Dear Carolyn: My wife of nearly 30 years walked out and moved away, leaving me and a teenage son. She had nothing bad to say about me except that when she was with me she was lonely, and she’d rather be lonely alone. I honestly don’t know what she means. Can you state the problem in words I can understand? – Anonymous
It certainly means your ability to communicate with each other was near zero. But I can’t speak for your wife, either. The best I can do is explain what her words say to me.
Being lonely in a marriage means you have no one to talk to, no sense of being understood, no investment in any shared purpose – but you still have to make the sacrifices of married life, like sharing space and compromising on tastes and cleaning up after somebody else. It also means having your spouse there every day as either a cruel tease that someday things will get better, or a cruel reminder that they probably never will.
Loneliness alone, to me, means having no one to talk to, no sense of being understood – and no one to stop you from doing whatever it takes to rebuild your life from scratch.
I don’t advocate always staying or always leaving, I’m just channeling one state of mind.
It may not have been her intent, or your choice, but your wife has handed you that same opportunity she seized for herself, of making something new out of your life. Just because it’s an opportunity you didn’t want doesn’t make it any less of one. There’s abandonment, there’s shock, there’s confusion, there’s grief – and then there’s what comes after, which is up to you to decide. Please demonstrate that for your son.
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