Feeling lonely in a relationship can take its toll on you and your dynamic with the other person. Whatever the reason may be, it is one of the indicators that your relationship is on a decline. Long-distance, long work hours or even just a mere dissatisfaction can quickly start to make you feel like you are all alone in this relationship.
Why do people get into a relationship in the first place? It’s not just for love, support and attraction. Of course, these are major reasons why they fall in love but the craving for a commitment and the desire to spend their life with one person primarily arises out of the need for companionship. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t always smooth as even marriage is no guarantee that you won’t start feeling lonely in a relationship.
With psychotherapist Snigdha Mishra (Expert in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) from the Beck Institute, Philadelphia, USA and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapies (REBT), Clinical Hypnotherapy and Emotional Freedom Therapy) who is a mental wellness and behavior trainer, let’s uncover and understand what feeling lonely in a relationship is all about.
What Does It Mean To Be Alone In A Relationship?
It may sound weird but sometimes life throws such curveballs that the very thing you desired the most becomes the cause of your biggest misery. When you begin to feel uneasy in a relationship, it is most often manifested in loneliness first.
Here it is also necessary to define the difference between being alone and lonely. Psychotherapist, mental health educator and Founder of Life Surfers, Snigdha Mishra explains it well. “Feeling lonely in a relationship means that you feel alienated intellectually, monetarily and spiritually. You can feel lonely despite staying with a person for 20 years together. On the other hand, when you feel ‘alone’, space is usually the reason. So say, if you partner and you are staying in separate cities or countries, naturally you will be alone.”
“Loneliness is essentially a state of mind,” continues Snigdha. The signs of loneliness in a relationship (as opposed to being alone) are all too familiar. You feel disconnected despite being together with your partner, so much so that there may be no common point of communication.
More importantly, the joy vanishes from your relationship and you begin to sense that the love has turned lonely. You may even be doing all “couple things” like going out on exotic holidays, socializing, and attending parties together all the while experiencing a sense of hollowness as you continue feeling sad and lonely in your relationship.
Related Reading: How To Cope With Feeling Lonely In Marriage
How To Cope With Feeling Lonely In A Relationship
Can a relationship make you feel lonely? As ironic as it may sound, it certainly can. There are many causes of loneliness creeping into relationships. Prime among them is the lack of emotional and physical intimacy. When you stop connecting with your spouse or long-term partner at an intimate level, you start drifting apart in your relationship. The entire relationship feels like a chore.
Your interests may not match anymore as the compatibility level keeps decreasing. This results in further deterioration of communication between the two of you, resulting in unending loneliness, boredom, and a sense of ennui.
Admittedly it is hard to keep up pretenses and continue when you are lonely. Moreover, this isolation leads to bigger problems and the eventual disintegration of a relationship. If you do not want to go down that path, here are some coping mechanisms:
1. Identify your partner’s feelings
Even as you are struggling with feeling lonely and unloved in a relationship, identify the real reasons where these feelings are stemming from. Most importantly, figure out if your partner feels the same too. “Often you get so caught up in your own emotions that you do not bother to think what your better half is feeling,” says Snigdha.
It would be selfish to assume that you are the only one with problems in the relationship. If you realize that even your spouse or partner isn’t exactly happy, then the entire situation requires a very different approach. So first try to be objective and figure out if you are the only one feeling lonely in the relationship or if your partner is also feeling equally invalidated.
2. Figure out the trigger and cause for feeling lonely in a relationship
Every instance of loneliness can have a trigger or a strong reason behind the same. Perhaps earlier, the two of you just could not get enough of each other. You went on constant dates, spoke on the phone all the time and were the forerunners of PDA. But something has changed recently and it is now time to pinpoint what that may be. Think long and hard (list it if you want) about the reasons that make you feel lonely. Is it physical distance? Are you incompatible? Has the communication gap increased? Or is it another person?
There has to be a strong reason why you are in a relationship but feel like a single man or woman. Identify the situations, past or present, that have given rise to these feelings and emotions that pull down your energy. Once you figure out the real reasons, you can work on them.
