There are several reasons why a person might be feeling alone in a relationship, including trust issues, attachment issues, abuse in past relationships or poor communication styles. By communicating with your partner, exploring intimacy with them and investing in yourself through new hobbies and self-care, you can begin to heal and feel more connected.
Why You Might Feel Lonely in a Relationship
Feeling sad and alone in a relationship can often be confusing. Even when you’re able to identify the feelings you’re having, it may be difficult to understand what, exactly, has made you feel this way or why it may be happening.
It’s not uncommon to feel lonely in a relationship, and helping to understand where your loneliness comes from can be helpful. A recent survey shows that 28% of people are dissatisfied with their family lives and feel lonely.1 And after the last two years of living through a pandemic, a Harvard study shows that 36% of Americans report feeling lonely.2
Common experiences that may leave you feeling alone in your marriage or relationship include:
- Lack of communication: If you aren’t communicating with your significant other, you may feel lonely. When you do communicate, it might be about superficial things and will likely not have much depth.
- Not feeling any warmth or love in the relationship: When you don’t feel loved or as though your significant other is concerned about you, you may start to feel lonely. This loneliness may lead to seeking love or attention from other sources if it continues for a long period of time.
- Having different goals or expectations: When two people are headed in different directions, they feel disconnected and detached from their partner.
- Inadequate quality time together: At the most basic level, if you are physically separate from your partner, maintaining a strong connection can be a struggle. Other times, you can be present with the person, but the time lacks quality to bind you together.
- Lack of shared interests: If you don’t share similar interests, you may find yourself attending events and activities alone. This can lead to feeling like you don’t share your whole life or your whole self with your partner.
- Lack of intimacy: A lack of or fear of intimacy can often make you feel undesirable or make you worry about what your partner feels for you. Over time, this might lead to feelings of insecurity and jealousy within the relationship.
- Distance from each other: When partners are separated by distance, it can lead to feeling sad and upset. It takes time and work to build a strong relationship and distance does not always allow for this.
- Abuse issues: In any relationship where there is physical or emotional abuse, the partner who is being abused may feel lonely. This can often lead the abused partner to emotionally distance themselves from their abusive partner.
How to Know If Loneliness Stems From You or From Your Relationship
Plenty of people experience loneliness, but they may struggle to identify the source. Does it come from within or from a poor relationship? Answering this question can prove challenging, so you should consider other periods of your life. If you often find yourself feeling lonely, regardless of relationship status, it could be you. If you rarely found yourself being lonely previously, it could be the relationship.
This loneliness could be easy to correct, or it could be a sign of greater issues. In either case, appropriately identifying the situation is key.
Signs of Loneliness in a Relationship
Loneliness can look different for different people. Some may experience it as a physical hurt or pain, while others may feel unwanted or unappreciated.
Some common signs of feeling alone in a relationship include:
- Feeling distanced from your partner
- Feeling like your partner doesn’t care about you
- Avoiding time with your partner or feeling like they’re avoiding spending time with you
- Feeling as though your partner’s phone or social media account is more important than you
- Being in sexless marriage or relationship, devoid of intimacy
- Having unmet needs
- Having a partner with intense anxiety or depression that keeps them from engaging in the relationship
- Feeling a sense that you’re the last person to know or be told anything
11 Tips to Deal With Feeling Alone in a Relationship
Identifying why you’re feeling lonely in your relationship is the first step to managing and overcoming it. By spending time talking with your significant other and investing in yourself and others who are close to you, you will begin to get closer to your partner and others, and feel some of the loneliness subside.
The following are nine tips to overcome feeling alone in a relationship:
1. Talk About It With Your Partner
While talking to your partner might be a difficult thing to do, it is necessary. Your partner cannot read your mind to know what you are thinking and feeling. Too often we expect those around us to know what we want and need without us saying anything.
A few suggestions to help make that talk easier are:
- Pick a time where neither of you are too tired or irritable, and when you won’t be interrupted
- ASK for what you want. Your partner might thank you for it.
- Share what you are feeling without blaming. Tackle this as if you and your partner are on the same team and the loneliness is the problem to be solved.
- Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Sometimes it’s hard to bear our souls, but it can often bring about a closer sense of connection.
2. Don’t Expect Your Significant Other to Meet All Your Needs
To hope that another human can wholly fulfill and meet our needs is asking too much of anyone. While your partner may meet some of your needs, you need to make sure that you have other outlets to feel fulfilled.
