Sara felt a gnawing sense of loneliness on most days. She had been married for four years. But for the past year, she felt a lack of connection with her partner. The conversations were limited and demonstrations of affection infrequent. She could not help but wonder, “Why do I feel single in my relationship? What could be the reason behind feeling sad and lonely in a relationship?” And, she was desperate to find a way to cope with these signs of loneliness in a relationship.
Loneliness is a feeling of being isolated or disengaged from others. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, one in ten Americans says they feel lonely or isolated all or most of the time. The common reasons are unhappiness with family, social and community life, or financial stress.
According to the survey, people who are divorced or have never been married (17% each) are more than twice as likely to feel lonely than those who are married (6%). While you may try to assuage feelings of loneliness by dating and getting romantically involved, it is not uncommon to feel lonely in a relationship. It is even more heartrending to be in a long-term relationship and still feel lonely all the time.
Signs that you are alone in a relationship don’t emerge overnight. In fact, the distance creeps in quite organically if a couple doesn’t pay attention to their relationship. After a few years of togetherness, couples run out of topics to talk about other than their daily monotonous conversations about who will drop the kid off at school tomorrow or what items to get from the grocery store.
The spark in the bedroom too fades away with time. Surprises, date nights, and buying presents for your partner boil down only to special occasions. A tendency to take each other for granted automatically sets in. And before you know it, you are sitting on the terrace one night, crying over, “Why do I feel alone when I’m in a relationship?”
Loneliness can lead to premature death due to lower immunity or depression. In fact, feeling depressed and alone while in a relationship could trigger thoughts of suicide. You may not think about it more often but signs that you are alone in a relationship can have severe lasting effects on your mental and physical health. No wonder Sara says, “I am so depressed and lonely in my marriage.”
7 Signs Of Loneliness In A Relationship
You could feel lonely in a relationship for two reasons. The first is because there is something lacking in the relationship. In this case, usually, both partners feel lonely. If you feel lonelier when you are with your partner than when away from them, the relationship is the culprit. Again, if you can recollect a time when you were single but less lonely, it is the relationship that is making you feel lonely.
The second reason is more intrinsic. The partner feeling lonely may be facing personal issues unrelated to the relationship. These may include adverse childhood events that may wire a person to feel lonely. You may feel there is something not quite right about your relationship with your partner. But you may be unable to pinpoint that you are feeling lonely. You may even begin to think that being single is better than feeling alone in a relationship.
Either way, loneliness in a relationship is not a problem that can’t be remedied. But before moving forward and discussing how to handle this situation, you and your partner should focus on cultivating the fundamentals of support and communicating feeling lonely in a relationship. At the same time, it is important to be self-aware as well as keenly aware of your relationship. I know you just want to stop feeling alone in a relationship but first let’s take a look at the seven signs of loneliness in a relationship to understand the why and how of it:
Related Reading: How To Cope With Feeling Lonely In Marriage
1. Reduced communication
I guess you relate every time Charlie Puth says, “We don’t talk anymore.” This is a red flag and can make one or both partners feel lonely. When the conversation is usually banal and limited to “Have you got the car serviced?” and “What shall we have for dinner today?”, it’s a sign the communication between you and your partner is going south.
You are saying, “I don’t feel like I am in a relationship with my boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse.” Do you know why? Whenever there is a misunderstanding or difference of opinion, you try to bottle those feelings up as a strategy to avoid fights or ugly confrontations. In a way, there is a mountain of unaddressed emotions getting piled inside you with a risk of exploding any time soon. Poor communication can result in feeling alone in a relationship.
2. Lack of warmth and concern
One of the signs that you are alone in a relationship is that a cold vibe has taken over your bond. This may happen because of frequent fights and disagreements. Or it may just be a case of an absence of emotional connection and a sense of drifting apart in a relationship. Have stopped checking on each other? Do you and your partner have no idea how the other is doing mentally and physically? Can’t remember the last time you said the three magical words to your partner? I think that speaks volumes about why you are in a relationship but feel alone.
