Meg and Jared have been together for three years. The relationship started off very romantically and was exciting in a way neither of them had experienced before.
They went to shows, they went dancing, they watched movies, they ate out, they went on bike rides.
There was scarcely a day that they did not have some kind of fun together. They were really a “together” couple.
That was then. At the time, they were just out of college. That was before the baby came.
Now, they do not go to shows, go dancing, watch movies, eat out, or go on bike rides.
Meg works full-time. She and Jared have childcare, but the childcare consumes more than half of Meg’s salary.
The baby has been consuming almost all of Meg’s free time, as though she can remember ever having had any free time, even before the baby. She feels like she has negative free time.
Several times, they have planned outings together, but half the time the baby-sitting arrangement falls through, or the baby is sick, or one of them has to work late, or something comes up.
The upshot is that they only very rarely do anything together. Nor do they have any serious time to talk. Their work schedules do not coincide, so they do not have much time together and the time they have together is often spent arguing about which unpaid bill should be paid first, what home repairs must be done and what must be put off, and other less than pleasant topics.
The bottom line is that they have little time together, have not tried terribly hard to make time, and the time they do have is not going all that great.
Neither Meg nor Jared is terribly unhappy or feels that they have made a mistake in getting married.
But lately Jared has realized that he is terribly lonely. Between work and keeping the household together, the best he can, he feels like he is on a treadmill he can’t get off of.
And any time he and Meg try to discuss anything serious, somehow the conversation tends to go downhill fast, so they try to minimize serious topics that might lead to an argument. The price, of course, has been a marked decline in intimacy.
Recently, Jared has been talking more and more to a colleague at the office, Cynthia. Cynthia always has time to listen to him and is always empathetic. Cynthia is not married and has made it clear that she has no intention of getting married anytime soon.
But she has been remarkably attentive to Jared and Jared is beginning to wonder about what lines he is crossing with Cynthia, or she with him.
Jared really needs a friend, so he doesn’t think about it much. Cynthia suggested that some time they go out for a drink after work—Dutch treat, friends only—and Jared thinks it’s a good idea. He needs someone to talk to and talking to Meg has become a real challenge.
Jared and Meg are married but they both are lonely. Jared, unlike Meg, has found a friend in whom to confide.
A possible issue is that the friendship may be going in the direction of being, so to speak, more than a friendship. One can’t tell yet where it will go but the signs of potential straying are there.
How about you? Do you sometimes feel lonely in your relationship? It’s a funny feeling, isn’t it? You shouldn’t really feel lonely, being in a relationship, should you?
But rest assured, you’re not alone. There is a significant number of people who have a relationship they feel lonely in.
Some of them are in relationships that are nearing their end; but many of them are not. They are in relationships that they feel are going reasonably well, or at least they are not at a point where they are considering a split. And yet, they feel alone.
The question is: What can you do?
5 Strategies for Combating Loneliness in a Relationship
There are five strategies you can try right off the bat:
1. Have a date night at least once a week.
You have been trying to find time together, but something else always comes up. That something else, at the time, always seems more important than doing something together. But the result is that you clearly are drifting apart.
2. Keep your conversations from taking a negative turn.
You need to figure out if your conversations steer negative and what you can do about it. What is it that leads one conversation after another to go downhill?
3. You might consider marriage counseling.
When you do have time together, do your conversations tend to degenerate into arguments? If you cannot fix this, you may need to seek outside help.
4. Surprise each other.
Even if you have a date night, you can suggest surprise nights off or you can just give each other unexpected presents so that each feels that the other cares.
5. Counterbalanced every negative interaction with at least 7 or 8 positive interactions.
Negative and positive communications do not have symmetrical effects on relationships. Negative communications are far more negative in their effect on a relationship than positive communications are positive in their effect. If a negative interchange occurs, you need to create at least 7 or 8 positive ones, meaning you should actively try to find positive (and true!) things to say.
There is one other thing. It’s great to have friends. But Jared’s relationship with Cynthia may become a problem for his relationship with Meg. The very first thing Jared needs to do is improve his relationship with Meg, if at all possible. If he seeks solace outside that relationship, it should be in addition to improving his relationship with Meg. It should not be a substitute for his relationship with Meg and should not interfere with his relationship with Meg.
If you are lonely in a relationship, try these strategies. Let us know if they work for you!