot of money and time to acquire. But, that doesn’t always prepare you to share your life with new people of differing backgrounds and experiences.
Loneliness in what should be the ultimate relationship of unity and partnership can make you go crazy with questions and doubts.
I beat myself up wondering if I saw red flags and ignored them. Maybe I had been alone too long and made an impulsive decision to get married. Is it possible that there was someone else out there for me and I just didn’t wait long enough for him to find me. Maybe this marriage wasn’t Gods will and, thus, I am being punished. Or, maybe I never loved this person and time is just sorting it all out, I wondered.
I reflect on my wedding vows and at one time, many years ago, I did love this person–or so I thought at the time. How did we go from that to being so disconnected and lonely.
I tried to incorporate different aspects of my prior counseling in my new relationship. I told my husband that we should assess all of our own unique expectations for one another prior to our wedding. And, we did. He was always willing to comply with the practice and energetically agree with everything that I proposed for our relationship, our children, budget and household…while we were dating.
We talked about finances, children, household duties/chores/responsibilities and spirituality and all expectations surrounding those topics. He got the raw and dirty. I didn’t sugar-coat any of my expectations. I had been in a marriage where I was, indeed, expected to be subservient and “know my place”. So, I made it my goal to express my wants and desires. It was my desire that my expectations be respected in this new relationship–and, acknowledged! I wanted someone to find my needs to be of importance, too.
My husband (then fiance) had no expectations. He was fine with “whatever” and was eager to accept all of my expectations for our new family. That was red flag number one. But, in the moment, you think: wow, this person gets me and hears me and is fine with me having an opinion. We are on the same page!
When bitterness sinks in
Our relationship went from best friends to strangers pretty suddenly, in my opinion. It didn’t die all at once, but we started down that road with great determination as soon as the our families were moved in together.
In my previous marriage, I had been the mother to eight children. We had a very structured life to properly parent that many children. Our children knew that they had chores and personal expectations and we were very involved in our children’s lives. As well, three of those children were my step children. So, I was very familiar with the complexities of step families.
In contrast, my now-husband had only three children that he was caring for quite a bit because of circumstances with his ex-wife, but I would never call what he did “parenting”. His children had no structure and no expectations. They had not been taught to respect property–theirs or that which belonged to others. They would plant themselves in front of the television most days alone at his home with a bag of chips and a 2 liter of pop for their meals.
My children were extroverted. His were introverted to an extreme.
My children cried only when they were sad or physically injured. His kids cried, what seemed like all of the time, especially when they told to help around the house!
It was more than I felt that I could handle. I had even considered breaking off the relationship over it, but my now-husband would shower me with compliments concerning my mothering and assure me that this was one major reason why he needed me in his life: that I was going to bring order to their chaotic lives. So, I trusted that this was something that was going to change.
Oh, dear thang…never trust that things are going to change. Things are exactly as you see them and 99% of the time, they will stay exactly that way.
Your new wife isn’t the babysitter
And, that was where it started. As soon as we married, issues with the children were left for me to deal with. My husband would lay in the bed while I was dealing with his children. And, when I needed his intervention he would tell me that I was blowing things out of proportion, that I was overreacting and angry and that he “didn’t know what the problem was”.
My husband is definitely passive aggressive. He is the man who won’t say anything, but will go through the house grunting and saying sarcastic things just out of my earshot while slamming kitchen cabinet doors. And, it is said that passive-aggressive personalities promote loneliness in their marriages. A Family Life article addresses four common ways that a passive aggressive person will create an environment of emotional neglect in marriage. One of those ways really hit home for me.
