Married and Lonely in Retirement? Do These 7 Things

senior married couple sitting on a couch. The older woman is talking on the phone, and the older man is pensive

Married and lonely are two words that you would think never go together.


But, all too often, that’s the reality for many couples.


Over time, the busyness of life can take its toll on even the strongest relationship. If you’re feeling disconnected from your spouse, it’s vital to take action.


But before we get into some tips on how to deal with feeling lonely in your marriage, let’s dig into understanding why you might be feeling this way.


Why Do You Feel Alone in Your Marriage? 6 Causes of Loneliness in Marriage

Being married doesn’t mean you’ll never feel lonely. In fact, according to a 2018 national survey of adults conducted by the AARP, 31% of married people 45 years old and older report feeling lonely


And even though it’s a relatively common experience, that doesn’t make it any less painful. Loneliness is also an indicator that something needs to change. 


Here are some possible reasons you might be feeling lonely in your marriage:


#1 Lack of Communication

One of the main reasons marriages fail is because of a lack of communication. When communication breaks down, it’s often because one or both partners feel like they’re not being heard. 


If you and your spouse aren’t communicating – really communicating – about your needs, wants, fears, and desires, it can lead to feeling disconnected and alone.


A recent study found that spouses often lack the ability to truly understand their partner’s inner thoughts and feelings and even in some cases communicate no better than strangers


the number of ambiguous sentences used when talking to friends, strangers, and spouses
When talking to people we know, such as our partner or friends, we’re more likely to assume they know what we’ll say and don’t communicate as clearly.


What’s the culprit? We get so caught up in our own lives and our own perspective that we forget to take our partner’s perspective into account. 


On top of that, if we don’t strive for growth (at every life stage), we assume they know what we’re thinking and feeling – and vice versa. And then we don’t bother to express ourselves as clearly as we should. 


And assumptions are often wrong, aren’t they? Yes, even after decades of being partnered up to the same person in a marriage.


#2 Lack of Intimacy

Many couples find that their sexual intimacy declines over time. This can be for a variety of reasons, like stress, illness, different sex drives, emotional distance, or simply being too tired. 


But whatever the reason, a lack of sexual intimacy can also lead to feeling lonely and undesirable.


And while sexual intimacy is an integral part of any marriage, it’s not the only kind of intimacy. Emotional intimacy is just as important – if not more so. It’s about feeling close to your partner, being vulnerable, feeling like they understand you, and feeling loved, safe, and accepted for who you are.


#3 Lack of Effort

When one partner stops putting effort into the relationship, it can be exceedingly hurtful to the other. 


What’s more, it’s easy to get complacent in a relationship and take your partner for granted. When you fall into a monotonous routine, it can be hard to find time and energy for your partner. 


Effort is a pretty big deal. According to a Relatioship Evaluation Survey of 8,006 respondents, effort is strongly and positively associated with satisfaction and stability in all four unions:


  • premarital cohabitation
  • first marriage
  • post-divorce cohabitation
  • second marriage following divorce


In a nutshell, if you’re not making an effort to connect with your spouse on a regular basis, it puts a strain on your marriage.


#4 Lack of Quality Time

It’s no secret that lack of quality time is one of the leading causes of marital problems. But what does “quality time” actually mean? 


According to a recent study, it’s all about how you spend your time together, not just how much time you spend. The study examined the relationship between marital quality and couples’ shared time and happiness in the “encore adult” life stage. 


The research suggests that marital support is associated with more face-to-face time and less passive time.


spend more active, instead of passive, time with your spouse


In other words, it’s not enough to just be in the same room as your spouse – you need to actually spend time doing meaningful activities together. 


#5 Incompatibility

Sometimes, people just aren’t compatible. Over time, differences in interests, values, and goals can create an emotional distance between spouses. If you’re not on the same page as your partner, it can be hard to feel close to them.


That’s not to say, things can’t change. In fact, we believe growth is hugely important. It’s about growing alongside each other and bonding during each of your growth journeys.


This is especially true if you have different ideas about what retirement should look like. It’s important to find common ground – otherwise, you might start feeling like you’re living two separate lives.


#6 Co-Dependency

In a healthy marriage, both partners are independent. They may have their own hobbies, interests, and friends. But in some marriages, one partner is overly dependent on the other.


According to a 2020 study, sometimes couples exclusively rely on each other as their primary social connection. And that puts a strain on the relationship. 

When one half of a couple is feeling lonely, they may start to resent their partner for not being enough (or the other may resent their spouse for being too needy) — when really, the issue is that they’re putting too much pressure on their relationship to meet all of their needs.


It’s about deciphering and committing energy to both individual time and couples time.


Married and Lonely? 7 Ways to Overcome Loneliness in Your Marriage

Once you know the root of the problem, you can start to work on fixing it. Here are 7 tips for dealing with loneliness in marriage…


#1 Communicate More Often (& Better)

If you want to know the quality of your marriage, look no further than your communication. 


Studies show that couples who are more satisfied with their marriage tend to have more positive, less negative, and more effective communication. In other words, if you and your spouse are constantly bickering or simply not talking to each other, it could be a sign that your marriage is in trouble. 


So, if communication has dried up and you’re not sure how to fix it, the first step is to actually say that to your partner. They could be unaware of the problem, and by bringing it to their attention, you’re already making progress.


Be open and honest about your feelings and why you think the loneliness has crept in. From there, you can start to schedule set times to talk. This may be daily, or it may be weekly, but making time to talk will help to ease the loneliness.


For example, my partner and I have decided to dedicate an hour each day to talking without distractions. We turn off our phones, shut down the TV, and just focus on each other. And this has been really helpful in reconnecting and communicating better.


