Today’s question (from Facebook community): “I’m tired of being married and so alone. Tired of making tough decisions by myself, going to bed by myself, talking to myself. What’s helped you with the loneliness?”
I remember a conversation I had about five years into my marriage. I was having a debate with a single friend. We were comparing lonelinesses. I said, “There’s nothing lonelier than married-lonely.” I believe I won the argument.
Lauren Winner recounts a conversation with a friend in Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis: “I have a friend, also recently divorced, who explains to me that the loneliness he experienced in his marriage was more devastating than anything he has experienced since. ‘Lying in bed at night next to someone you once promised to love and knowing there is no way to bridge the gulf between you,’ he says. ‘That is the most crushing loneliness of all.’” Agreed.
There came a point in my marriage when I made most of my own decisions, even regarding the kids. When I went to bed alone more nights than not. When I was my own closest companion.
Before I tell you what I did to attempt to stave off the loneliness, let me say this. It didn’t always work. And I even have the benefit of being an introvert who thrives on solitude and alone time. There were moments that I just felt lonely no matter what I did. There still are, plenty of them. But I’ve been learning to be okay with that. To not feel the need to run from or cover up every emotion that is unsettling. Another notion from Lauren Winner that I have let sink in is this: “Maybe I should try to stay in the loneliness, just for five minutes, just for ten minutes. Maybe the loneliness has something for me. Maybe I should see what that something is. Sit with the loneliness and ask what the loneliness has for you.”
I’m not backing away. I’m not reaching for something else. At least, not always. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to be sad. It’s alright to sit with some tea and just look out the window sometimes. It’s alright to lie on your bed and just cry for a bit. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the feelings you have.
However, I did try a few things to help me reconnect and feel less alone. Perhaps they can help you as well, single, married, separated, or divorced.
I joined a group. I became a part of a twelve step recovery group specifically designed for the major issue in my marriage. Being with people who got me was a turning point for me emotionally. Being with people who didn’t think I was crazy changed how I thought about myself and my life. That weekly connection helped fill something inside of me that had been missing.
I made Plan B’s. If we had plans to do something, either as a couple or a family, and I was cancelled on for whatever reason, I would have it in my head to go do something else, or to take my kids anyway. This came later on, after years of blaming someone else for my circumstances. I realized that I could still go and do even if my partner didn’t want to or wasn’t able to.
I was purposeful about getting together with my friends, one on one, and in small groups. I tried – and still try – to do a girls’ night out once a month. I met – and still meet – another friend for dinner monthly. I made sure that I wasn’t sitting alone in my house all day every day, all evening every evening. I took the initiative to keep in close contact with my dearest friends, through time together, calling (okay, rarely calling), emailing and texting.
I did things on my own that I liked to do, even trying new things. During our separation, my then-husband would spend Sunday afternoon back in our home with our kids, so I would have six hours to fill. I would sometimes get together with a friend, or use that time to write, but other times I’d go to a movie by myself, go out to eat by myself, take the train and go explore the next town by myself. This was good for me. Scary, but good.
But mostly, I told God when I was lonely. I would journal. I would read sad Psalms. I would just tell him outloud what I was feeling and that I didn’t like it and that it wasn’t fair. I would cry myself to sleep sometimes. Okay, more times than I even remember and would want to admit. It wasn’t pretty, it didn’t always garner an immediate result of vanishing loneliness, but it was honest and real and true.
And as far as being in a position to have to make decisions without your partner, I became very adept at asking wise counsel for help. I was afraid to make poor decisions and so I swallowed my pride and brought others in when necessary.
Bottomline, loneliness is part of the package in a difficult marriage, in a separation and in and through a divorce. Sometimes you can do something about it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you just need to sit with it and trust that it will pass. It will probably come back around again, but if you ask God to teach you, to enter in, you might gain something from it…a strength, a quiet confidence, even a peace. If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.
Thank you for your willingness to be so honest about something that has been so painful. I appreciate your hard won wisdom.