3. Find out if your feelings are valid
“Are you just feeling lonely or are you actually lonely? This question can answer a lot of doubts,” says Snigdha. “Some people suffer from a sense of victimization and self-pity. When you look at it objectively, their partners might be doing everything to make them happy but they can’t seem to understand. Perhaps they might be putting the blame in the wrong place.”
It may also happen that because of external factors, a person gets so emotionally overwhelmed that they don’t know how to cope. And then they begin to blame the relationship or their partner when actually it’s their internal problems that may be affecting the relationship. In such cases, Snigdha advises going for couple’s therapy or even individual therapy.
Related Reading: How To Not Feel Lonely When You Are Single And Looking For Love
4. Engage with the solution outside of the relationship
The answer to ‘why do I feel so sad and lonely in my relationship?’ might not be with your partner. Too often you put the burden of seeking emotional security on the shoulders of your partner. Because of the emptiness and loneliness you go through, you tend to use the crutches of your partner to seek succor. “But your spouse may not be able to match up or capable of doing it,” says Snigdha. “And then the disappointment with them increases.”
Instead, allow yourself to build resilience and identify where you can seek support. Perhaps the way for you to stop feeling lonely in a relationship lies in seeking a solution outside of it. Make new goals that do not necessarily involve your relationship and focus your attention on them. Gradually, your loneliness will disappear.
5. Develop new hobbies and interests when feeling sad and lonely in a relationship
This point is pretty close to what we discussed in the previous point. When you find yourself spiraling toward loneliness, it is important to distract yourself positively. The best way to do that is to develop new hobbies and interests to distract yourself. Surely, you have a life beyond your relationship.
Think about other aspects of your life and identify things that you love spending time doing. Learn a new art or craft. Set new goals for your career. Join a club and meet new members. Devote your energy to nurturing your creativity. This will lead you to a new path altogether. Perhaps in this way, you might just realize that your loneliness was indeed just boredom that has now been cured once you become more engaged.
6. Have strong relationships that are non-romantic
One of the unfortunate realities of the institution of marriage is that you expect it to be the end-all-and-be-all of your life. You expect this one aspect of your life to fulfill all your needs – physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual.
“It doesn’t work that way,” says Snigdha. “A relationship cannot provide everything you are looking for.” Hence it is essential to develop friendships outside of marriage. If not, you will constantly depend on your partner and start feeling lonely and unloved in a relationship.
Go out for movies, parties, travel together with like-minded people and expand your network. But keep it platonic if your friends are from the opposite sex, lest you complicate matters further.
Related Reading: 18 Top Unhappy Marriage Signs You Need To Know
7. Talk to your spouse
Let your partner know how you feel. It may or may not elicit the response you desire – s/he may understand your state of being or perhaps it might just alienate them further. You have no control over that but talking it out is essential if you want to stop feeling lonely in a relationship.
Perhaps the two of you can work together toward resolving the issues. Even small steps like taking a weekend off or going on a small trip can prove to be effective in bringing back the spark. If nothing else, at least they will be aware of what you are going through.
8. Slow down and take time off if you are feeling lonely and unloved in a relationship
Feeling lonely in relationships can also be a result of being too busy in other aspects of life. Perhaps you are unable to devote time to your relationship because of your career demands or parenting schedules. Perhaps the love has gone from your marriage because of the mundane rigmarole of life. Your work-life balance may have taken a hit and that could be causing these problems in your relationship.
In this case, what you really need is a break. At times, it is a good idea to slow down, take a deep breath, put other things on the back burner and pay attention to your relationship. Instead of getting overwhelmed and overworked because of too much stimulation, give the body and mind the rest and relaxation it deserves.
9. Feeling lonely in a long-distance relationship? Reconnect with self and practice self-love
Long-distance relationships bring a horde of struggles and milestones. And when you are unable to keep up with those, you may start to feel disheartened and perhaps even go on to start feeling lonely in a long-distance relationship. Instead of constantly seeking love and attention from your partner who is far away, divert your energies to yourself.