If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, here are some questions that may help get things going:


  • What were the best/worst parts of your day?
  • Was there anything I could’ve done differently today?
  • How are you really feeling right now?


daily check-in questions to bond with your spouse


And remember that listening is just as (if not even more) essential as talking, so make sure to really hear what your partner has to say. Showing interest in their life will make them feel valued and appreciated.


#2 Review Your Expectations

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you might be responsible for your own loneliness in marriage. You may be expecting more from your spouse than they should be expected to give. 


You want them to be your best friend, your confidante, your lover, your partner in crime – but they’re only human. They can’t be everything to you, no matter how much they love you.


It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting too much from our spouses. We see all the ways they fall short of our ideals and it makes us feel disappointed and unfulfilled. But a new study suggests that this may be more harmful than we realize. 


The research found that people who have high standards for their spouses are actually more likely to be unhappy in their relationships. This is because they are constantly comparing their spouses to their idealized version of them and feeling let down by reality. 


This can lead to resentment and conflict, which can ultimately damage the relationship. So if you find yourself constantly comparing your spouse to your ideal, it might be time to reconsider your expectations — and openly chatting about them with your spouse. 


If your expectations are too high, maybe it’s time to start looking for ways to fill those needs yourself. Which brings us to our next tip…


#3 Do the Inner Work

When you’re lonely in marriage, it’s easier to shift the blame to your partner. But the truth is, sometimes they’re not the ones causing these feelings. The root of the problem may lie within you.


So if you want to overcome loneliness in marriage, you need to do the inner work. This means taking a hard look at yourself and your own needs. It’s time for some honest self-reflection:


  • Do you have unrealistic expectations of your spouse?
  • Do you need more attention than they can give?
  • Are you holding onto resentment or anger towards them?
  • Do you feel like you’re not being heard or understood?
  • Do you have a hard time communicating what you need?


These are tough questions to answer, but they’re necessary if you want to focus on self-care and overcome loneliness in your marriage.


#4 Seek Out New Experiences Together

After being married for a while, it’s easy to get into a rut. You know what your spouse likes and dislikes, what they’ll say yes or no to. It can feel like you’re living the same day over and over again. But that doesn’t have to be the case.


Seeking out new experiences together is a great way to inject some life into your marriage. It gives you both something to look forward to and bond over. 


Plan a weekend getaway to somewhere you’ve never been before. Take up a new hobby together or join a club or class with other couples. Heck, even go to a restaurant you’ve never tried before. 


Plus, it’s scientifically proven that happy couples who spend quality time together have healthier marriages. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone on date night and try something new with your spouse. It’ll help rekindle the spark in your marriage and make retirement more enjoyable for both of you.


the odd ratios of being very happy in a marriage and its correlation to couple time


#4 Be More Physical

Being physical is an important part of any marriage. Many couples experience a decline in sexual activity as they age, but that doesn’t mean you have to just accept it.


Talk to your partner about what you’re both comfortable with and make an effort to be physical with each other every day. Whether it’s cuddling, kissing, or something more, affectionate touch is a powerful way to combat loneliness in marriage.


Whatever you do, don’t let retirement be a time when your intimacy and sex life stagnates. There’s no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy a fulfilling and active sex life well into your golden years.


#7 Get Professional Help

If you’ve tried all of these tips and you’re still feeling lonely in marriage, it may be time to seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re struggling.


Talking to a therapist or counselor can provide invaluable insight and guidance on how to deal with the challenges of marriage. They can help you learn how to communicate better, resolve conflict, and build a stronger relationship. 


And according to research, marriage counseling helps most couples (70% to be exact).

marriage counseling positively impacts 70% of couples receiving treatment


If you’ve tried counseling in the past and you’re open to new growth, try a life coach – working on yourself first will profoundly change the dynamic of your marriage (and relationships in general). 


Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re struggling. It could be the best decision you ever make for your marriage.


Reclaim Your Connection

Whether you’re newly retired or have been enjoying retirement for a while, it’s important to take some time to reconnect with your spouse. 


Retirement can be a challenging transition, and it’s easy for couples to drift apart if they’re not careful. Especially if one of you retires first.


So if you’re married but lonely, try some of these tips to help reconnect with your spouse and overcome it together:


  • #1 Communicate more & better — talk about your feelings, needs and wants
  • #2 Review your expectations — look at yourself critically and see if there are any changes you need to make
  • #3 Do the inner work — get in touch with your feelings and needs
  • #4 Seek out new experiences together — find things that you’re both interested in and reignite the spark between you
  • #5 Be more physical — make an effort to be more physical with each other, whether that means cuddling, holding hands, or being intimate
  • #7 Get professional help — if you’re struggling to reconnect on your own, consider seeking out professional help


Use these tips to help you reconnect with your spouse, resolve marriage problems, and truly enjoy your retirement together.

What's Your Retirement Purpose?

These 10 questions can make all the difference
portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach
Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion. Through her signature program Rewire My Retirement, she helps people achieve their best life across the 5 Rings of Retirement, which covers topics Growth, Community, Health, Giving Back, and Finance.

Cyn combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.

portrait of Cyn Meyer, founder of Second Wind Movement and a certified retirement life coach

Cyn Meyer 

Retirement Life Coach

As a certified retirement life coach since 2018, Cyn has helped thousands of older adults turn their retirement years into remarkable years full of growth, purpose, and passion (beyond the stereotypical financial planning side of retirement). 

She combines specific life coaching tools, neuroscience, and her extensive background in marketing (spanning 17 years) to make a powerful impact with Second Wind Movement – an organization dedicated to providing educational resources and coaching for seniors.

With meticulous research, insight, and passion, Cyn’s mission is to usher in a new wave of positive experiences for generations of retirees.