feeling sad and lonely in a relationship
“I am so depressed and lonely in my marriage” or “I feel lost in my marriage” – while sad, this is not an uncommon experience in marriages (and even long-term relationships). In fact, feeling depressed and alone in a relationship is so common that it is considered normal. But before we address why you’re depressed in your relationship and talk about what can be done to overcome the feeling, let’s understand what it means to feel this way in a marriage.
Feeling sad and lonely in a relationship does not mean that you don’t love your partner or that you’re stuck in a loveless marriage. Being married but lonely means that you no longer feel emotionally connected or close to your partner. You’re talking but no longer communicating your needs, concerns, or fears. You’re probably not fighting or yelling at each other either because you have figured that there is no point in doing so or maybe it’s just easier and more convenient to not bother yourselves about anything.
To help you understand the reasons why you feel alone in marriage, the signs of emotional abandonment in marriage, and figure out ways to deal with or overcome such a situation, we spoke to psychologist Pragati Sureka (MA in Clinical Psychology, professional credits from Harvard Medical School), who specializes in addressing issues like anger management, parenting issues, abusive and loveless marriage through emotional ability resources.
What Causes One To Feel Depressed And Lonely In A Marriage?
Have you ever heard of the lonely wife syndrome? It happens when a wife’s needs, concerns, and desires are completely ignored by her husband. That’s when a wife often starts to say, “I feel emotionally disconnected from my husband.” She yearns for intimacy and connection but her husband chooses to not respond or ignores her when she expresses her concerns to him.
But, if he continues to show disregard for her needs or dismisses them as mere complaints and becomes distant from her, the wife may give up because there’s no scope for the situation to change, and start feeling alone in a marriage. This may lead her to choose to divorce or walk away from her marriage. However, this is not a gender-specific issue. A man can also feel lonely and isolated in a marriage if his wife continues to shoot down his need for a connection or prioritizes other aspects of life over the relationship she shares with her spouse.
If you feel lonely in the relationship, it’s probably because there is a lack of intimacy and a disregard for or a certain ignorance of your needs. Emotional support is crucial to maintaining a marriage, the lack of which could spell doom for the companionship in marriage or, at the very least, leave you feeling sad and lonely. There could be other reasons also, ranging from responsibilities to unrealistic expectations and lack of vulnerability. Let’s explore 6 such underlying issues behind these feelings.
Related Reading: 7 Signs Of Loneliness In A Relationship And How To Cope
1. Loss of emotional and physical intimacy
It’s a myth that you should never feel alone in a relationship. Even in the most healthy relationships, there are times when partners drift apart or start to feel they are married but single. They begin to feel like they’re in an empty marriage. It’s important to not let it grow into a kind of distance that leads to loss of emotional and physical intimacy. This can further escalate into complaints such as “he/she never asks me about myself anymore”. This issue commonly occurs because of,
- Communication issues
- Financial issues
- Lack of sex
- Incessant arguments
Explaining why so many people rue, “I am so depressed and lonely in my marriage”, Pragati says, “At times, boredom or lack of intimacy (physical and emotional) is the reason behind people feeling this way. They haven’t explored intimacy or are not comfortable sharing things about themselves. If partners don’t talk to each other enough, it’s a sign of lack of interest making them feel isolated and disappointed. Lack of sex or physical intimacy also leads to loneliness.”
2. Social media comparisons
In today’s times, everyone is glued to social media. People are constantly sharing updates about their personal lives instead of finding space to spend time together as married couples. From meals and date nights to vacations and everything in between is shared online. Everything is on social media.
This leads to a comparison trap, which can make you feel as if there is something lacking in your marriage and wonder, “Is it normal to feel lonely in a marriage?” It turns into a cycle where,
- Couples start comparing the reality of their relationships to the airbrushed version of other people’s
- This creates a distance between them
- Thus, leading to feelings of loneliness
- This sense of isolation can heighten the degree of comparison
Pragati agrees, and adds, “One of my clients, who was in a committed relationship, said she felt jealous whenever she looked at other people’s perfect relationships on social media. She felt that magic was lacking in her relationship. When people start comparing or expecting their marriage/relationship to be like those that they see on social media, a sense of loneliness sets in.”
3. Parental and work responsibilities are getting in the way
Sometimes, couples become so busy with their professional lives or get drowned in fulfilling parental and family duties that they forget their responsibilities toward each other and start to feel and say “I am depressed in my relationship”. They forget that they are a couple and that they shouldn’t be neglecting their relationship. Children and careers are important but it would help if they realize that spending time with each other and investing in their marriage is equally important, if not more.
