This research finding caught my attention the other day and I exclaimed, “ha”. It said “more than 60 per cent of lonely people are married.The researchers explain that when married couples no longer share their deepest feelings, thoughts, and experiences with one another it can leave them feeling disconnected and alone.
In Nigerian polygamous marriages and in those where the men seem to be licensed to engage in extra-marital affairs, the lonely population could be higher.
According to Wikipedia, loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. It can be felt even when surrounded by other people.
The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental or emotional factors. Research has shown that loneliness is widely prevalent throughout society among people in marriages, relationships, families, veterans and successful careers.
Pastor E. A. Adeboye
Pastor E. A. Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, describes loneliness in marriage as the worst kind of loneliness. Hear him: “There are some people who are even married but are lonely. That is the worst kind of loneliness because at least, if you are single and you get home and there is nobody there, you will understand why you are lonely and say “Well, Jesus, you are my partner.”
But when you are married and both of you live like total strangers, it is a very bad feeling. Whenever there’s a guest, both of you come out smiling, making everyone believe all is well, but the moment the visitor leaves, the cold war continues.”
How Marriages Become Lonely
“Sometimes marriages fall into an autopilot pattern,” explains Dr. Wendy Walsh, relationship expert. “Partners no longer court each other or exchange the care that they did in the early days and they become more concerned with selfish interests.”
Other times, one partner in the marriage may be unhappy but unable to communicate that effectively, which can lead to feelings of loneliness too, she said. Spouses who are also parents face an even greater risk of feelings of isolation or abandonment, especially when one parent is playing a role (worker or home keeper) that makes him or her unhappy.
Walsh explains: “When children arrive, sometimes couples fall into traditional gender roles or battle about gender roles for the first time.”One may feel a need to work more outside the home to provide for the family, another may feel a need to nurture more. This is definitely a time when the battle lines can be drawn. Children put a lot of stress onto a marriage.”
Research has shown that loneliness can impact stress and heart health. But these are not the only areas in which loneliness takes its toll. “Lonely adults consume more alcohol and get less exercise than those who are not lonely,” explained John Cacioppo, an expert. “Their diet is higher in fat, their sleep is less efficient, and they report more daytime fatigue. Loneliness also causes premature aging and impairs willpower.”
Loneliness has been linked with depression and substance abuse in adults. People who are socially isolated may report poor sleep quality, and thus have diminished restorative processes. Loneliness may also cause one to see the world differently and experience social alienation, described as the self in exile.
Chronic loneliness can be a serious, life-threatening health condition. It has been found to be associated with an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Over time, people who are chronically lonely have a much higher incidence of cardiovascular disease because their bodies are under constant and unrelenting stress.
Generally, loneliness shows an increased incidence of high anxiety blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Other surprising facts
Other surprising facts about loneliness as compiled by another expert, Dr. Guy Winch, include the following:
Loneliness suppresses the functioning of our immune system: Loneliness causes our immune systems to function less efficiently, which over time, puts us at increased risk for developing all kinds of illnesses and diseases.
Loneliness distorts our perceptions of our relationships: Studies have found that merely asking people to recall times they felt lonely was sufficient to make them devalue their relationships. These perceptual distortions often cause lonely people to withdraw even further from the very people who could alleviate their loneliness. Making matters worse, their friends might be hesitant to connect as well.
Loneliness actually makes us feel colder: Studies found that recalling a time in which we felt lonely made participants estimate the room temperature as being significant colder. It even made their actual skin temperature drop.
Loneliness is contagious in social networks: Loneliness has a clear stigma. We tend to be able to spot and identify the lonely people around us. One study found that over a six-month period, lonely people were pushed to the periphery of social networks and surprisingly, so were their friends.
Winch concludes that loneliness represents a hugely important psychological injury and not one we should ignore.