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Matrimonial Articles - Marriage Life

The question about the impact of marriage longevity on the feelings of loneliness when one partner is left alone is both interesting and complex. While I don't have any specific data to point to, it seems it would be important to take into account the following:

A clear definition of loneliness needs to be developed as the word conjures up different ideas for different people. For example, some might experience the feelings of loneliness due to there being few opportunities for meaningful conversations with another person. Other people may confuse loneliness with other emotional difficulties such as depression or grief.

Personality type and quality of marriage relationship and family will have a very large impact on how a person deals with the loss of a partner regardless of the length of the marriage. A number of factors will mitigate the sense of loneliness:

healthy self esteem;
positive experiences of being alone for significant periods of time in the past;
strength of personal faith and ability to experience the presence of God;
practiced ability to maintain old friends and make new ones;
nature of extended family members' support.

Other variables will impact the possible feelings of loneliness:

length and severity of illness leading up to the partner's death (one or more remissions will also have an impact);
the reason for the length of marriage (was it maintained for a long time for good reasons?);
the grief management process and its length may have a significant impact on one's ability to interact with others;
the health of the surviving spouse and his or her mobility;
living situation and proximity to family and supportive friends;
and feelings about taking care of one's own basic needs.

In short, it would be difficult to maintain that longer marriages result in greater feelings of loneliness upon the death of a spouse due to the fact that it would be hard to separate out these other contributing factors. A long term healthy marriage will produce much grief when terminated, but the same personal qualities which contributed to the health of the marriage will also enable the surviving spouse to effectively deal with aloneness. On the other hand, a long term unhealthy marriage may be terminated with feelings of relief and new found freedom, increased social opportunities and involvement, or it may result in tremendous loneliness because of the lack of relational skills.

Consequently, the health of a marriage relationship, regardless of its length, is the most likely determining factor to decide whether or not the surviving spouse will experience severe loneliness.


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