“If you’re feeling lonely, your spouse probably is too. So don’t be afraid to take the initiative, start the conversation, and be proactive.”
BY SHELA DEAN
In a recent study, 62.5% of people who report being lonely are married. Loneliness leads to mental anguish and depression, which, in turn, leads to withdrawal and an even greater sense of loneliness and despair. People who feel lonely in their relationship also feel rejected and, as a result, are often both overly sensitive and defensive, which leads to behavior that pushes the other spouse even further away. Loneliness is a downhill spiral that adversely affects health, both mental and physical. Loneliness creeps into a marriage and couples gradually disconnect emotionally when, for example:
- They develop independent routines, e.g., one is a night owl, the other isn’t.
- Interesting conversation is replaced with transactional snippets, e.g., “Your mother called.”
- Marriage is given a backseat to parenting or careers.
The good news is that you slipped into a lonely rut together and together you can climb out. If you’re feeling lonely, your spouse probably is too. So don’t be afraid to take the initiative, start the conversation, and be proactive. Even if your spouse is resistant, be persistent. You might:
- Turn off the TV two nights a week and talk about current events, the latest books you read, or a movie you saw—anything other than the same old stuff.
- Allocate 15 minutes a day to having coffee or a cocktail together.
- Schedule shared experiences: visit a museum, go to a concert, host a dinner party, or walk around the block.
- Do things together that you usually do alone: walking the dog, cooking, or shopping.
- Revisit memories: watch your wedding video, thumb through photo albums, reminisce.
- Regularly get away together for an evening, a day, or an occasional weekend.
- Rekindle the flame of affection: touch more, kiss more, and hug longer.
Old habits very often die hard. Breaking out of the loneliness cycle may feel forced and strange at first. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone but there’s no other way. In time, doing those things that keep you emotionally connected will feel natural. One of you may find it easier than the other so be patient. You may backslide, so do your best to stay positive and don’t get discouraged. Get help if necessary but whatever you do, don’t give up.
Shela Dean is a relationship coach, speaker and bestselling author of ReDate Your Mate, 4 Steps to Falling in Love All Over Again (Boomer Edition)