Feeling lonely in relationships also means you lack self-love. You are probably dependent on others (in this case, your spouse or partner) to make you feel better and be there for you. But since they are so far away, they cannot always do it in the capacity that you expect them to. So stop passing the responsibility for that onto others. Instead, learn to be your own best friend and practice self-love.
When you begin to love your own company, you really would not miss having your partner around you all the time. Be occupied doing the things you love and being around the people you love. Meditate and try connecting with your inner self.
10. Seek professional help
Can a relationship make you feel lonely? Yes. Can that loneliness take a toll on other aspects of your life? Also, yes. The loneliness that persists for a long time can have repercussions on your mental health. It can lead to depression or worse as you begin to withdraw from social situations. You reinforce the belief that you don’t deserve to be happy.
Therapy can help you reset and realign your beliefs at the core. At times, the cure for loneliness lies in reprogramming yourself. A change in attitude can lead to a change in reality. Instead of looking for excuses to remain lonely, with the help of therapy, you can change your thoughts for the better.
11. Try and change your lifestyle
Since loneliness in relationships can be associated with other mental health problems like increased anxiety and masked depression, changing your lifestyle can help in minimizing these issues. Getting good sleep, eating healthy, taking care of your body and mind are all part of a good self-care routine.
Avoid taking alcohol or depending on drugs to alleviate your loneliness. They only make matters worse. Instead, devote the same energy to building a better lifestyle and shaping up your body. The impact won’t be seen immediately but can go a long way in battling feeling lonely and unloved in a relationship.
12. If you are feeling lonely and unloved in a relationship, nurture your other relationships
Life is what you make of it. While your current romantic relationship might not give you the happiness you deserve, gently focus on what is going RIGHT instead of only expending your energy on what is wrong.
Nurture your friendships and start spending more time with friends. Take time out for your children, siblings, and parents. Go out with your friends more often and try to build new friendships. It might not help your current relationship but will definitely help you cope with your loneliness better and realize that there is so much more love out there for you!
13. Do not doubt the love you share
Feeling lonely in relationships has become way too common these days and you can’t be blamed to believe that love has been replaced by loneliness. However, try not to doubt the care, affection and love that brought you together in the first place.
Even though you may feel the physical and emotional distance between you and your partner acutely, it does not mean that the core of your relationship has changed. It can be brought back with effort and determination so unless your love for him or her has completely vanished, or you feel you are in a fake relationship, do not give up hope.
14. Create shared experiences deliberately if you are feeling lonely in a relationship
This is a tough one but if you are serious about bringing back the lost feeling of togetherness, some deliberate steps to bring your partner back into your world are essential. Create moments of shared experiences so you can stop asking yourself, “Why do I feel so sad and lonely with my partner?”
For instance, join them while they are enjoying a game of soccer. Help them in the kitchen. Make small talk. Improve communication in the relationship. In other words, do not hesitate to show that you are attempting to make things work. You may believe that since YOU are the one feeling lonely, you shouldn’t have to make the effort. But the key is – you are not doing it for them, you are doing it for you.
15. Know when it’s time to leave
It sounds drastic, we know, but you can’t fight loneliness beyond a point. You should not walk out of your marriage or long-term relationship without putting in an effort but the storm has to be weathered both ways. Your partner should want to help you as much as you want to help yourself.
If, despite all efforts, either of you lacks the motivation or the intention to work toward making the relationship a happy one, perhaps it is time to end it. In some ways, it is better to go your own way and find happiness than wait for the situation to deteriorate further.
Feeling lonely in a relationship is natural when you stop feeling the connection but there are ways to fight it. Start by talking to your partner, having conversations with your own self and more importantly being willing to go the extra mile in pulling yourself and your relationship out of the morass it has landed in.
A relationship is supposed to make you feel happy and connected. You want to share your love and feel you belong to one another. It is supposed to make you feel secure that there is someone who cares about your feelings.
Feeling lonely in a relationship is becoming increasingly common these days. It can be due to a lack of connection or the lack of emotional and physical intimacy.
It is difficult to say whether being in a relationship or being single is better because each has its own pros and cons. In a relationship, there are a lot of adjustments and compromises one needs to make to ensure it is successful.