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8 Deadly Symbols of Isolation in Marriage

By Dennis Rainey

The following story expresses how Barbara and I have felt many times during our marriage:

My husband works a night shift, while I work during the day. Thus our cars always pass going in opposite directions on a street just a few miles from our house. When we pass, we both yell, “I love you!” One day, after our rush-hour rendezvous, a man who had obviously witnessed this scene several times pulled up beside me at a stoplight. “Hey, lady,” he said, “you two seem to like the looks of each other pretty well. Why don’t you stop and introduce yourselves sometime?”

Have you and your spouse ever lived like that story? Busyness can create distance and isolation in marriage.

For many reasons, married couples can grow isolated from each other. Isolation has been around since the beginning of man and woman’s creation. But it seems to be gaining momentum as we race through the 21st century.

The soul was not created to live in solo. We yearn for intimacy. And marriage is where most people hope they’ll find it. The tragedy is that few couples achieve it. Some experience intimacy to a degree, but for many, marriage becomes what one filmmaker cynically described as “the death of hope.”

Throughout our culture symbols of isolation can be found. Here are a few I’ve observed in different marriages over the years.

Symbol #1: “No trespassing”

Paul and Michelle’s marriage has steadily grown during their 25 years together. They communicate well and have worked through several difficult problems. They are relaxed around one another and are considered by many to have a model marriage.

But over the years they have become alienated from one another because of an unsatisfying sex life. Too proud to seek counsel, they find they can’t discuss the subject anymore—the area is declared off limits—and “NO TRESPASSING” signs now replace welcome mats. That is a lethal form of marital isolation.

Symbol #2: A ticking clock

Near retirement, Ben and Mary have raised their family and now they are proud of their new grandchildren. Their marriage of 35 years has withstood time. But neither one recognizes the silence that has crept into their relationship.

Their children know about it, though. While growing up they felt the loneliness between their parents at points of unresolved conflict and misunderstanding. They saw Dad give his life to his job and Mom pour her life into the kids. And now, when they come to visit, it’s evident there isn’t much of a relationship left.

Instead, the silence in their home is broken only by the occasional squeak of a rocking chair and the tick, tick, tick of a clock.

Symbol #3: Crowded calendar

Mason and Nicole are both aggressive professionals, actively involved in civic responsibilities and their church. But ever since they started their family, they’ve noticed a difference in their marriage.

Those walks and late-night talks that they used to enjoy have disappeared. They’re too whipped; they now live for the weekends. Fatigue is taking its toll and has left little energy for romance.

With their children adding their own set of escalating “priorities,” they feel even more pried apart by their driven lifestyles. Their lives only touch at points—when their paths cross. They live in marital isolation

Symbol #4: Locked doors

Tyler and Amanda have only been married for six months, but they have already hurt each other deeply. The dream and hope of intimacy is already fading in the darkness behind locked doors where they have withdrawn.

Tyler was able to open up during their engagement, but now he finds it difficult to share his feelings. He feels trapped within the limitations of his personality. Amanda craves intimacy and desperately wants to be his partner in life. She can’t get in and he won’t come out. Isolation has become an unwanted guest in their home … and neither of them know what to do about it.

Symbol #5: Excess baggage

Because both Daniel and Megan came from broken homes, they were determined their marriage would be different. But although they have talked man