This post is a Tuesday Tip.
Related Post: Marriage is for Hopelessly Lonely People
About two years ago, I was walking out of a pub with a friend when he turned to me and said, “It was good to talk to you tonight. I feel a little less alone in the world because of it.”
A little less alone.
It felt just right. No burden to take away all of each other’s loneliness. An acknowledgement that companionship can happen in the midst of a mutual loneliness. Perhaps even because of a mutual loneliness.
I think we often give this kind of grace to our friends. We hope for connection with them, but we don’t expect that connection to resolve all of our lonely feelings.
But I don’t think we give our spouses the same grace. We expect them to take away all of our loneliness. And when they don’t, we blame and criticize and resent.
Our marriages are not intended to erase loneliness. Rather, they are intended to be a place where our loneliness is shared. In marriage, we connect with each other in our loneliness, not to get rid of our loneliness.
When we embrace this, we can disrupt the cycle of blame and foster a mutual vulnerability through the sharing of lonely experiences:
- Identify your earliest memory of feeling lonely. With your family, in a classroom, on the playground, on an operating table. Whatever it may be for you.
- Identify your most lonely memory (prior to marriage). A time when you felt completely on your own. Perhaps even abandoned, discarded, neglected.
- Share these memories with your spouse. Apologize for times you have expected them to take away all of your loneliness.
- Ask them if they have any similar memories of loneliness. Listen.
If both partners are willing to engage in this kind of intimacy, they will generally report they feel “a little less alone.” But what they mean is: for the first time I feel understood, and cared for, and appreciated, and close to you.
Comments? I can live with that. How about you?
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TUESDAY TIP DISCLAIMER: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.