Pragati elaborates, “ A couple’s commitments can become so overwhelming that they don’t have time for each other. Managing a career, running a home, raising children – all of these responsibilities require a lot of multi-tasking (especially for women) and take up so much time and energy that, by the end of it, they don’t have any left to give to their partner. This makes their spouse feel unwanted, isolated, misunderstood, and lonely.”
Always being the caregiver and not receiving any affection in return can be emotionally draining and exhausting and often make you feel alone in marriage. Family and work pressures can be the major reasons behind you and your wife or husband feeling depressed and alone.
Busy schedules, caring for the kids, juggling other family responsibilities… These leave you with barely any time together, let alone any alone time. You then tend to drift apart and eventually go into the “I am so depressed and lonely in my marriage” zone.
4. Dependent on each other for feeling happy and complete
Still asking yourself, “Why am I so depressed in my marriage” or “Why do I end up feeling sad and lonely in a relationship”? This marital loneliness is present probably because you’re dependent on your partner for your happiness. You don’t feel happy and whole on your own maybe because there is a lack of self-love, which is why you depend on your spouse to make you feel complete. It’s a sign that you’re probably going through issues of your own. This often leads you to wonder if you have an empty marriage.
Pragati explains, “The root cause of this tendency is low self-esteem. They feel like they aren’t good enough, therefore, they need validation from someone else to feel good about themselves. Partners need to understand how they feel about themselves as a person, not as someone’s spouse. There could be a lot of unhealed hurts from childhood that made them feel like they aren’t good enough.”
5. Unrealistic expectations
Pragati says, “Unrealistic expectations are a major cause of loneliness in marriage.” These expectations can include,
- Expecting your spouse to always make you happy
- Always agreeing to what you say
- Meeting needs that can’t be reasonably met, or
- Spending all of their time with you
It might be detrimental to your relationship to expect your partner’s life to revolve around you. If you expect your partner to fulfill or validate you all the time, you might just end up feeling stuck in the “I am so depressed in my marriage” phase.
Related Reading: Depressed Husband: Here’s How To Help A Partner With Depression
6. Lack of vulnerability
Pragati says, “If people do not share their deepest feelings with their spouse due to fear that the latter won’t understand, it can wreak havoc on a marriage.” If you refuse to be vulnerable in front of your partner or show them your authentic self, you might end up feeling isolated in the marriage because you might not have anyone else to share your feelings with.
You and your partner share a life together. Your spouse is probably the person you are closest to. If you are married but lonely, it probably means that you find it difficult to express your emotions or talk about your fears and dreams with your partner. It then becomes incredibly hard to understand and be understood.
Feeling sad and lonely in a marriage can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being causing a plethora of health problems. It can affect your daily life, and also lead to,
- Poor eating habits
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- Alcohol and substance use
- Stress and self-destructive thoughts
Loneliness is known to cause mental health concerns such as,
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory lapses
It also increases your risk of getting a stroke or contracting cardiovascular disease. We don’t mean to scare you. All we are saying is don’t ignore the “I am depressed in my relationship” feeling, whether it’s stemming from you or your spouse.
What Can You Do If You Feel Depressed And Lonely In Your Marriage?
If you are feeling alone in a marriage, know that you aren’t the only one struggling. Believe it or not, loneliness in a marriage is real and more common than you think. A 2018 survey found that one in three adults above the age of 45 years was lonely in their relationship. Another survey by the Pew Research Center claimed that 28% of people are dissatisfied with their marriage or family life.
So, is it normal to feel lonely in a marriage? Well, not really. Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it should be normalized. If you’re in the “I am so depressed and lonely in my marriage” state, we encourage you to not accept it as your fate instead work on improving the quality of your connection with your spouse.
Yes, it’s possible, no matter how long you have been feeling disconnected from one another. It’s also possible to find answers to how to deal with feeling empty or how to fill the void of loneliness in your marriage. But only if you’re willing to put in a little bit of work. You can get back to being emotionally close to your partner, finding the lost intimacy, sharing the daily absurdities of life and laughing at them together, being vulnerable in front of each other, and just bonding over what both of you find joy in. Here are 5 expert-backed tips that can help you get there:
1. Talk to your partner about it
Communication is key to building a healthy relationship and preventing the “I don’t feel connected to my wife/husband” feeling. Talking to your partner helps in multiple ways including,
- Resolving conflict
- Understanding each other better
- Being more vulnerable with each other
- Increasing the chances of having your needs met
If your loneliness stems from a lack of communication, it’s high time you have an honest conversation with your spouse otherwise you’ll be stuck complaining that s/he doesn’t ask about my day anymore.
- Set aside half an hour for yourselves when you’re not distracted by technology or conversations about the kids
- Converse like two adults who want to reconnect with each other and build a certain emotional intimacy
- Avoid playing the blame game. Don’t make accusatory statements like “You never do this”. Instead, say, “I’ve been feeling very lonely lately and would like to talk to you about it. Would you be willing to discuss it?” This way, your spouse doesn’t feel threatened. The idea is to connect, not accuse.
