A recent study released by Indiana University’s School of Public Health shows that many married couples feel lonelier and experience less intimacy since the pandemic began. Living in proximity and sharing everything without time apart is difficult for marriages. Intimacy and connection thrive when there is "space" away from each other throughout the week. With demands from work, elderly parents, and children, many couples have reduced quality time and stop sharing their normal routines. Many couples assume their partner knows everything about how they feel and their daily stress, causing partners to turn away from each other and keep their thoughts to themselves. This creates feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Symptoms of loneliness in marriage don’t happen overnight, so being aware of the symptoms can prevent a relationship from sliding into isolation. Here are four classic symptoms of loneliness and what you want to watch for.
· You no longer share daily routines or talk about your day. This leaves your partner feeling alone, irrelevant, and unimportant in your life.
· You can’t remember the last time you had private time as a couple. Couples need time together to connect and grow.
· Your partner no longer turns to you for favors or help when they are stressed. Healthy couples turn towards each other for support rather than away.
· You forget important occasions. This includes forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, date nights, or other celebrations that are important to the two of you.
If you’re feeling lonely in your marriage, beginning this 4-part action plan can help you restore intimacy and connection:
1. Understand and acknowledge your feelings. The biggest problem about feeling lonely is a failure to talk about it. Stop excusing your responsibility to share by blaming or guilting your partner. Saying, "I feel lonely in love with you," should matter to your partner.
2. Be curious about how they feel and reminisce about times you felt close. Asking your partner if they feel what you’re feeling using open-ended questions allows both partners to discuss loneliness. Talk about the times you felt connected and reassure your partner you miss and want the connection back.
3. Make it a pact to help each other out with one small favor. Making dinner or breakfast to help your partner out makes them feel like you care. In a healthy relationship, you want your partner to turn to you first when they need help.
4. Listen to what makes your partner feel connected and engage. Couples rarely feel connected in the same way so ask your partner how you can make them feel more connected. They may miss going fishing, dancing, gardening, or another activity you use to share. If the pandemic has changed your routine or interests, try new things you’re comfortable with.
Loneliness is frequently seen with couples in distress. It can happen at any age for any reason. Stay aware of what your partner is feeling and if you notice you’re having more conflict and evenings spent alone, begin the 4-part action plan to restore connection. The loneliest you will ever feel is when you’re with someone but feel alone.