Is Marriage the Solution to Loneliness?

One of my cherished moments of solitude

(I have slightly modified this old post)

When I was single I was not particularly desperate about finding a spouse and I was definitely not in a hurry to marry someone.

And in fact I took my time and I only made this move at age 36 when it had become obvious, beyond any reasonable doubt, that I had passed “the bloom of youth”.

For many years I held back from even looking for a girlfriend and I faced a lot of peer pressure from friends and family members who were trying to encourage me to find one and who seemed to view my reluctance to settle down and build a family as foolishness.

But I was actually cherishing my solitude and all the freedom and the opportunities that it was offering me.

Well, I have been married for 17 years now and during the past years I have had the confirmation of what I always suspected, namely that those who get married are, more often than not, no less lonely than those who remain single.

And this is the case for a variety of reasons

Husband and wife have conflicting interests

Husband and wife are not twins so there are things and interests you will never be able to fully share with your spouse and that your spouse might never relate to.

For example I have a passion for reading, for musing, contemplating and meditating, for being out in nature and this is a vast universe that constitutes a huge portion of who I am as a person that is completely foreign to my wife and definitely off her radars. She is the typical Filipina who prefers pakikisama or togetherness, partying and connecting with people to the above mentioned things.

So within me there is a vast landscape of passions, interests and deep reflections that I am not able to share at all with my wife, and I mean at all.

Our deepest emotions cannot be shared

Also, during my most difficult times,  or even during my happiest highs, there are feelings, emotions and fears that are simply beyond the realm of communication, not just with my wife but with any other human being and, in fact, during my teen-age years I would spend long days shut away in my room unable to share my deepest emotions with others, not even with my parents, and things haven’t changed that much: to this very day I continue to face the deepest joys and fears in life, the ones that cannot be put into words and shared, all by myself.

Husband and wife are mostly immersed in their own thoughts

Another reason is because I have become aware that most of the time I spend in close proximity with my spouse my wife and I are, for the most part, immersed in our thoughts and even when together we are de-facto separated.

It is not easy to be fully present and give our partner undivided attention and electronic gadgets certainly don’t help.

If you are married you have to work more and have less time to socialize

Those who are married have little time, if any at all, for their old friends.
When I was single I had plenty of social interactions because I had a lot less responsibilities and I had to work a lot less.
Now I hardly have any time for my old friends, and I used to have many all over the world, because my priority is (obviously and rightly so) my family.
I don’t work that many hours but, because I am the head of the family, I might have to, should the need arise,  and, as a result, have very limited time to interact with my only friends that I have the chance to associate with on a regular basis, namely my family.

I know plenty of married people who work so hard that they barely spend few minutes a day with their spouse before they fall asleep, and my father was one of those for a part of his life.

The situation is obviously much worse for married people who do shift work and perhaps are in a situation where even their spouse has a similar job.

Married people who live in a developing country might be forced to work overseas away from their families

The situation is even worse for those who work overseas (as many Filipinos do) away from their families, and that is really the height of the loneliness that a married person can experience.
I know Filipinos who have been working abroad for more than five years and haven’t had the chance to get their families to live with them, they only see them through Skype.

We are fundamentally alone in this universe

I am not in any of the above mentioned extreme situations and I have enough time to be with my wife but, as hard as I try to give my wife full attention and presence and as hard as I try to be interested in the things she values, what I have discovered is that, at the deepest existential level, life is a first-person responsibility and not a family project.

A relationship with the Creator, if you believe in one, or, at least, an investigation into the nature of existence, why we are here and so on, these are personal endeavors.

You can certainly worship God and pray to him with your spouse or, if you don’t believe in God, you can read about, talk about and speculate about the meaning of life with your spouse but, ultimately, the buck has to stop with you and you have to face these deep existential aspects of life all by yourself.

And….yes, death is something that you’ll have to face alone, even if your wife and the entire extended family (and Filipinos have a very large family and social group) is next to you: they can encourage you and comfort you but they are not going to follow you.

You are alone as far as your health and your emotions are concerned

Taking care or your health is a personal endeavor, and in fact there are people who work out and eat healthy food while their spouse doesn’t.

The emotions you feel are the result of how you use your body and what you focus on and not the result of how your spouse makes you feel.

Solitude is critical to enjoying a healthy relationship

Solitude is necessary to be productive, to write in a journal, to plan, to schedule, to read, to contemplate and to grow, speaking of which I must also say that living as a couple without carving out moments of solitude and reflection could actually endanger the relationship itself.

One of the reasons why my relationship has improved dramatically is precisely because I isolate myself on a daily basis and reflect on how to improve my marriage, write the challenges I have in my marriage down in a journal and put down in writing my insights about how to meet those challenges.

So, can marriage really fix your loneliness?

The reality is that you are alone, you came into this world alone and you are going to leave alone.

You’ll have to face the deepest existential issues all alone, you’ll have to cultivate an intimate relationship with the Creator (or with life, the universe or whatever you believe in) all alone.

You will be spending most of your couple time immersed in your thoughts and your spouse will do the same most of the time and you might actually be too busy working to even spend much time with your spouse, let alone with your old friends.

And you will need solitude to study the best strategies to improve your relationship.

So loneliness cannot be avoided even if you are in an intimate relationship and you will actually need plenty of quality time by yourself to become a solidly grounded human being who is in the best position to make the relationship grow.