We were still newlyweds, only married a year, and yet I found myself feeling more alone than when I had been single.
Why, after such a short time, did he not want me anymore? Why did his job and video games seem to interest him more than me? I wondered what was wrong with me? What was wrong with him. What was wrong with us? And I cried myself to sleep night after night as I listened to the sounds of the games that he seemed to love more than me.
The loneliness of having my husband right there and yet being unable to “reach” him was a relentless, throbbing heartache. Do you know how much it stinks to feel like you are stuck with someone who chose you once but won’t continue to choose you? Or how painful it is to be with someone who doesn’t love you enough to come out of their dark place, choosing instead to condemn you to a dark place of your own?
We had a lot of change during our first year of marriage: We became parents, we were trying to get on our feet financially, and we lived with my husband’s family, so I was missing my mom and sisters whom I had always relied on. As a new mother living out of one bedroom and mostly having only my infant son to talk to, I felt that my husband was more interested in his games and friends than in me and his new child.
You can tell you are heading toward loneliness in marriage when you only turn to others for support, when you want to be with your friends more than your spouse. You slip into a routine of separate hobbies, separate schedules, separate goals, and separate lives. We became separate.
We shared our house, our expenses, and our child, but it didn’t feel like we were sharing our love, our goals, our dreams, and our lives. Rather than husband and wife, I felt like we were roommates. I missed being called beautiful or getting that kiss just because he wanted to show me love. What had I done that my husband didn’t want to show me that anymore? I remember my high school psychology teacher once describing the “Reese’s Cup stage” of a relationship: You love Reese’s Cups so much that you have them all the time. But then you get sick of them and take a break. Had my marriage reached the Reese’s stage? I didn’t know what to do anymore.
But as time went on things did begin to change: We started to grow up and realize what we wanted and what we needed to do to have the marriage we wanted. I realized that life as an adult wasn’t as easy as it had been as a child, that not everything was just going to get done for me like it had been when I was a child. I had to put my own effort into it. Slowly but surely we adjusted to the life changes we were facing: adulthood, marriage, parenthood.
As we matured, we figured out that we both had areas that we needed to work on together. Lance came to realize that being a husband is different than being a boyfriend, and he started taking more control over his video game habit. I came to realize that feeling lonely sometimes is a part of life. It did not necessarily mean that my husband and I were not meant for each other. On the other hand, we both came to realize that we didn’t want our marriage to stay stuck in a long period of loneliness. We realized that we could make changes to move from being separate to once again sharing our life goals, dreams, and love.
Sometimes I still experience moments of marital loneliness. It’s normal; there are many situations and seasons that bring about feelings of detachment in marriage. The busy chaos of daily life alone—like work and parenting—is enough to threaten to separate us and destroy the intimacy we desire with our spouse. Add to that struggles with mental or physical illness, addiction, past abuse, deaths of loved ones, or growing up in a home where you didn’t learn to communicate, and the loneliness can become even worse. It can feel easier to retreat night after night—or to rely on a hobby like video gaming as a coping mechanism—instead of talking about one’s broken places and getting help.
When I was dating and then when I was a newlywed, I expected that marriage would solve all my problems of loneliness. After all, didn’t God say, “It is not good for the man to be alone”? Marriage was a part of God’s solution to loneliness. He didn’t want us to be alone, so he gave us each other to get through life together. I was disappointed to find that marriage on its own did not make my loneliness completely go away.
I have since found that marriage can be a place of deep connection and close friendship, as it has been for us during much of our marriage. But that doesn’t happen automatically. Like the flowers my husband and I recently planted in our front yard, as a couple we must put the effort in to plant and shape our love and to help it grow.