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There is this misconception about loneliness, that it is only when one is alone that one feels lonely. Many women (and men) rush into marriage in order to escape the aching pangs of loneliness. What they don’t understand is that loneliness is often worse when you are surrounded by people and in fact, some of the loneliest people around especially in Nigeria, are married people.
Loneliness is a condition that affects us physically, psychologically and mentally. It affects the immune system and makes the body feel like it’s under attack. A lonely person is in danger of falling into depression and studies have found that loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the relationship level, it can totally destroy our relationships as it distorts the way we view those around us. In a marriage in particular, loneliness makes you view your partner as less caring, less committed and less loving and can ruin your marriage.
Loneliness in marriages
Yet we don’t really pay attention to loneliness. Most people don’t even know they are lonely and when they realise it, they just banish the feeling and try to go on as though there isn’t an aching hole inside of them. When the feeling of loneliness is ignored, that sense of disconnection you feel with your spouse begins to grow until you find that you are living with a stranger.
One sign that you are in a lonely marriage is when you no longer have anything in common to discuss. When your discussions are mostly about the children or the needs of the house and you no longer share interesting (or mundane) things that happened in your day, you are merely going through the motions, then loneliness has set in. Another sign is when you begin to leave separate lives; you still visit friends and family together, but once at home, you each do your own separate things and even go to bed at different times. You are together, but you’re not.
What do you do about the loneliness
If you are lonely in your marriage, then your spouse is most likely lonely as well. Some people are really good at hiding how they feel, but isolation works two ways; if you are feeling isolated, others can’t connect with you. You need to get proactive about combating loneliness especially in your marriage and these are some suggestions.
1. Admit that you are lonely. It is surprising how many people go through life, laugh and are jolly, but don’t even realise that the yawning feeling inside of them which is growing into despair is actually loneliness.
2. Take the First (and Second) Step. Reach out to your spouse and don’t be afraid to take the initiative. If you are lonely, then he or she is probably lonely as well and feeling disconnected. They might not know it, but since you have identified your loneliness, you can work towards helping them with theirs. So introduce conversations that are not about your daily routine; ask for your spouse’s opinion on something and really listen.
3. Create experiences you can share together. If you find that increasingly, you are both doing your own separate things, then you need to find a way to share experiences together. This is not about forcing your partner to do what you want though, it may mean doing what he or she wants. And yes, it might also mean sitting down to watch football with him or staying with her in the kitchen as she works.
4. Try and see the world from your spouse’s perspective. This is called perspective taking and it is very important especially for marriages that have lasted a while. It’s easy to think you know your spouse’s perspective on things, but studies have found that this isn’t the case. Take a pause and just think about how the other person might feel about something. If you want to get over loneliness, you need to practice empathy and this has been described as “being able to step into someone else’s shoes and then step out of them again. What happens when we inhabit their shoes is supposed to give us an understanding of their experience, their feelings and their point of view.” (Psychologytoday.com)