Loneliness in Marriage
Words by Kelsey Wu
When I was younger, I used to spend car rides daydreaming. I’d stare out the window imagining how I might meet that special someone, how we’d fall in love, and what kind of life we’d have together. Like most people, I craved the companionship of someone who knew me deeply, flaws and all, and yet loved me all the same. I had amazing family and friends, but …
I longed for more.
And then I met him. At a small Bible study on campus at my university, I met the guy who made me laugh, who prayed with me, who filled my life with joy and would one day become my husband. It's been six months since we were married, and it's been amazing, happy, and blissful. There's definitely been difficult discussions and sobering realizations of my own selfishness, but having been prepped by many married friends I was ready for such things. I expected tough talks, the struggle against my selfish human nature, the pain of sacrificing my own desires for the good of our marriage.
One thing I didn't expect though, was loneliness.
One Saturday morning a few months into marriage, I sat alone in my car outside the farmers' market and cried. I was with friends the night before and had the rest of the day to spend with my husband. But, for some odd reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling of utter loneliness. It wasn’t the I’m-bored-and-I-wish-someone-would-hang-out-with-me kind of loneliness, but rather the heart-wrenching ache that settles deep in your gut. Though I only moved 40 miles from my family, I missed them. Though I loved my life with my new husband, I missed spontaneous tea time with my mom and sister. I missed living close to my high school and college friends and the impromptu girl nights. I missed the abundance of date nights. With my husband in grad school pursuing a degree in physical therapy, most weekends found me cleaning, meal planning, and -- in particularly sweet moments -- helping him study. Despite my numerous blessings and the fulfillment of so many wishes, I was yet again that child daydreaming out the car window.
I still longed for more.
This is something which seems to surprise a good number of people. Since getting married in June, I’ve been asked different questions about what’s been unexpected, what’s been good, bad, etc. When I bring up loneliness, I'm faced with blank stares that beg the question, “But don’t you have your spouse?”. Many of us, including myself, have grown up thinking that once we say our vows and have that lifelong companion, we’ll never have to be lonely again. Despite this popular romantic ideology, many married friends I've shared this with have experienced it too. Some are lonely for more obvious reasons: emotionally uninvested spouses, a job that takes them/their spouse out of the area often, or baggage from the past that prevents intimacy. Some are lonely due to geography and distance from family and friends. Others, like me, have wonderful-but-busy spouses and families that are just slightly too far away to pop over for a quick visit.
The truth is your spouse cannot be your everything. He or she cannot meet all your needs, satisfy all your desires, or fill all of the longings of your heart. You may be in that blissful dating/engaged stage and completely doubt me on this. But a rude awakening awaits without careful consideration of it. Sometimes, even though they're in the room next door, you still get lonely. Sometimes, though they know you better than anyone, you still feel misunderstood. Sometimes, despite their best efforts to love and encourage you, you still feel neglected. And that's ok. It is human. What is important is our reaction to the truth.
My default reaction tends to be despair and growing discontent. There were too many moments in the first months of marriage that I failed to appreciate my husband’s wonderful qualities and instead focused on my perception of unmet needs. The problem of loneliness in marriage is never just the marriage itself. The problem goes much deeper than that -- it's a longing that God placed deep in our souls that only he can fulfill.
The creation story in Genesis makes it clear that we were created for companionship, not just with mankind but with God Himself. The entrance of sin into the world, through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, took mankind out of communion with God. Through the cross, we are reconciled and redeemed, but until heaven, we will not know the same fellowship with our Creator that Adam and Eve once knew. Whether we realize it or not, our souls feel that distance.
And so we long for more.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we find in ourselves a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
The solvent to this loneliness is to, in every moment, place your hope in Christ, the lover of your soul, the one who knows your flawed self fully and yet sacrificed Himself on the cross to redeem you from your sin. Realize that the loneliness does not mean your spouse is failing you; rather, it’s a reminder of our eternal need for our Creator. Remember that your spouse was not built to complete you, but to compliment you. And for the not-yet-married as well, remember that while your significant other is an incredibly important part of your life, they should never be the focal point of your existence.
Lamentations 3:21-24 is one of my favorite passages to read when I’m feeling lonely, discouraged, or discontent. While it may seem like an odd book to approach for comfort, these verses in Chapter 3 point me towards God’s sufficiency. In the midst of the calamities which have befallen Jerusalem, the author of Lamentations says this: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’”
Kindred, whether you are married or single, lonely or content, the Lord is your portion. He alone is so much more than enough. Both in your laughter and in your longing, seek Him as the lover of your soul.