Lonely Wives Club
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Tips for Battling Loneliness
If loneliness is a problem, with a present partner or an absent one, here are some ideas you can try to enrich your life:
- Get a social life of your own. Men can't fill all a woman's social needs. Try women's groups, girlfriend time, and volunteer work to meet like-minded people. The New York City wife with the couch-spud hubby did this: "He doesn't care if I come or go at night, so I go to a book club, girlfriend dinners, and to see an elderly aunt." If you're a golf or work widow, "become the entertainment capital of your own world," says Dr. Schwartz. "Make plans in advance to ward off that 'Poor me' moment on Saturday night."
- Take off and see how it feels. If you're worried about the marriage, spend a weekend away, alone or with girlfriends, and see how you feel about your man. Dr. Schwartz suggests self-examination: "Do you miss him? Are you happier without him? Are you anxious to see him? Are you dreading the end of the trip? How does he react when you return? And how do you feel when you do?" This kind of experimentation can tell you a lot that you can't learn at home while silently steaming. The Connecticut ex-wife tried this, and discovered she felt more herself when away from home, and also that her husband punished her for her absence. "It became clear that I couldn't give him what he needed, and vice versa." Counseling ended in an agreeable divorce.
- Ask your partner for what you need. One e-mail per day from a traveling man or weekly bowling with an in-house partner? Be specific. Men can't guess. "You can't be mad at a man if you haven't told him what you want," says Dr. Schwartz. Agree on a reasonable communications or togetherness schedule.
- Plan togetherness. "What did you used to like to do together? Bring those things back into your life," says Copeland. Dr. Schwarz suggests inviting him out for an event you think is fun. If he refuses, ask him what he thinks would be fun, and try that. If you've "tried jazzing up your marriage on your terms, and then on his terms, and it still doesn't work," she says, suggest that you visit a therapist together. If he won't go, go alone." Therapy saved the marriage of the Minnesota woman with the workaholic husband.
- Make a deal. If you like to do different things, talk about it and agree that you'll play golf and tennis separately, but meet again later in the day. Or vacation separately, but with the understanding that you're doing it because of separate interests. If you don't talk about it, somebody may feel abandoned. "Deals are okay," says Dr. Schwartz, "as long as everybody understands and agrees. Both parties have to understand what they're getting out of the relationship."
- Get a private life of your own. Learn how to like being alone. It will build your self-esteem and strengthen your inner resources. This is especially important, says Copeland, "for women who might want to get out of a marriage but aren't ready, or are feeling lonely for any reason." Her suggestion: Make a list of things you would love to do alone, says Copeland, and also include things you can actually best do alone. Maybe you want to read more novels, ride a bicycle, get a dog, make jewelry, take a class. "Make a list, put it on the refrigerator, and start crossing things off." The more you learn to enjoy your alone time, the happier you will be in or out of a relationship.