Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a woman's life look in single life and in marriage. This week, we're considering what it's like to experience loneliness as single and married women. One single woman and one married woman have written essays, to be published on different days. On a third day, they respond to each other's experience. Read Verity’s essay about loneliness as a single woman here and Esperanza’s as a married woman here.
Verity (single) to Esperanza (married)
What an honor to read your piece and to discover aspects of loneliness I’ve not considered in my current state of life.
In talking about the transition from long-distance dating to marriage, I related to the fact that because you didn’t see one another every day, the time you did spend together was more intense and more together; this was also my experience in a long-distance relationship. As someone who currently spends much of her free time alone, I was moved when reading of your transition from wanting to do everything together to taking that needed “me” time. Your experience has reminded me that setting aside time for shared activities is also so important for relationships—as is strong and intentional communication. Doing things I enjoy with other people can feel vulnerable especially because, like you, I’ve often suppressed my desires with an eye toward pleasing others and keeping the peace. What I think both our pieces have in common is the desire for balance—to enjoy both the times spent alone and with others.
Though I imagine my life to be a bit more physically alone than yours, you’ve shown me the unique ways a woman may feel alone in marriage. I applaud you for talking about intimacy in the open, generous way that you did. To realize that a woman may feel alone in this experience demonstrated to me the role that other women can play in our lives when it comes to loneliness. Sometimes, to be truly understood as a woman, we need to talk to other women in our lives. You mentioned outsourcing your heartache, and I saw this as encouragement to pick up the phone and talk to my friends about loneliness. Being with one’s loneliness takes work, and your piece so beautifully shows the work you did—and do—to continue interacting with this feeling. Though we are in different places in life, your thoughts on loneliness have made me feel less alone as a single person. Thank you for that.
Esperanza (married) to Verity (single)
I cringed (at myself, not you) when I read about your night of anxiety, wondering if you could call anyone “who would be able to answer, let alone have the time for a heart-to-heart.” I thought of two singles in my life, a college friend and a sister. Each of them has said things to the same effect, and I feel guilty knowing that they are also asking, “Are you still here for me?” I don’t want them to feel, in your words, “less needed.” But I admit that anxiety will typically bring me to my husband before it will bring me to a friend. And in that sense, the relationship is one-sided.
Like the friends you described, my distance communication has tapered off as kids and local relationships have taken over. When I don’t answer a phone call, I try to follow up with a text asking if everything is okay. Because I want to be someone who would make time for the heart-to-heart if it was needed. I appreciate the credit you give to your married friends. Acknowledging that loneliness exists in both states of life and trusting that your care for one another has not diminished are both necessary foundations for maintaining the friendships.
But I wish those relationships didn’t have to be conducted over the phone. I’ve also been nomadic in my twenties (albeit with a husband in tow for much of that), as have all my siblings and friends. I’m with you in missing the proximity of a whole community during college and I long for rootedness in one place, but there’s no location with a critical mass of loved ones. Making new friends in a new place was exhausting as a single, as a couple, and also as a family with kids.
Finally, I’m impressed by the ways you’ve harnessed your loneliness and let it motivate you to build connections with others who need it, perhaps even more than you.
Do you have an experience of loneliness that you'd like to share? Tell us here and your response may be published by Verily at a later date.