How Quality of The Marital Relationship Affects Loneliness in Seniors
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How Quality of The Marital Relationship Affects Loneliness in Seniors

June 13, 2019 | Life | By Jason Reid

Loneliness is something that can affect all but is often more pronounced in seniors. Also, loneliness isn’t always restricted to singletons. Even married senior can experience loneliness. The quality of married life is what determines whether a married senior will be lonely or not. Read on to know more.

Loneliness In Seniors

Studies conducted by quite a few like Pinquart and Sörensen in 2001, Dykstra, van Tilburg, and de Jong Gierveld in 2005, and Perissinotto, Cenzer, and Covinsky in 2012 have revealed that loneliness can be very unpleasant and that the chances of feeling so usually rises with age.

In 2007, Hawkley and Cacioppo found that loneliness could have extreme adverse effects in later life. This was later again corroborated by Liu and  Rook in 2013.

In 2006 Cacioppo, Hughes, Waite and Hawkley found that loneliness happens at a later age due to bad health, inability to sleep well, failing cognitive abilities, low self-esteem, and depression. Similar reasons were cited a few years later in 2012 by Perissinotto.

Can Married Seniors Be Lonely?

Research done by those like Zhang and Hayward in 2001 and Sundstrom, Fransson, Malmberg, and Davey in 2009 found that marriage acts as one of the strongest reasons why seniors are able to curb their loneliness. However, this said, loneliness amidst married seniors is also fairly common. It is ultimately the quality of the relationship that determines whether the senior will be lonely or not. It was shown by Hughes, Waite, Hawkley, and Cacioppo, 2004 and again in more recent times by Ayalon, Shiovitz-Ezra, and Palgi in 2013 that a couple’s perceived deficiencies in an intimate relationship like marriage can also lead to loneliness.

What Determines The Quality Of Marriage

Two people get married not only because of a chemistry that they form between each other but also because, two people together, will have more access to economic and social resources. Later in life, when age sets in, a couple also becomes each other’s support system in times of failing health. All this helps to curb loneliness.

However, marriage does have the ability to strain a relationship between two people as well.

The quality of the relationship between the married couple is not always personal but could be an interpersonal one as well.

A senior can slowly move himself/herself away from the partner and feel lonely in times like:

  • Ill health
  • Falling self-esteem
  • Depression that can happen due to medication or other social reasons

The interpersonal relationship that affects the quality of marriage, which in turn, can lead to loneliness include:

  • Increasing lack of sexual desire with one’s partner
  • The bond of friendship shared between the couple diminishes over time
  • The couple doesn’t allow space to each other and demonstrates excessive possessiveness
  • Not spending time communicating and sharing information with each other
  • Not enjoying activities and hobbies together
  • Insensitive behaviour of one towards the other
  • Cheating on the spouse

In 2001, a study conducted by Berscheid and Ammazzalorso showed that both verbal and nonverbal, conscious and unconscious actions – all can affect a relationship like a marriage.

Also, no difference in the degree and perception of loneliness between a man and a woman has been found (Carr et al. in 2014). Researchers have reasoned that with age, both, the husband and the wife, leave their work and reduce their social interactions and focus a lot of their time on each other. Hence, if the relationship weakens, then loneliness can set in equal degrees in either of the couple.

How To Improve The Quality of The Relationship

If you feel that your marriage is such that it is making you lonely then it’s time to start working on it. Some things that can help you are:

  • Find more fun ways to have sex – for example try toys, aids or even live swinging fantasies etc
  • Travel so that you can spend more time together
  • Some even explore polyamory to try and get the spark back into their relationship
  • Eat better and exercise so that you keep your body and mind feeling more healthy
  • Don’t always keep yourself busy doing your own thing – set aside time where you can just be with your partner
  • Join an activity class together
  • If some medications are affecting your health, then do speak to your doctor about it
  • You feel that the both of you are drifting apart as a couple, then don’t hesitate to seek professional help

If you are a married senior and feeling lonely, it is time for you to analyse why this is happening and make some changes in your life. After all, staying lonely for an extended period of time can affect you with depression and other diseases and thus spoil the quality of your life.

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