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Caution and Comfort for the Lonely Wife

Many older adults report being lonely while being married or living with a partner.

Many older adults report being lonely while being married or living with a partner.

Whichever lonely wife you think of, she is only one of many. Guy Winch, Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel, states that in a recent study of older adults, 62.5% of them reported being lonely while being married or living with a partner. The study included both genders, but the wife is more likely to admit feeling disconnected and lonely.

It is not difficult for the lonely wife to be seduced into exploits she might later regret. The first mistake is to accept deprivation of her marriage rights, instead of requiring them from her husband. This article encourages her to request those rights, which include but are not limited to:

  1. Physical Presence
  2. Emotional Support
  3. Healthy Social Posture
  4. Financial Partnership
  5. Spiritual Support

(1) Physical Presence

Marriage is among other things, a physical togetherness. An unreasonable husband may think that his wife does not request his presence because she does not need it. Meanwhile, because she does not want to seem demanding, she settles for shopping, eating, watching movies and going to bed alone. She thinks, "Why bother the man who refuses to spend time with me?"

Actually, it is wise for her to initiate a conversation about her need for his presence. According to Jack Ito, Relationship Specialist, “The lonely wife, who doesn’t say anything for fear of feeling rejected, unwittingly makes her husband feel rejected in the process.” What if his habitual absence is the symptom of other personal issues? There is also the advantage of feeding the husband’s need to feel wanted.

To confess that she is lonely is a safer alternative than posting a profile on the LonelyWives website. The solution to loneliness is not about finding substitutes; it is about taking the direct route to the heart of the matter. The pain of the confession may be well worth the effort of dealing with the problem and the pleasure of finding the solution.

Waiting for her husband

Waiting for her husband

(2) Emotional Support

Sometimes the husband is physically present but shares no emotional connection. Just suppose that the lonely wife yields to the temptation of online companionship, or she agrees for his best friend to check on her when she is alone. The friend feeds her craving for attention; she responds by exposing her inmost thoughts and desires. She begins to feel worthy and desirable.

Eventually, the substitute emotional support becomes a trade-off—an exchange of one problem for another:

  • She trades distraction from feelings of neglect, for the fear that the new relationship will get out of hand;
  • She trades excitement about the new relationship, for doubt that it will last;
  • She trades assurance that the "friend" cares, for the worry that it may not remain a secret;
  • She trades satisfying conversation, for the anxiety that her husband will show up at the wrong time.

With all the emotional investment already poured into the marriage; this kind of exchange equals Eve’s trade off in the garden of Eden—a bite of one fruit, for the loss of an entire orchard. There is no profit in losing the little she may have with her husband. There is joy and comfort in making the effort to build on it for the benefit of their union.

Women may still hold hands with their husbands at social functions even if the relationship is on the rocks.

Women may still hold hands with their husbands at social functions even if the relationship is on the rocks.

(3) Healthy Social Posture

Social posture is very important to the woman. That is the reason a discreet, lonely wife is not willing to be seen in public with the man who offers her forbidden friendship. She wants to maintain the image of a happy, dutiful wife.

She may ride to church with her husband when he is available, or to any social function to which the couple is invited. Their conversation on the way is minimal, but their smiles when they arrive are as much as can be expected.

This kind of hypocrisy can push her into an avoidance-avoidance conflict—to choose between losing a broken marriage and hanging on to an illicit friendship. Neither choice is satisfying, but choosing either will prevent her from insisting on what she really wants and deserves. If she decides to stay in the marriage, the next step is to get professional help if an honest soul-soul conversation with her husband does not fix it.

Like windshield wipers, lonely spouses may move together though they do not touch.  Photo by Lothar Spurzem

Like windshield wipers, lonely spouses may move together though they do not touch. Photo by Lothar Spurzem

(4) Financial Partnership

Sometimes a lonely wife does things that are unusual for her character, to gain her husband’s attention. She might be tempted to spend money excessively, max out the credit card, enjoy a luxurious spa treatment instead of paying the utility bills.

It is easy when the relationship is rocky, to forget that hurting her husband’s finances hurts the partnership. It hurts their ability to help the children and to contribute to worthy charitable causes. She could be embarrassed when she realizes that they cannot meet family obligations because of her irresponsibility.

She may confide in her "special" male friend about her lack of finances. If the friend helps her, he begins to visualize replacing her husband. If he refuses, he reveals that his intention is not to replace her husband, only to enjoy some friendship benefits. Either way, he underscores that her vulnerability is safer when placed with her husband. She can never go wrong waiting up to have that conversation with the right person--her husband.

(5) Spiritual Support

Every human problem needs supernatural help, and it would be great if the husband leads out in the search for spiritual guidance, but sadly, the lonely wife often finds herself alone in this.

Her first prayer should be for herself: for wisdom to look at the situation with the right attitude, with sensitivity, patience, and an open mind to the divine solution. Not that the responsibility is all hers to improve the marriage, but neither does she want to suggest that the problem is all her husband's fault. They both have adjustments to make in bridging the gap that has made them distant.

Confronting her husband with the right attitude, with love and kindness, will make him more responsive. When he becomes involved, it is wise to express her gratitude and her expectations for his continued presence.

Questions & Answers

Question: All you’re saying is fine but what if you've done that over and over but still are neglected? What should I do to go further?

Answer: Sincerely sorry for your plight. Please find a counselor who would listen to the details of your story and offer professional advice.

© 2013 Dora Weithers