Loneliness is all-encompassing, creeping from our hearts to our souls and enveloping everything in between. It can often be felt deep within the body in a physical way, as a heaviness in the chest or an ache in the gut. It reaches to all parts of a person and leaves us bereft, restless, and joyless. Loneliness is soul-wrenching, because God made us social creatures designed to share our lives and loves, hurts and sorrows. Even Adam, living in the glory of paradise, cried out to God to give him a companion of the soul.
Even worse than the ache of general loneliness is being lonely when not physically alone. By its very nature, an abusively toxic relationship doesn’t allow for true tenderness, mutual self-giving, or “the intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state” (CCC 1603). The CCC further says that marriage “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses” (CCC 1601), yet when one spouse emotionally, physically, psychologically, or verbally batters the other, they’re certainly not concerned with the good of their partner. They’re focused only on what they perceive to be the good of themselves.
Such toxic treatment results in emotional stagnation and alienation. When we have to walk on eggshells, creep around the house in order to avoid triggering Mr. Hyde, and watch our every word and action to be sure we’re avoiding anything that might set off the explosion of abusive anger, getting close on an emotional level is the last thing on our minds. We can’t. It’s too dangerous. It would be like getting too close to a striking cobra. Why would anyone want to do that?
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
( St. Teresa of Calcutta)
Marital loneliness is one of the worst kinds of anguish. To be bereft of love, friendship, and companionship while involved in an intimate relationship is bewildering and crazy-making, to say the least. On top of it all, self-blame is a huge and corrosive issue within lonely, abusive marriages. We can’t make sense of why Prince Charming so often turns into the Big Bad Wolf, ready to do anything to ensnare his target. When we’re told we’re the problem and we’re to blame, we tend to accept the accusations as truth because we love and trust the person who has promised to love and trust us. What we all need to realize is that if he’s abusive, nothing he says can be trusted, because he’s not to be trusted.
Anyone who uses abuse as a way to control and manipulate others is not to be trusted.
Yet all this—the self-blame, the confusion as to why he claims he’s not at fault, the criticisms mixed with the times of loving compliments and seeming support, the lack of emotional availability, his voice claiming “I love you” while his actions say “I really think you’re a piece of shite” (and sometimes being told that outright), the controlling possessiveness and jealousy, the unfair and unjust accusations of wrongdoing, negative intent, and infidelity … all of this swirls and combines within until we’re left with a searing hollowness we can’t define.
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I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.