Lonely Wives Club
Coupled Yet Alone
Whether your man is away on business, plays a lot of golf, or -- worse yet -- is just sitting there and not connecting with you, relationships can seem mighty lonely at times. Perhaps you feel like a placeholder in his life. The kids are taken care of, the house is clean, dates are made to see friends, but you don't feel he hears you when you talk, or empathizes with your problems, or supports you in your dreams and plans. Perhaps you don't do things together, or you always do what he wants to do, or you feel you've wasted hours in front of bad television.
One lonely Midwestern woman, a 45-year-old wife of three years, describes craving for the equal companionship of her first marriage. She and her first husband were not only business partners, but both enjoyed socializing after-hours. The seemingly perfect marriage ended suddenly when her husband left without any warning for another woman.
Her new husband, a soon-to-be naval officer, spent weeks away from her. He also turned out to be a loner, leaving her alone to create a social life. "Even when he's at home he's preoccupied. He's studying -- not interacting," she says. "Yeah, I feel lonely. I really support him, but this is not what I signed up for when I got married."
Another Minnesota wife, 45, and married to a job-hopping workaholic, finally settled in her favorite town. Meanwhile, her husband moved around the country to take other jobs for a year or two at a time, coming home to her and the kids on alternate weekends "Since he wasn't really in my life, even when he was present, it didn't make much difference where the kids and I lived," she said. "Even when he was with us, he worked on weekends, hogged the phone and fax machine, and only came out for dinner. Eventually, I was happier when he was gone."
Still another woman, 34, in Minnesota, describes how her husband refuses to participate in their marriage. Their 8 1/2 years together has left her suffering from low self-esteem, depression, and a near emotional breakdown, she says. "The evenings are the hardest. We rarely have family meals together. Once the children are in bed the house is quiet. He really isn't home very often, or he comes home after the children have gone to bed or right at bedtime. If he is home, he doesn't communicate much. We wind up in separate rooms. That's the hardest time of the day for me."
She recalls her loneliest moment: "Every few years my birthday falls on a softball night and my husband chooses to play softball instead of spending my birthday with me."
"One reason loneliness is so common," says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, author of five books on love and relationships, and professor of sociology at the University of Washington, "is that women are used to the level of communication you get from girlfriends." she says. "Girlfriends listen with interest and compassion. No matter how good a guy is, the comparison with female companionship is so pale that women feel alone. And we have such romantic expectations. We tried to find a soul mate, but we're often so far from that."
But there are solutions short of divorce. First, try to define why you feel lonely. Are you lonely because your guy isn't around? Or do you feel isolated even when he is? In either scenario, understanding the reasons for the loneliness is Step One.