According to Family Life, they say:
During an argument, a passive-aggressive person will claim that their partner is overreacting or too aggressive. In the heat of the moment, it is completely normal, healthy even, to be expressive and show emotions. These are traits that they themselves cannot understand, much less demonstrate. They may not see the exercise as a way to solve a problem—only to deepen one; some may even take it as a personal attack. Their refusal to engage in conflict leaves their spouse feeling lonely and responsible for all the marital problems.Family Life, cited at end of blog post
Loneliness is the enemy of a marriage
I felt alone from day one. It was my job to care for everything: household, kids, finances, food…everything. And, when I would get frustrated and tell him that he needed to help me he would excuse my issues as irrational…and then he would go back to laying in front of the television.
Soon, our family unit was divided and his children had formed a coup and decided that there were no longer coming to our home. My husband, who did nothing to help me parent them for the first four years of our marriage, decided that I was to blame for their rejection of our family and deep wounds formed in both of our hearts.
I learned very quickly that I was, indeed, alone in the marriage.
For years, I thought that this was very abnormal, but Psychology Today says otherwise:
Being married offers no protection from the dangers of loneliness: Studies indicate that roughly 20% of the general population suffers from chronic loneliness at any given time, and in one recent study of older adults, 62.5% of people who reported being lonely were married and living with their partner.– Psychology Today , cited at end of blog
I needed him to co-parent with me; but, I felt more like he had married me so that he could relieve his own parenting duties and as though he was looking for a mother, himself. I didn’t sign up to mother him or mother his children alone. As a result, I became bitter. I was never secretive about my desire for him to take his place in my/our home; he just didn’t want to take it; and, to dissuade me from bringing it up again, he would just accuse me of taking things too seriously.
He made no effort to acknowledge or relieve my anxieties (And, I am a mom to five boys…I am pretty low anxiety, as it is). I was craving emotional support as CO-parents. Instead, he turned us into enemies. He made no effort to share in the responsibilities or concerns of the family. I was alone.
Comparison is the thief of joy
–even if you aren’t the one comparing
Then when I would go to my husband about the issues going on in our marriage, he would further cement in my mind that I was alone by saying, “Well, at least I don’t abuse you”. Of course this is in reference to the fact that I had been in a long term abusive relationship prior to marrying him. Yep, we were no longer partners, best friends; we were, indeed, enemies. In a matter of a few words, the man that I had devoted my life to, assured me that I had no right or worth beyond just not being abused.
When the partnership is missing the ‘partners’
Many things have happened over the course of our eight year marriage to continue to break down the marriage. My husband has still never allowed us to join our finances and work towards a common financial goal. He doesn’t understand the importance of “dating” one another; it’s just one more hassle and expense that he has no desire to budget for. And, we are definitely not a family: me and my children are our own family and he and his children are their own. We vacation with our children separately and I have started to take one on one vacations with family members other than my husband.
We have no mutual dreams. I am not even sure that he has his own dreams, let alone create and walk out dreams as a couple. Our daily interaction and conversations have become transaction-like—“When will you be home?” or “Will you pick up milk?” . Nothing about the routine of our days is alike to aid us in finding common ground: I like quiet, nature, learning and growing and he enjoys relaxing in bed with the television on or scrolling through social media.
Affairs with social media
Which brings me to another, totally different point. I will digress for one minute. It is my opinion that affairs can be with technology, too. And, I don’t mean AI love affairs like you see in the sci-fi films. If you have ever sat in front of someone and tried to form any type of connection with them to only be snubbed because they are too enthralled with the social media gossip, you know exactly what I am talking about!
Our marriage has declined to very little to no conversations outside of the mundane day-to-day business of living, arguments over the simplest and silliest of things and irrational competition. As an example, one day I commented that I was so tired from a long day of work and he responded, well, I worked all day, too, and I’m not tired. And, that was how most of our few conversations go. I thought that was unique to our relationship, but I read this interesting piece from Family Life:
Many marriages continue for years in a state of armed truce. Competition replaces cooperation, and ugly reality dashes the dreams of hope as conflict unravels the fabric of love and concern. Broken hearts stain pillows with bitter tears.
