Lonely Wives Club
Why You Feel Lonely
Dr. Schwartz says that some feelings of loneliness can be caused by the normal post-courtship phase. "During courtship, a man is very interested in a woman. He thinks of ways to woo her." This naturally goes away, she says, when the relationship enters what she calls the maintenance phase -- when the thrill of courtship and even early years of marriage gives way to the reality of everyday life together.
"We've only been married three years, but in that time we've had two kids," says Marina, 39, of Brooklyn, New York. "We're both so exhausted from working full-time and then coming home to have 'quality time' with the kids. Once they're entertained, fed, and put to bed, we both veg out in front of the TV, not saying a thing. My husband seems to have lost interest in having 'dates' with me. Since he and I really never socialize on our own anymore, I do feel a tinge of loneliness at times."
Maintenance need not mean marital misery. It's just a new phase in the relationship, Dr. Schwartz says, and it may be the longest-lasting phase of the relationship or partnership. It can be a time when each partner develops or nurtures other friendships or other activities, and the partners come together lovingly but with less feverish passion.
"It gets even more intimate," says Dr. Schwartz, "The layers of the onion are stripped -- you start telling each other the not-so-good stuff with the good stuff. And the original passion returns intermittently."
Once we get married, we expect that we're not going to be alone anymore. That's unrealistic, and those spaces in togetherness are good and healthy. They enrich the relationship," says Mary Ellen Copeland, author of The Loneliness Workbook (New Harbinger, 2000).
Some relationships, though, are riddled with troubles that make one spouse or the other feel lonely. Says Dr. Schwartz: "If a partner hasn't noticed that you're depressed or sick, that's a problem. If a partner notices and doesn't care, that's also a problem."
"Being under emotional attack," Schwartz adds, also can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, no matter how mild the attack may be. Emotional abuse is not all sticks and stones. If your partner has withdrawn emotional or financial support, or puts you down in public or in private, you would naturally feel lonely. But calling it mere loneliness, says Dr. Schwartz, "is often easier than taking a hard look at your marriage." Maybe you're not ready to do that yet.
No two relationships are alike, but discussing your marital issues with a friend "might give you the perspective that you're asking for too much. You might discover that if your husband takes you out every Saturday night, for example, you're actually doing pretty well," says Dr. Schwartz. You may find out that other wives give attention to get more attention. "On the other hand," she says, "if you're attentive and you're being treated like a piece of wood, that's a problem."