How do you cope with loneliness?
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that my Wifey is battling depression and anxiety. I try to be the best husband I can and love her well. She’s working through finding the right medication and going to counseling. I think it was easier when I thought she was choosing not to give me affection and compassion, now I know that sometimes she just can’t. Knowing that the woman I love is incapable of providing the love and attention I crave feels very lonely. Has anyone found good practical ways to combat this? There was a sermon at our church a few weeks ago about loneliness and I’ve found a few other Christian resources, but it all feels like the same nebulous “God will never leave you” platitude. I know that is true, and I’m daily in the Word and praying, but I still get pulled into this pit.
A couple of decades ago, while DW was refusing and gatekeeping (never in the extreme), I felt lonely. She didn’t realize that was one of the impacts of her reticence to be more available for me sexually. I had to pray and work at not being resentful in my own heart. Second, I also developed pastimes, hobbies, friendships, etc. to help nurture myself emotionally. Third, I tried to develop ways of having other forms of intimacy with DW that were beneficial to her as well.
Once (if) a person gains a degree of health and energy to give to the other, the situation is more easily resolved mutually. But until then, the one desiring more in order to quench the feelings of loneliness must find other good avenues of support and not demand more from their spouse than they are able to provide at that time.
The loneliness you ask about is ‘marital loneliness.’ This loneliness can vary in intensity and across multiple relational dimensions: emotional, spiritual, and physical. Moreover, it’s intensely intricate between two people bound together for life. It’s unlikely that one spouse is lonely and the other one is not. However, the degree of loneliness can vary for the wife and husband.
To some degree, all of us have experienced ‘loneliness.’ Temporary loneliness hits all of us when we are apart. OTOH, disagreement, lack of needs met, or estrangement eats at us and generates loneliness that can last for a short time or fester into chronic loneliness. Loneliness seems to be about ‘me,’ yet in a marriage it affects both wife and husband.
Here are just a few thoughts about warding-off or dealing with loneliness (in no particular order) that could certainly be unpacked to a a greater degree.
- Loneliness affects both marital partners. Don’t let it be an elephant on the table. Talk about it. Yes, it can be very difficult and even scary, but persist.
- Sexual difficulty and dissatisfaction may cause loneliness, but it begins with relational and/or spiritual difficultly or dissatisfaction.
- Reassure your aching spouse that you love them unconditionally – show it!
- Nurture your spiritual relationship. Worship together (don’t neglect it, as the apostle Paul tells us). Pray together. Read a devotional together. Spend time in the Word – personally and with each other. How you do it in a marriage is unique to that marriage. A lack of spiritual connectedness in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a breeding ground for loneliness. Nothing brings more comfort to Mrs. Oldbear than when I take her in my arms and pray deeply about an issue or concern weighing on her.
- Don’t let resentment or disappointment build in a relationship; it will lead to loneliness.
- Fighting loneliness generally feeds loneliness. Stay busy, involved, and find enjoyment. Difficult to do, yet it will pay off. In doing so, loneliness may melt away.
- Tend to your spouse’s love language. ‘Give and it shall be given to you.’
- Be grateful and thankful!
It is impossible for one person to fulfill all we need, no matter how well they are. This is where other relationships are important, particularly in the body of Christ. Connect with friends, make friends, do something you enjoy regularly.
It sounds like your wife is working at getting better, praise God for that! Perseverance is key. It would seem like it should just be a matter of time before she can have the energy to give to you.
Have you read TGH’s, The Marital Heat Exchange? https://www.the-generous-husband.com/2019/06/21/friday-flashback-marital-heat-exchange/
At times like that I have done all manner of things, some failure, some successful. You know the ones that fail, so I won’t go into that. For me, it’s about distraction or diversion. Find some wholesome outlet and go with it. Mine has always been physical or tactile. Find something you really enjoy when your not feeling lonely and you may be able to enjoy it when you are – the key is to allow yourself to enjoy it. Occasionally I have had success with a mental endeavor, but usually my mind will stray back to self pity. But if I can get to doing something with my hands or the like, I can refocus my mind. It takes an intentional effort. I would much rather wallow in the self pity.
My husband also suffers from depression and anxiety. I felt very lonely for many years. I don’t feel connected to him or get my relational needs met yet, but the intense loneliness problem went away when he made a decision to stop shutting me out. Before that, he would mope around but not tell me what was wrong, retreat to other rooms in the house, give one word answers whenever he could, etc. When he was at home, I felt more lonely than when I was alone. Is that an issue in your marriage? Is that something your wife might be willing to change, even if she can’t really meet your needs yet? When it was an issue in my marriage, one of my best coping strategies was to just get out of the house and away by myself when he was home and the loneliness was unsufferable.