Loneliness is a dirty word!
Loneliness is a dirty word in our household and I wonder if it’s the same for other Forces wives and partners? I can tell people that I am sad, frustrated, resentful, afraid, or even depressed. But I can never utter the words “I’m lonely.” Somehow ‘lonely’ attributes blame (“It’s your fault, I’m alone!”) or it suggests an easy fix (“you need to get out more!” – Great! I’d love too but I have no childcare and no husband to help with the kids!!) It’s a word that strikes fear into the partner who is working away and ideas of tinder/plenty of fish or ‘lonely housewife seeks companionship adverts’ fill his/her mind with insecurity and doubt. And, maybe, the worst scenario of all – the word lonely could lead to that most dreaded response, for all forces wives; “Well honey, you did know what you were letting yourself in for!”
Let’s talk about it for once and break the stigma. How does loneliness present for you? For me, it’s watching ‘Friends’ on repeat and wishing I had some... It’s a jacket potato or microwave meal for one. It’s morbidly wondering how long your body might go undiscovered if you died in your sleep or fell and had an accident (This was a particularly prevalent worry, during my first pregnancy deployment!) It’s laying in bed at 3am sobbing loudly over a missed phone call, and there’s no one there to hear you. It’s having the radio or TV on in every room of the house to make it seem alive. It’s hours and hours spent scrolling on facebook, not posting, just scrolling, because you know no-one really cares to see another lonesome selfie (no one else can take it for you!) or pathetic photo of that microwave lasagne from Lidl that you served for dinner; not when your facebook friends are posting pictures of their gourmet, slimming world dinners for two... It’s spending hours at the Gym trying to exercise away your anxiety, so that tonight you might be able to sleep without checking the doors and windows five times. It’s passing your driving test, finally, on the 5th attempt and going home to an empty house with no one to tell but the cat (who was elated of course!) It’s being at a family party and being asked about your husband “Where is he? What’s he up to? When is he back?” The answer to all three being “I don’t know, I’m not really sure, somewhen in July, I think!” To be polite; you try to fill in the blanks and not cry. It’s also being at a social gathering and no one asks about your husband, because they upset you last time, but it feels like they’ve forgotten you have one. It’s turning to your husband to share a private joke that no one else would get, and knowing there’s no point telling him later when he phones, because the moment has passed, so he wouldn’t get it either. It’s watching your baby laugh/smile/crawl for the first time and having no one to share it with. It’s pacing up and down at 3am trying to comfort your wailing baby, who’s running a temperature, and wondering whether you need to wake the other children and drag them to A & E. It’s standing alone in your new home, surrounded by boxes and wondering whether you’ll make friends here or even like this house. These are my stand out moments that I recall feeling the vast emptiness of being lonely, but these are not unique to me or my situation at all.
So, what do forces wives do to rectify the loneliness and fill the void? We build communities, we go to coffee mornings, even when we hate coffee (they normally rustle up a tea too👌!) We go to, and organise cake 🍰 sales – even those of us who struggle with the ‘add one egg and 30ml of water’ packet mixes🙈.We fundraise for charity and try not to laugh at becoming our own cliché. And one thing we don’t ever do is admit to anyone that even with our coffee mornings, and charity events, that we’re lonely. Because lonely is desperate, lonely is sad and no one wants to see that. Because lonely is a dirty word.