After being in a long-term relationship, people tend to create their own world with a separate circle of friends and work-life, and perhaps a few drinks on Saturday nights. In the process of getting set in their ways, they often forget about the person at home who might need their emotional support to get through a tough day. This can be one of the primary reasons behind feeling sad and lonely in a relationship.
3. Feeling unwanted in a relationship
If you start feeling that you are not really important in your partner’s life, this is a tell-tale sign of loneliness in the relationship. It could be because your partner is very self-sufficient and has several priorities other than the relationship. Sometimes, it could be because your partner does not want to be seen as vulnerable. Perhaps they are not comfortable showing the need for your presence and love.
While a relationship can still survive emotional unavailability, there could be another reason that’s making you feel, “I am tired of feeling alone in my relationship”, which won’t be easy to overcome. We hate to be the ones to break it to you but chances are your partner has fallen out of love with you. It could be a hard truth to accept. Well, if they have stopped putting any effort or showing any interest in making the relationship work, it’s probably already over in their head.
4. Lack of physical intimacy
Infrequent or unsatisfactory sex is a sign of loneliness in a relationship as it could drive a wedge between a couple. It is one of the lesser-known effects of sexless relationships. Many people suffer silently because they can’t talk about the sexual inadequacies in the relationship for the fear of hurting their feelings. For many couples, it’s the dying flame of passion that leads them to wonder, “Why do I feel single in my relationship?”
Physical intimacy is not only about sex, the non-sexual intimate touches are also just as important in keeping the relationship alive. When you hold hands, gently caress their hair, or wrap them in your arms as they are upset, your brain releases love hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These feel-good hormones alleviate mental stress and help make a relationship emotionally stronger. If partners stop expressing their love physically and hugs and kisses become a rarity, it can indicate the growing signs that you are alone in a relationship.
5. Different interests
After some years, you may realize that you and your partner have dissimilar interests and are not really compatible. This incongruity may make you feel that being single is better than feeling alone in a relationship. Perhaps in the newness and excitement of your love, you never thought much about long-term compatibility. But as years pass by, you may discover that you two are completely different people.
Your partner’s love for loud metal music disturbs your quiet reading time. When you travel with your partner, you prefer to visit all the significant sites like the museums, palaces, and mausoleums but they always insist on chilling on the beach with a bottle of beer. As a consequence, you may leave home together but end up having a solo trip after reaching the destination. No wonder you find yourself thinking, “I don’t feel like I am in a relationship with my boyfriend or girlfriend.”
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6. Increased reliance on social media
This is another sign of loneliness in a relationship. Have you ever thought about how social media affects your relationship in an adverse way? Feeling alone in a relationship and being unable to find that comforting connection with your partner, you may increasingly seek connections on social media. But considerable time spent on social media may contribute to greater loneliness and dissatisfaction with your relationship.
This is because you may compare your relationship with that of others on social media and feel its inadequacies keenly. For instance, you may compare how birthdays, wedding anniversaries, or Valentine’s Day are celebrated by others and feel that your partner does not value you enough. So, next time when you realize, “I am in a relationship but feel alone”, consider this as a vital sign.
7. Dependence on screen-based activities
If the evenings are usually spent watching a show on Netflix, it could be a sign that there is not much else you share as a couple. Sometimes the partner feeling lonely turns to the screen for stimulation and satisfaction. If you are the lonely partner, you may have felt stirred by scenes or songs about loneliness in a relationship.
I think you would highly relate to the story of Her as it is a portrayal of the connection between modern relationships and loneliness – the protagonist Theodore falls for Samantha who is basically the voice of his Artificial Intelligence system. Give this a shot! If you too can’t deal with the thought of “I am tired of feeling alone in my relationship” anymore, it will give you a boost to finally get up and do something to change this situation.
