Every now and then, a friend invites me to go to church. The last time I went, the pastor said, “Raise your hand if you feel lonely in your marriage”. Most of the hands in the room went up. I looked around feeling a bit stunned. It took me by surprise that so many people felt lonely in their marriages and that so many would admit it publicly.
Being lonely in a marriage is really grim - sleeping in the same bed as your spouse feeling lonely, sitting at the dinner table feeling lonely, etc. It’s not about the physical connection (although that’s important). It’s really about the emotional connection.
A lot of people call my show and use, “We grew apart,” as an explanation for their divorce. However, what they don’t acknowledge is how they were part of their own problem. You see, people don’t simply grow apart - we let go.
Many of you don’t make enough of an effort. You spend your time talking about the bills, the plumbing, the car, and all the other mundane stuff. That’s not emotionally connecting. You need to listen to each other, relate to each other, and be compassionate, playful, and thoughtful.
In my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage, I make a big deal about this, writing, “When you wake up in the morning, look at your spouse and think, ‘What can I do to make them happy that they are alive and married to me?’” Most couples do just the opposite. They wake up, don’t look at each other, and are upset by what they didn’t receive.
So, if you are experiencing loneliness in your marriage, is there a way out? Yes - but only if you do these 3 things:
Ask not what your husband/wife can do for you, ask what you can do for him/her.
Don’t have a discussion about it! I know 99.9% of therapists would want you to talk about how miserable you and your spouse feel and what you each aren’t doing. I think that’s why most marital therapy ends up in divorce. Instead, you need to make the first move. Don’t think that you know how they’ll respond or how it won’t change anything. You aren’t psychic. Just take the first step. Do small things, like making two cups of coffee and handing one to your spouse. Push a curl of hair behind their ear, kiss them on the cheek, and hold hands as you walk through the store. Will these small things make a difference in 20 microseconds? No, but when you were dating, all these things built up to you feeling like you could not live without him or her. So you need to be as patient now as you were then.
Stop bringing up old hurts. Bringing up the past is poisonous and destructive to a relationship. If you’re going to feed those old hurts, you better pack your bags and kiss the relationship goodbye.
Spend time together. When she’s cutting the veggies for the chicken soup, ask which ones she hasn’t cut yet and join in to help. If he’s changing the oil in your car or fixing your child’s bike, bring him a beer and sit with him. Find ways to connect, not by demanding that they do your thing, but by volunteering to do theirs.