Culturally, we are inundated with the message that we need to find “the one” to “complete us”. As a result, we often expect marriage to be the end-all and be-all of our relationship woes. It is easy to assume that our partners would relieve us of loneliness, but sometimes being with them may compound the feeling instead.
There are many causes of loneliness in a marriage. Too much routine can lead to boredom and a decline in intimacy. Living together may also highlight issues of incompatibility. On the other hand, some couples may be apart for a long time due to work and feel emotionally distant from each other. In more severe cases, loneliness can be the result of abuse in the household, physical, emotional, or both.
If you find yourself lonely in a marriage, know that it is totally normal and you are not alone. Here are ways you can work through your feelings by yourself or together with your partner.
Communicate with Your Partner
Broaching the subject with your partner can be tricky because if not phrased carefully, it may offend your partner who thinks they are not enough for you. Certified coach and counsellor Yvonne Yeow emphasises that it is important to “come from a place of needing support and wanting to be understood” rather than “blaming your partner for your distress”.
Find time to communicate with your partner on how he or she can better meet your emotional needs. Be vulnerable and let them know of the changes that you would like to see, such as your preference to go on date nights again, or for your partner to be more attentive to you after work. By opening up without blaming and shaming, both of you can benefit by learning how to be there for each other.
Make Friends Outside the Marriage
While being with your spouse most of the time can feel comfortable, it may also lead to identity enmeshment. Losing friends is a common phenomenon among married couples as many people their age are also focused on their own families.
Principal counselling psychologist Eugene Chong highlights that “friendship is one of the key pillars which cannot be replaced by a marital relationship” as these social connections can help you take a break from the conflicts you can have with people in the same family. Thankfully, with the help of the internet, making friends does not have to take up a huge portion of your day.
For instance, you can download the Bumble app, where there is a BFF function to help you match with like-minded people. You can also join interest groups on Meetup.com to hang out with people who have similar hobbies. Having meaningful friendships to do things together is an effective way to improve your physical and mental health.
Engage in Enjoyable Activities at Home
Even when you are alone, you can still engage in activities that make you feel less lonely. Eugene suggests “cooking, crafts and house projects” while Yvonne suggests “reading” as a great way to pass time. Taking care of low-maintenance plants such as cacti, snake plant and aloe vera is another calming hobby that can serve as a source of fulfilment.
Choose whatever floats your boat, or try something out of your comfort zone. The key is to allow yourself the time to do something you enjoy outside of your marriage. Recharging is not just good for you; it also allows you to present as a better version of yourself when you show up for your family members again.
Detox from Social Media
We often think our loneliness stems from our partner in the relationship. While their behaviours can certainly affect us at a core level. One of the biggest contributors to modern loneliness is what we follow on social media. As most people only post their highlight reels, it is easy to feel the fear of missing out (FOMO).
The effect can be especially pronounced in times when you are at a low point in your marriage. Looking at other people’s IG stories about their partners and families, it is difficult not to compare your situation to theirs, increasing your loneliness. Take a break from social media altogether, or only follow the pages that are going to add to your day.
This may sound paradoxical, but helping others is a proven way to alleviate loneliness. According to HelpGuide, volunteering allows you to meet like-minded others while also reducing stress and anxiety. Researchers have found that by giving to others, you get immense satisfaction and gratification too.
In addition, volunteering gives you a sense of purpose outside of marriage, so you do not base you entire self worth on your partner. As there are so many causes you can volunteer for, choose one that you deeply care about. For instance, if you are an animal lover, volunteer at an animal shelter. As you bring improvement to others’ lives, you will feel more connected and more in control of your own life.
Show Others You Care
When we feel lonely, we often look for validation from the outside. We start taking tabs on our loved ones, and think about all the ways they are not showing up for us. Due to the hectic nature of adult life, sometimes all it takes is for someone to initiate and show that they care first for the ripple effect. By making the change yourself, you take your own power back.
Look through your contact list and drop a friendly message to those you would like to reconnect with. It can be catching up with a friend, a family member or a colleague. You can also show your partner that you care by asking about their day, or doing something for them like offering to help with housework. Positivity is infectious, and they will be prompted to return the gesture.
Engage in Physical Touch
As human beings are social creatures, we are wired to feel good with physical and emotional connections. When we engage in physical touch, oxytocin is released, the “feel-good” hormone that increases “trust, empathy and bonding” in relationships, according to Healthline. When you feel lonely in a marriage, you can put this knowledge to good use by simply giving your loved ones a hug. Hugging your partner also helps to deepen the bond.
This can be extended to non-humans too. If you have pets, patting them often can have the same effects on your brain.
Make Meditations and Positive Affirmations a Habit
Loneliness is a feeling of lack, as it comes from believing you are not loved and cared for enough. Listening to meditations can instantly quell your negative thoughts and emotions, helping you to be more present in your life. Positive affirmations regarding yourself and your life can also increase your sense of gratitude for what you already have.
At first, listening to positive affirmations can work up a lot of resistance. This is because you may not believe them after being accustomed to negative thoughts. Listen to them often enough so they are accepted by your mind. If you make it a habit to meditate daily, you may see a considerable shift in your mentality.
Seek Separation if There is Abuse
In more serious cases, when loneliness in a marriage is compounded by cycles of abuse, it is important to physically remove yourself from your partner first. Move out to live with a family member or close friend, making sure you are in a safe and caring environment. The quality of your environment can have a huge impact on your emotional health.
Make sure to prioritise your well-being above your marriage. It is okay to take a break and realign your focus again, before deciding on the next best course of action.
Give Couple Therapy a Try
You may initially balk at the idea of couple therapy, as it requires the openness of both partners in a marriage. However, as Eugene puts it, couple therapy “provides a neutral platform to make the observation of the marital relationship and assess the various potential issues that may contribute to the loneliness of the parties”. Furthermore, couple therapy also provides “assessment tools” to help you understand your relationship.
When attempting to resolve problems with your partner without professional support, you may run into roadblocks as both of you are directly involved in the conflict and swayed by your own bias. Qualified counselor Martin Williams refers to the therapist’s role as the “advocate” for both parties, so each side has the chance to express their thoughts and feelings in a “healthy way”.
A Space Between has established itself as a safe and trustworthy facility for therapy, offering you an array of therapists from varied fields, including those specialising in couple therapy. Our free client-matching service highlights the specialty of each therapist and efficiently directs you to the ones that cater to your condition. Check out our therapist directory today.
Eugene Chong is the Director / Principal Counselling Psychologist with Seeding Minds with 16 years of experience. He is also an adjunct lecturer at various schools that offer approved psychology and counseling training programmes, from Diploma to Masters Levels.
Yvonne Yeow is a certified coach and counsellor based in Singapore, with 22 years of experience. She is also an MOE-registered instructor. She works with both adults and youth, with a focus on navigating change and overcoming obstacles.
Martin Williams is a qualified counsellor with 4 years of experience. He draws on his extensive real-life experience to influence his unique style of counselling and ensure that all clients receive the personal attention they deserve.
Yimin is open to new experiences and perspectives. She is most passionate about psychology and creative writing and hopes to publish a novel someday.