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When it comes to that work, I have a bit of an advantage. In fact, lonely marriages are real. And too common. Although no two happy Married but lonely and unhappy are identical, every lonely marriage has one thing in common: at least one spouse feels abandoned emotionally. Emotional abandonment can be confusing, vague and hard to pinpoint because the person is, quite often, lying next to you in bed every night or co-raising.
Something is missing. Many couples who feel disconnected from each other actually respond by throwing the majority of their energies toward their. However, the emotional distance between you has increased to the point that your love is lacking an essential intimacy — a tenderness of words, actions and thoughts.
A type of gentleness you know is possible in your two-ness because it was that gentleness which attracted you to each other in the first place remember? Why hopeful? Because most relationships in which loneliness has taken up residence can be shifted. They can be ushered back to a we-ness, replete with positive energy and renewed intimacy. As you make the decision to reclaim connection with your partner, resolve first and foremost to be patient. But little is the key word. Muscle memory is a powerful thing, and that goes for intimacy muscles too.
If you are feeling lonely, your partner is probably also feeling lonely—and hopeless and helpless, not sure where to begin. So, begin with you. Take the initiative by simply asking your partner at least one question a day about something not related to managing your lives. Then really listen to their answers. Re-establishing emotional connection is a shift in energy — a shift in wanting to know what the other person is thinking and feeling again, and sharing your own thoughts and feelings.
Make it a goal to engage your partner in more of these curiosity-conversations each day. Most likely, they will begin to reciprocate, asking you similar questions. It might not happen right away, but trust that it will over time. Humans are pretty predictable; we tend to give back what we are given. More specifically, get into the world of their thoughts. Yes, this will naturally happen by asking questions.
What does this entail? What is their current reality? What might their challenges be? Where are they finding joy? What might they be worried about, yearning for, or what might be weighing them down? Come into this minute of perspective-taking with a generosity of heart and mind. Because by simply engaging in this brief activity you will have more empathy and patience as you go about navigating daily life with your partner.
Most important: this increased empathy can be the root of renewed emotional connection. Start small here. Choose to create tiny moments of intentional shared experiences together. If your partner is the one who usually makes dinner, them in the kitchen and ask how you can help tonight. These gestures of connection are the powerful stuff of thriving marriages, each one contributing to a larger reality of being a we again.
There are excellent, d marriage and family therapists working in most communities. Ask a friend or colleague for referrals, or do a simple google search. Another option for people in the US: zip code here to get a list of practitioners near you. Seeing a marriage and family therapist is covered by many health insurance plans. If your spouse or partner is reluctant about seeing a therapist, encourage them to think of therapy as education, not as someone fixing broken humans or judging you on the way you communicate. Quite the contrary. Great therapy is a warm, safe, and welcoming opportunity to simply learn positive new ways of being together, building on what you already have created as a couple.
Yes, your children are watching. And, yes, you can reclaim intimacy again. Thomas, Minnesota; resident scholar at St. Norbert College, Wisconsin; and forever passionate about studying and improving relationships.
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Feeling Lonely in Your Relationship? Here's What to Do About It