You may be putting too much on your significant other and expecting them to meet all of your needs if:
- You don’t spend time with anyone else
- You only ask for help from your partner
- You won’t go to events without your partner
- You need your partner’s opinion on everything
3. Spend Time With Your Other Friends
Another outlet that may help you meet your needs is to spend time with your friends. Research has shown a person needs between three to five people in their circle to have the greatest life satisfaction.3 Spending time with friends allows you to have different experiences and opinions shared. This can lead to greater feelings of contentment.
Effortless ways to spend time with friends are:
- Invite them to your house
- Go out for lunch
- Connect after work
- Spend time working out at the gym together
- Watch a movie together
4. Find a Hobby to Practice on Your Own
Many times people lose themselves in relationships and forget that they are an individual in addition to part of a couple. Take time to do those things you enjoy. If you have forgotten what makes you happy, take the time to figure it out. Whether it’s painting, dancing, or hunting, doing these things will keep you feeling refreshed and will help improve your relationship.
Some ways to hone in on your hobbies are:
- Identify what you used to do and see if you still enjoy it
- Think about activities you have said look like fun
- Identify an area that you would like to improve in
- Identify whether you need an activity that is a little more adventurous or more calming and relaxing
5. Invest in Yourself
Take time to get to know yourself. Take the time to learn more about how you think, learn, relate, and thrive as a person. Explore a few self-help books that resonate with you that might make you grow.
To find a self-help book that’s right for you:
- Identify the area you see a need to grow or want to improve in
- Take time to look at various authors who are experts on the subject
- Find a book that has a workbook so you can engage and apply it to your life
6. Develop Nourishing Self-Care Practices
When you practice self-care, you tend to feel happier. Take the time to get that haircut, get that massage, or spend time exercising. You will feel better about yourself and your partner will feel that.
Some ways to practice self-care include:
- Taking a long bath
- Listening to your favorite music
- Getting your nails done
- Getting a massage
- Going to the gym
- Reading a book
7. Try Couples Therapy
Sometimes the loneliness in us might stem from deeper issues, such as abandonment or attachment issues. Find a couples therapist who is trained to deal with these issues and address them to begin healing.
Tips to find a therapist include:
- Using an online directory to filter search results to find someone offering couples counseling who is a good fit for you.
- Call your insurance company to find out who is in network in your area
- Once you find a therapist, be open and honest about the needs you see in your life
8. Explore Intimacy With Your Partner
While men and women relate differently to intimacy, the lack of intimacy can bring on a sense of loneliness for both partners. Women may find it hard to be physically intimate when they are not feeling emotionally connected. Men, on the other hand, often equate sexual intercourse with intimacy. It is good in a relationship to explore both areas.
Some ways to explore intimacy include:
- Taking time to say “I love you”
- Doing a chore that you don’t normally do
- Taking time to write a note to your partner
- Exploring touch other than sexual touch
- Exploring new sexual positions
- Taking time to show appreciation and respect for each other
9. Take a Social Media Break
While social media can help some people connect, it also can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially for those who have low self-esteem. Frequently viewing snapshots of others’ lives often leads people to think that others have more interesting lives, are smarter, more interesting or have more friends.4 This, in turn, leads to compounded feelings of loneliness.
Some ways to use social media in a productive way include:
- Limiting the number of people on your social media account. If you do not have a personal relationship with them, then do not ‘friend’ them.
- Connecting with those you know to tell them what is happening in your life and to share their events.
- Using social media to set up a time to connect in real life
- Using it to stay in touch with those who are physically distanced
10. Volunteer in Your Community
Giving back to your community is one of the best ways to build a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and connection to your surroundings. Picking up litter, walking dogs from the shelter, or helping to refurbish a playground may not seem like an appealing way to spend a weekend, but it can do wonders to get you feeling like you belong.
This feeling of connection can be the cure for loneliness. Since you are finding fulfillment outside of the relationship, you could ask less from your partner.
11. Stay Physically Connected
When some people feel lonely, they isolate more and withdraw from physical or emotional closeness. This reaction only worsens loneliness. Choose to go in the opposite direction by making more time to physically connect to your partner. Sex may be important, but other physical expressions of love and intimacy are essential. Hugs, hand-holding, public displays of affection, and other acts of love can combat loneliness.
Loneliness in relationships happens for many reasons. Being willing to be honest with yourself about why you are feeling sad and lonely is the first step in fixing it. Once you have identified why you feel this way, you can take the steps to correct it. It requires work, but in the end, you will find yourself living a more fulfilled life with your partner once it’s addressed.