2. Listen to what your partner has to say
After you’ve shared your feelings with your partner and told them that you’ve been feeling sad and lonely in the relationship, listen to what they have to say on the matter. Otherwise, it will only augment the emotional disconnection in marriage. You never know, they might be feeling the same too. They are probably feeling insignificant in a marriage as well. Also, observe how they react to what you have to say. If both of you want to make things right and work toward building a healthy relationship, then you can talk about figuring out and fixing the problem.
3. Spend quality time together
This is one of the most important first steps to get over the “I am so depressed and lonely in my marriage” or “My wife/my husband and I don’t do anything together” situation. Spending more time together might help in,
- Re-establishing or rebuilding the lost physical and emotional intimacy
- Might pave the way for constructive and meaningful conversation or
- Could help you reminisce about old times and the love shared
Pragati says, “When partners become distant, they begin to do their own thing. There’s very little that binds them together. Spending some intended, mindful time together is crucial for dealing with loneliness in a marriage. Take time out to connect with each other, enjoy moments together, and have shared experiences.”
Find ways to spend time with each other, such as
- Going on a romantic date
- Cooking together
- Watching TV together
- Meeting family members together
- Taking a vacation together
- Joining an activity class,
- Talking about how you spent the day
Make sure there are no distractions. Focus on spending time with each other without letting work and family pressures get in the way. Again, feeling lonely in the context of a relationship doesn’t mean you are surviving a loveless marriage, it’s a loss of spending quality time and connecting emotionally.
4. Seek therapy
Pragati recommends therapy for working through the feeling of loneliness in a marriage. “Getting help from a licensed professional counselor or a marriage therapist can help break down communication barriers or address any underlying challenges that have been left unaddressed.” If you are lonely and depressed in your marriage and are looking for help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced and licensed therapists is here for you.
Sometimes, the involvement of a third party can help you understand yourself better and see things from a different perspective. It especially helps if you suspect there is emotional abuse behind you feeling this way. If you’re suffering from the lonely wife syndrome or are a husband feeling lonely in the marriage, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor will be able to help you and your partner identify the problem behind being married but lonely and improve communication between both parties.
Related Reading: 12 Characteristics Of A Successful Marriage
5. Find your own circle and interests
You are responsible for yourself. You need to feel satisfied and complete on your own. You cannot expect your spouse to fill that void. If your loneliness doesn’t stem from your relationship, it’s probably got to do with your own sense of self. Your loneliness could be a sign that you lack strong friendships, interests, a sense of community, and satisfaction that a person usually needs to feel complete on their own.
- Practice self-care
- Learn how to love yourself
- Prioritize yourself
- Build your own circle
- Socialize, travel, and do things you find joy in
- Reconnect with friends and family, and develop hobbies and interests
- Work on your career and professional goals.
- Work toward being content with yourself.
- Feeling disconnected and lonely does not mean that you don’t love your partner or are stuck in a loveless marriage
- Loss of emotional or physical intimacy, sense of low self-esteem, unhealthy dependency, and expectations are among a few of the causes of feeling this way
- Communication and spending time together are key to improving the situation
It may be common to feel this way in a marriage but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. It also doesn’t mean that you have to accept it. Communication is key to improving the situation. Once you’ve expressed your concerns to your partner, see how they react or what they do to make you feel heard, loved, and secure in the marriage.
No marriage is perfect. There will always be ups and downs. But as long as both partners are willing to step up and resolve conflict, are committed to and in love with each other, and make an effort to build a healthier relationship, there’s no hurdle they can’t overcome, including loneliness.
This post was updated in June 2023
It is common to feel alone in a marriage, for sure. Every relationship goes through phases where either partner experiences bouts of loneliness and a lack of emotional connection with their spouse. But that doesn’t mean that it is normal. You shouldn’t have to accept or expect to feel this way. Talk to your partner, and seek help if you feel, “My wife or my husband wants to be alone all the time.” Otherwise, it could cause long-term damage to your wellbeing.
Loneliness in a marriage is a common phenomenon. According to the 2018 AARP National Survey published in an American journal, one in three married people above the age of 45 years is lonely. It indicates that there’s some underlying issue in the relationship or with yourself that needs to be addressed. There could probably be an emotional gap in your relationship or you might not be happy with yourself, which is why loneliness has crept into your marriage.
It is possible to feel depressed in a marriage and to often say,“ my husband/wife makes me depressed” if have compatibility issues. A 2018 study conducted on 152 women claimed that 12% of them felt depressed after their wedding with some dealing with clinical depression. Partners who deal with arguments, fights, and disagreements on a daily basis are more likely to feel depressed in their marriage.