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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Experiences of Marital Isolation


One thing singles can often not recognise is the fact of isolation in marriage. Not all marriages are isolating experiences, in fact many aren’t, but all marriages have their times of isolation which are possibly harder than the isolation experienced in singleness.
Much of these experiences are not the fault of either party to the marriage. It’s just that most of us must have our necessary withdrawal. The best of marriages survive serendipitously through such marital wanderings. But such isolation is a test for both individuals—the person withdrawn from as well as the partner withdrawing into themselves.
Marriage is no indefinite or ultimate solution for the loneliness often experienced in single life. Indeed, the best time to get used to resolving our loneliness is when we are single. What better opportunity is there to get to know ourselves?
Marriage Or Couple Relationships Are Not All They Promise
This is a truth most married couples readily identify with, besides those Ken and Barbie match-ups where bliss characterises the union at all times (which is arguably a myth). We enter marriage a little starry eyed, but the best prepared are those who experienced a long courtship. They got well past the romantic phase and were long companions before they wed.
Of the surprises we find out about each other, when the honeymoon period is over, are the varying speeds and techniques of withdrawal that both in the marriage partake in. These are an extension of our personalities. Withdrawal is that physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual thing done that separates us from our partner, however long it may be. It’s usually minutes, hours, or a day at most.
Utilising Withdrawal
Identifying the reasons for our withdrawal, or our partners’, is critically important in controlling, as much as we can, the negativity in the experience of marital isolation. If we know about it and can predict it all the better are we. It doesn’t need to be explained to us or them. We know why they do it. They know why we do it.
Given that each of us has times of necessary withdrawal, whether positive or negative in its initiation, the most satisfying of marriages caters for it. We feel less isolated, less lonely, when we understand the reasons for our mates’ withdrawal, and it’s the same in reverse.
Experiences of marital isolation, therefore, don’t need to be anything out of the ordinary. Provided we understand our partner and their need to isolate themselves, and we can live happily and safely in our aloneness. Our hope is that our partner can also respect our withdrawal.
***
Every couple experiences isolation, where one or both withdraw from the other or each other. If we nurture a safe sense of ourselves when we’re alone we’ll feel less isolated when our partners withdraw. And we’ll give them the space they need.
Every relationship requires space. Just like intimacy, space at the appropriate times breathes freedom into marriage. Such love is the perfect balance of responsible freedom.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Once (2006).

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