Causes For Loneliness In A Relationship
Why do I feel alone when I’m in a relationship? There may be several factors at play here, and you have to examine your unique circumstances to identify the root cause of this loneliness. Apart from incompatibility, one or both partners’ preoccupation with work is a factor that leads to loneliness in a relationship. Feeling lonely in a long-distance relationship is understandable. When partners are physically separated and face-to-face communication is absent, it’s only natural that they may be left feeling alone in a relationship.
According to a March 2020 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, partner relationships have been found to be the most powerful protective factor against loneliness. However, the study says, loneliness might be promoted through a partner relationship if it is seen as unsatisfying or of low quality.
In cases where one partner is suffering from a serious illness, the caregiver can be left grappling with feelings of sadness and loneliness. This also applies to mental health issues such as depression or instances of substance abuse. If the relationship is physically or emotionally abusive, it can get very lonely for the victim. (In this case, being single is better than feeling alone in a relationship.) Addiction to cell phones also causes loneliness in a relationship. An external change such as having a baby may make you evaluate your relationship.
Whatever the reason may be, the moment you notice signs that you are alone in a relationship, you should try to communicate feeling lonely in a relationship either with your partner, a friend, or in couples therapy. If you do not get the support you need at this stressful time, it may increase your level of stress and decrease your self-confidence at the same time.
Related Reading: Feeling Unwanted In A Relationship – How To Cope?
How To Cope With Feeling Lonely In A Relationship
Whether you are trying to cope with loneliness in a long-distance relationship or one where you see each other every day, here are some ways of handling the situation. If there are signs that you are alone in a relationship, these tips would definitely make you feel better.
1. Start a conversation
Talk to your partner about feeling lonely without being accusatory or judgmental because that would only make him or her feel defensive. It is important to share your emotions as only then can you discuss a possible solution. Perhaps you need to get away for a while and reconnect. Or, you need to set aside time for each other each day to deepen the bond. You may need to give time and attention to reignite your sex life.
Related Reading: 12 Completely Valid Reasons To End A Relationship – No Matter What the World Says
2. Improve communication
You can make it a point to improve communication by sending an affectionate text to your partner during the workday. Ask about his or her day in the evening and listen with interest to the response. You could also try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. This will increase your empathy and make you more patient about any shortcomings. Create moments and situations where you can bond and connect emotionally to stop feeling sad and lonely in a relationship.
3. Seek professional help
If you are unable to make headway in a conversation with your partner, you may need to go to a couple’s counselor to sort out the underlying triggers behind the loneliness. And, find solutions with the counselor’s guidance. Feeling alone in a relationship can be resolved with the help of professionals. If you need any professional help on this matter, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel of experts are here for you.
4. Reach out to friends and family
Hang out with close friends to deal with the vacuum you perceive in your relationship. Take a break and visit family. Being with people who are close to you will not just be comforting but it could also help you gain perspective and clarity about feelings of loneliness. Spending time with loved ones is a way to stop feeling alone in a relationship.
5. Try yoga or meditation
If you are feeling lonely, it does not mean you have to constantly seek company. Yoga, meditation, and practicing mindfulness help you introspect and get in touch with yourself. They make you feel more comfortable with being alone. Eventually, you will grow a sense of self-love that will help you mend your relationship.
6. Develop a hobby
This could be a good solution whether you are intrinsically lonely because of your own personality or due to your relationship being deficient in some way. Pursuing a hobby will keep you pleasantly occupied, tap your creativity and help you connect with like-minded people. Focusing on exercise and volunteering for a cause close to your heart are some other options that you can consider to stay productively occupied.
It’s probably worse being lonely in a relationship than being lonely when you are single. But there are ways to cope. There are ways to address this loneliness. One is to work on the relationship. That’s possible if both partners love and value each other.
Lack of compatibility and dissimilar interests is a major cause of loneliness in a relationship. When you are unable to share joyful activities, it can make one or both partners feel lonely.
You feel lonely in a relationship when you feel distanced from your partner. There is a loss of emotional connectedness and intimacy. You may feel unloved and as if you cannot communicate effectively with your partner.
Take a break from your partner. Spend time with friends or family members you are close to. They can give you understanding and comfort.
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