Family Life – cited at end of blog
SEX IN A LONELY MARRIAGE:
I think that it is hard for men to understand when a woman is lonely in a relationship because, oftentimes, sex remains intact. But, it isn’t the kind of sex that women want to be having. Sex in a lonely relationship might happen very infrequently and it usually becomes totally perfunctory for the lonely spouse. The emotional connection is completely gone and sex takes the role of simply meeting a physical need. Foreplay is non-existent and the connection that should be taking place during this time just does not happen. The lonely spouse is typically thinking, can we just get this over with?
Psych Central wrote:
When you are in a lonely marriage, your spouse may want sex as much as ever, but it makes you feel sad, shut down, and even angry when you try. You feel that there is no emotional connection there. You learn to go through the motions so that you can appease your spouse, or keep up appearances in your own mind, but you often become detached from your own sexuality in the process. Kissing and hugging usually stops before sex, except the kiss goodbye in front of the kids.psychcentral.com – cited at end of blog
Does an absence of sex=affairs?
This is where, in my opinion, the trap of adultery happens. One can go much longer without certain emotional needs being met because those can be fulfilled through friends, children, activities and more, but when sex no longer has emotion attached to it, you start to long for that meaningful touch from someone outside of your marriage. This can throw your entire family into turmoil and lifelong pain, if acted upon. If not acted upon, it can still cause the lonely spouse to dive headlong into depression over frustration that they are forced to this place and guilt for allowing themselves to go there. Psych Central states:
Sometimes you are attracted to other people, which makes you feel both guilty and angry. You don’t want to be that person who has an affair, but you feel that your spouse is driving you to it with emotional neglect. You find yourself unable to picture what your marriage will look like in five or 10 years. If you can, it makes you sad.Psych Central – cited at end of blog
Hindsight is 20/20
If this is you, dear friend, I hurt for you so much. I remember long, long ago, being in a women’s ministry meeting in my church listening to a woman in her fifties (I was in my twenties at the time) as she poured out her heart about the loneliness that she felt in her marriage. I did feel compassion for her, but I did not understand the totality of the pain that she was feeling until now! And, it breaks my heart to think that this woman–and many others–can go that long in a relationship not knowing the beauty that can come from true companionship. Know that we are in this together. You can reach out to me to talk.
How am I dealing with my lonely marriage?
I will be honest with you, I have daydreamed about “getting out”. I have played it out in my head so many times. But, this isn’t my first marriage and as I am getting older, I am getting more and more tired. I guess that a part of me has given up.
And, too, as a christian woman, I am not totally for certain that I have an honorable reason for abandoning my marriage. As unfair as it feels, I am still chewing on that one.
It is very important for me to get outside, exercise and keep my weight within a particular weight window. I carry all of my weight in my lower body. So, if I start to carry too much weight, I begin to feel very negative about how I look in and out of clothes! It is important for me to feel good about myself even if I cannot feel good about my marriage.
Exercise and nature are wonderful at helping to ward off loneliness which can effect so many others aspects of your health…aspects that you may not have even realized.
Physical symptoms of loneliness
Loneliness can cause:
- lowered immune system
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
- Low self-esteem
- Eating disorders
So, in the meantime, I am focusing on my health and my weight. You can follow my health and weight loss journey on this blog post: Ketogenic Diet: Before and After
Also, I am reading my Bible each day and trusting in the Lord to hear my prayers and help heal my marriage. This takes a lot of trust. We all want our requests to happen immediately–and that does not always happen. I hope and pray that some day, my relationship honors God and that others look to us as a relationship they hope to emulate; One must hold onto Hope.
If you are not a spiritual person, you can take the previous paragraph and know that the act of hoping, in whatever form you create it, gives life to the psyche. Hope through Christ is how I get mine!
Are you struggling? Do you have anything to add? Let’s start a dialogue, whether in private messages or through the comment thread. Let’s lift one another up. Life ain’t easy.