Heartlight Special Feature

Married but Single

       “We can’t go on together, living separate lives!” the song blares. It stirs something more than a tune inside you. It reverberates in the chasm of your heart...

        Maybe you’ve noticed the phenomenon. Maybe you even live it. Men and women who are legally married, but who live as singles. They live under the same roof, share the same last name, operate out of a joint checking account, sleep in the same bedroom, yet live separate lives. Communication does not go beyond the strictly necessary and avoids conflict so they can maintain their peaceful coexistence.

        When you ask the married single about his or her spouse, there is usually an excuse why the other is absent. The excuse may be true, or they may have been carrying on the charade so long they actually believe the excuse, living in a constant state of denial. They may even be together at functions, but are not partners in life.

        What went wrong? Why are they living separate lives under the same roof? Why do they say they are married, but have no partnership?

        The chasm between married singles opens, then widens very gradually. “We just kinda drifted apart,” is how it’s often described. Communication becomes shorter and shorter. Distance apart grows a little more each day.

        At first, they recognize there is a problem between them, but do nothing about it. Often the never mention it to each other. They don’t want to make a fuss. They hope the problem, or at least the feeling, will just go away. They may even mention the distant feeling to the other, but they never work on any solutions together.

        As time goes by, they get “used to” the situation and learn to live in this nether world of together but separate, married yet single. They grow accustomed to the awkwardness of empty companionship and try to ignore the whisper of loneliness in their hearts. They decide not to take the next step, divorce, because of stigma, children, inconvenience or financial implications. Yet the result is very much the same: a gnawing sense of rejection, a deep loneliness at the center of the soul, and an ongoing sadness bordering on depression.

        At this point, both of them are incredibly vulnerable to all sorts of addictive behaviors: alcoholism, lust, an affair, food disorders, and workaholism are all temptations to replace the ache in their soul. Some may just go into an ongoing state of denial. None of the options, however, negates the ache. They may mask it for a time, but the gnawing pain is there taking its toll, now with the added weight of shame. This only heightens the ache and sends them back into the addictive cycle once again.

        Is there hope for a marriage in this seemingly hopeless condition? While there are few quick fixes, the answer can be a resounding,  “Yes!”

        If one of the partners is willing to try to revive the marriage, there is definitely hope. While it takes two to make a marriage, it only takes one who changes to change the whole dynamic of the relationship. This change in one partner throws the marriage into disequilibrium and breaks the opiate spell of diminished expectations and separation. When one changes, the relationship must change. Yes, the change in the relationship might possibly LOOK worse than the ongoing loneliness and separation. But it can also mean a revitalization and rediscovery of relationship once lost or never shared. Among couples whose commitment to the Lord calls them to work through their differences rather than abandoning the relationship, the opportunity for change for the better is really quite good.

        Dr. Ed Wheat, in his book "Live Life" offers one way out of the forest of separation. (Put in a link to this statement on Ed Wheat: Wheat is a well known author, family counselor, and marital therapist.) He calls his system BEST.

        BEST is an acronym for Blessing, Edifying, Sharing, Touching. This system can help you find a strategy to revive a dying relationship. Dr. Wheat suggests the following things:

Speak positively and do kind things for your partner. Pray for them. Praying will reawaken the spiritual bond that existed when vows were made before God, but have long since been forgotten or abandoned. Find ways to bless your partner in word and action.

Support, build up, and positively encourage your partner whenever you have an opportunity. Do not criticize them in front of others. Do not assume that because you tied the knot the courtship can end. Speak in words and terms which build your partner’s esteem. These compliments must be genuine and thoughtful, but they must be present in any relationship of significance.

Share your time, activities, interests, concerns, ideas, innermost thoughts, spiritual walk, family objectives, and career goals. Share time with them in your partner’s area of interest. Ask them about their interests, concerns, ideas, and opinions and genuinely listen when they will speak of them. Remember the bond created at marriage means the SHARING of two lives.

Touch each other in non sexual ways. This will signal to your partner that you care about them and not just about sex. Realize that a few moments of touching are not going to make up for many years of apathy or lack of physical affection, but be persistently gentle and patient if you don’t get an immediate response.

        While these words of advice are right on the mark, we would add two other items:

        Seek out the company of persons of the same gender who believe in preserving a marriage. This will not only encourage you, but it will help protect you. Sharing marriage hurts with someone of the opposite gender opens the door for an affair, even if the sharing of information begins innocently and out of genuine concern. This also protects you from those who have had bad marriage experiences and have no sense of commitment to marriage.

        Renew your commitment to other couples who share your faith. Get back involved with people at church who have strong marriages. Get involved with a Bible class group of married couples. This may not be easy at first, because many who are isolated in a married but single relationship have slowly cut off ties with others so they do not have to face the emptiness of their own marriage. Be patient and persistent. Married couple friends help us get back into married couple activities and share in life together with each other at the same time.

        Ultimately the power to revitalize a marriage and an individual life comes from God. The Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, has also resurrected many marriages from the middle of disaster and despair. Pray for the Lord’s blessing and the power of His Spirit on your relationship. Pray alone. Pray with a trusted friend of the same gender. Pray with church leaders. Pray aloud. Pray the prayers in the Psalms. Write down your prayers. Pray and don’t give up.

        If you are a married single, don’t just assume it has to stay that way. Believe in the BEST and go for it! God intended that marriage a lifetime, a lifetime of partnership!


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Article copyright © 1996, Lou Seckler. Used by permission.
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