If you’re married but lonely, take inventory of what might be making you feel this way. The experience can stem from many things, such as being at odds with your partner or having no physical and/or emotional intimacy. Once you know why you’re feeling lonely, you can take steps to address it, which may include working on communication, showing more appreciation, or consulting with a mental health professional.
Is It Normal to Feel Alone in a Marriage?
Feeling alone in a marriage is common, but feeling that way in a relationship of any kind is not normal. Like with any marital or relational issue, it’s important to consider what is at the root cause of feeling lonely and how your partner responds to you when you share your feelings. It can be a sign of other underlying issues that should be addressed so additional issues don’t develop later on. Working on a connection every day is important to ensure that both people in a marriage are feeling seen, heard, understood and validated.
Signs of Being Married and Lonely
Signs of loneliness in marriage include:
- Feeling disconnected from your partner
- Feeling lonely when they are around
- Unable to share feelings or be heard by your partner
- Lacking quality time
- Poor physical intimacy
- Communication issues
- Personal health issues
- Feeling the effort in your marriage is one-sided
- Poor boundaries
Why Are People Lonely in Marriage?
Loneliness in relationships and marriages can occur for many reasons and stems from a sense of disconnection, invalidation, resentment, or isolation. Ultimately, anything that results in distance, misunderstanding, or unresolved issues can result in withdrawal and loneliness.
Having expectations in a marriage is important, but it’s also important to be mindful of your expectations and how realistic they may be for your partner to uphold. We may have a different idea of what expectations should exist in a marriage, so discussing this with your partner is important. Understanding one another and expectations of what they are and are not able to do is important, and being mindful of having expectations that exceed any partner’s ability is also crucial to consider.
Comparisons With Social Media
Social media can be toxic to relationships. When we scroll down pages of social media content, we see the highlights of the best moments in people’s lives. This doesn’t mean that everything you see is in fact the reality. Behind the photo sessions and family announcements are often arguments, hard feelings, repair, and many other tasks to work on the relationship. Comparing yourself and your marriage to social media can trigger you into a depression about the state of your marriage and lead you to assume the best about others when every marriage is difficult at times.
Overwhelming Work & Family Responsibilities
The day-to-day stressors of work and family can make it hard to connect with your partner and leave one or both of you feeling disconnected. It’s not unusual to see this happen, but sharing your experience, your hopes, and what you miss about your marriage can help to improve it. Communication is key here. Work and family responsibilities won’t disappear, so it’s important to recognize the demands on your time and space and make sure you are preserving enough time and space for your partner.
Missing Connection & Intimacy
“A person can be physically present but emotionally distant which can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. The primary factors that contribute to disruption in relationships include lack of intimacy, sexual needs not getting met, loss of communication around issues that are important to you, partner not listening to and responding to what you say and feel. All of these factors create a sense of isolation and loneliness.” – Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW
Lack of Vulnerability
“As a couples therapist I most often see partners feeling lonely when they are not able to be fully transparent with each other. Lots of us grew up thinking that conflict was bad and that ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.’ Ironically, if you don’t air out grievances or talk about unpleasant things in a marriage, what happens is you end up feeling lonely. Humans need to feel fully ‘seen’ by each other in order to feel close.” – Krista Jordan, PhD
What to Do If You’re Feeling Lonely in Your Marriage
Feeling lonely in a marriage is difficult, but there are lots of potential ways to change how you’re feeling, including talking about it with your partner, spending more quality time together, working together on communication and common goals, and seeing a counselor together if you need to.
Here are 13 tips for how to deal with being married and lonely:
1. Talk About Your Loneliness With Your Partner
“If you are feeling lonely in the marriage it may be time to have a discussion to share what might help with your feelings. It is always good to start these conversations gently. Blame will lead to arguments and less understanding. A good way to start the conversation might sound like, ‘I’m not sure if this is just me going through a phase, but I haven’t felt as connected to you lately and I miss you. Have you felt this? What are your thoughts?’ It is good to discuss what the other person is doing that does make you feel loved so they can focus more on these areas.” – Dian Grier, LCSW
2. Figure Out What Changed in the Marriage
It’s important to look back and think about patterns, communication styles, and changes that may have happened. Maybe one of you got a new job, maybe it was a move that was made or perhaps when you had your second child. It can be hard to pinpoint what exact moment things changed so it’s productive to think about patterns and lifestyle shifts that may have taken a toll on the marriage.
