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 connect with her partner. The conversations were limited and demonstrations of affection infrequent. Why was this happening? What could be the reason behind feeling sad and lonely in a relationship? And, how could she 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 frequent loneliness 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. In fact, it can be heartrending to be in a long-term relationship and still feel lonely.
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.
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. Feeling alone in a relationship can have severe lasting effects on a person. 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 think that being single is better than feeling alone in a relationship.
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:
Related Reading: How To Cope With Feeling Lonely In Marriage
1. Reduced communication
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 not healthy. Poor communication can result in feeling alone in a relationship.
2. Lack of warmth and concern
A cold vibe may enter the relationship. This may be 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. 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 could be a 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 and does not show the need for your presence and love.
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. Also, if partners stop expressing their love physically, and hugs and kisses become rarer, it can indicate growing loneliness.
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. Now you’re wondering how to stop feeling alone in a relationship.
6. 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.
Related Reading: How to Rekindle a Relationship? 5 Best Ways
7. Increased reliance on social media
This is another sign of loneliness in a relationship. Feeling alone in a relationship and 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 you are not valued sufficiently by your partner.
Causes For Loneliness In A Relationship
There may be a single cause or more than one at play. 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’re feeling alone in a relationship.
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.
If you do not get the support you need at this stressful time, it may make you feel very lonely.
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. You can stop feeling alone by implementing them in your life.
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 and time and attention to reignite your sex life.
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.
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.
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 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.