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Asking Too Much of Marriage

Nov 15 2013
We can’t expect our spouses to solve all our problems.

We're often quick to associate loneliness and unhappiness with singleness, particularly in Christian circles. We expect marriage to overcome those feelings. We overlook not only the joy in that can be found in singleness, but also the sense of longing that persists in marriage.

Two of our Her.meneutics regulars came together to share stories of their marriages, to underscore the point that no one person, not even our spouse, can meet all our needs and solve all our problems.

Married People Get Lonely, Too

Sharon Hodde Miller

"I'm sorry I can't be a group of girls." With those strange but sympathetic words, my husband tried to comfort me while I sat on the couch and sobbed.

We had moved to the Chicago area less than a year prior, and I missed my friends. Although I had relocated from North Carolina with him by my side—a wonderful partner and my very best friend—my heart ached for female companionship as well. Yes, I had a husband to keep me company. Yes, I was married. And yet my marital status had little to no bearing on my loneliness.

That was a couple years ago, and not much changed in the following years. I continually struggle to find a group of women with whom to share my life, and despite the health of my marriage, that hole in my social life became a deeply rooted ache in my heart.

Ironically, I am not alone in my loneliness. Research shows that loneliness is epidemic in our nation. In two recent surveys, 40 percent of adults reported feeling lonely, two times as many as in the '80s. Among adults over 45, one in three report feeling chronically lonely. Among the elderly, half (about 5 million) say the television is their main company. Finally, loneliness afflicts singles and married alike, some couples reporting feelings of isolation from their very own spouses.

As these statistics show, loneliness takes many different forms and can affect us at any stage of life. For me, it was the absence of intimate, female friends following a family move. For some, it is singleness; for others, the isolation of raising small children or watching grown children grow distant. Still others feel alienated from their very own spouses, and some from their very own families.

I have discovered that marriage provides no sure protection. Many married people struggle with paralyzing loneliness, and not because their marriages are unhealthy or their spouses are absent. Like anyone else who struggles with loneliness, their souls are giving voice to a basic human thirst that marriage cannot always quench: the need for community.

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