Married – and Lonely

Hope SpringsMy heart has been breaking. I’m sure it’s nothing new, but I’m hearing it a lot lately. Middle-aged and older women who are married – and desperately lonely.

It’s certainly not what any woman was looking for on her wedding day. She imagined having someone that would care about her, love her, cherish her “’til death do us part.”

And now for her, life has deteriorated into sharing a coffee pot and a bed (if that) with a stranger.

As a gynecologist I’ve heard these sad comments from women I’ve seen just in the past couple weeks:

  • “He had some performance issues and won’t see a doctor about it. He hasn’t approached me in a long time.”
  • “He’s addicted to internet porn, and hasn’t touched me in years.”
  • “Did you see the movie Hope Springs? It’s so sad. That’s my marriage, but I don’t see the hope.”

I see the pain in their hearts, the tears in their eyes, the disappointment in lost dreams and the longing for something to be different.

Now I know there are MANY couples with a satisfying sex life well into their senior years. I know: I see those ladies in my office too! There are many other reasons for an unhappy marriage besides lack of physical intimacy. There are some women who can’t wait for their husband’s sex drive to decrease as he gets older. And there are some women who are so difficult to live with that physical intimacy would be the last thing on any man’s mind around her.

I don’t agree with the media’s usual portrayal of sexuality. And in every marriage there are ALWAYS two sides to every story, including the relationships of the women I see.

But for the lonely married types, the saddest part of it all is the insidious ongoing lack of closeness. By that I mean physical, but also emotional and spiritual closeness. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Every married couple is vulnerable to the erosion of friendship, passion, and intimacy. There’s only one way to prevent such loss: being very intentional about staying connected with your spouse. If you don’t, life will happen. Weeks will go by, then months. Before you’re even aware years have passed, and you wake up one day looking at a stranger across the table.

Don’t let that happen to you! Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Talk about things. Even if you don’t feel like it. Your physical health, sex, money, the future, your fears, everything. If you haven’t been talking, start with an easy subject, but start now. Listen. Ask questions. Be vulnerable. If you don’t know how, get some help!
  2. Check in regularly. My husband regularly asks me, “Are we OK?” It’s his way of saying, Is there anything between us that we need to work out? Don’t assume everything is OK. If you aren’t sure, ASK!
  3. Plan times for intimacy. That may or may not mean sex. Spontaneous is good, but when life gets busy that may be one of the first things to go. Go ahead and schedule it in! And ladies, don’t underestimate the value of anticipation in your husband’s mind. Give him an alluring hint, and then follow through.
  4. Focus on friendship. Do things together – just because. If you don’t share many interests together, find something new you both might enjoy. Stretch yourself to each enjoy something the other might truly relish. Just BE together. See a movie. Work in the garden. Clean the garage. Fix dinner together. Take a drive. Just about anything will do if you do it together.

For the ladies I see who are married and lonely, it’s not primarily the sex they want: it’s the connection with their husband. That’s something that can be fixed! And either husband or wife can initiate doing things to strengthen that connection again.

Don’t drift apart. Make the commitment to intentionally keep the connection strong between you.

Your turn: What do you do to keep connected with your spouse? If you have drifted apart, what will you do to come together again? I’d love to hear from you!

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