3. Work on Your Communication
Ask questions. Be curious about your partner’s day, how they are feeling, what they’re struggling with or stressed about, what they’re excited for or looking forward to, what their goals are, and how you can be helpful to them. This will help you and your partner begin to share more and improve your understanding of each other’s experience in the world.
4. Practice Active Listening
“Listening to one another, really listening, even if you disagree, validating your partner and conveying that you understand even if you disagree. When communicating about your emotions allow yourself to be vulnerable and do not judge one another. This can create a deeper bond in a couple.” – Lydia Antonatos, LMHC
5. Avoid Playing the Blame Game
When one person in a marriage is feeling lonely and upset, both people in the marriage are losing. Marriage is a team sport, and blaming your teammate won’t help you both succeed. It’s important to be mindful of your feelings, work to understand them, and communicate them in a healthy manner. It’s also important that your partner is receptive and takes the time to hear you out and consider your needs and emotions. Working with a couples therapist can help you with this task as well.
6. Make Sure to Laugh With Your Partner
“Bring humor into the relationship. Not everything has to be so serious. Many times, couples are so stressed that they forget to just laugh or have fun and be playful with each other.” – Lydia Antonatos, LMHC
7. Make a Plan For Connection & Rituals
“Create a plan on how you can connect more. Relationships must be intentional, they do not just happen. Building ‘rituals of connection” (as coined by Dr. John Gottman) can be a great way to start connecting and decrease feelings of loneliness. Rituals can be something you do daily (such as finding time in the evening to share your days with one another and/or snuggle on the couch) or they can be weekly (such as date night). It is important to have daily and weekly rituals for you and your partner to stay connected.
Here are a few recommended rituals if you’re married but lonely:
- At some point in time in the morning, find time for a 6-second kiss with your partner, and find out one interesting thing that they are going to do that day.
- In the evening, find 20-30 minutes to share about your days and support one another in all of life’s external stressors.
- Find 5-10 minutes a day for some physical affection and verbal exchange of appreciation.
- Date night weekly (yes, you can still have date night during a pandemic!) You may need to get creative with this one right now. For example, there are several online companies that will ship you everything you need to have a fun date night in the comfort of your own home.” – Kimberly Panganiban, LMFT
“Find an activity that you can do together (go out with other couples, have a date night, hobby, take a cooking/dancing class, work-out, binge watch a show together, travel, etc.) and commit to it. Having intention is the key. Many couples talk about doing things together but hardly ever do.” – Lydia Antonatos, LMHC
8. Practice Acts of Kindness Toward Your Partner
Engage in small acts of kindness or do favors for your partner to show them you care. For example, make them a meal, clean up their dishes, run an errand for them, or help them with a task they’re struggling with.
“Be spontaneous, have a picnic and go watch the sunset, surprise your partner with something they are not expecting (have breakfast in bed, leave a little note on the nightstand, bring them their favorite food, go to a hotel even for one night to break the routine).” – Lydia Antonatos, LMHC
9. Express Appreciation & Gratitude
“Show gratitude towards one another, tell each other how important each one is in each other’s life. Talk about things you’ve overcome together and how much stronger you are as a couple because of it. Compliment one another and talk about the things you like about each other. Say thank you even for tiny things (when your partner gets up to get you that glass of water you asked for, etc.).” – Lydia Antonatos, LMHC
10. Remember What Brought You Together
Thinking about old memories or looking at photos from trips, events, or your wedding can be useful in recalling what connected the two of you to begin with. Talk about cherished memories, what you used to enjoy doing together, what you loved about each other, and the activities you engaged in that made you feel connected. These are great reminders of what brought you together and how you can integrate changes into your relationship to feel more connected again. For example, if you and your partner used to connect on hikes together, try to restart that activity.
11. Adjust Your Expectations
We cannot expect one relationship to fulfill all of our needs. Our partner holds an important place in our lives, and this relationship should fulfill us in many ways, but it cannot be the only relationship that fulfills us. Oftentimes, our expectations of our partner and our relationship leave us feeling disappointed and unfulfilled, therefore, we may need to adjust our expectations. You need friends, fellow hobbyists, or coworkers to provide fulfillment in other areas.
12. Engage in Healthy Self-Care
Make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, finding additional support when necessary. Engage in activities that are important to you, maintain other relationships, and take time to reflect on whether what you are doing is making you feel fulfilled.
“Many couples get into the comfort zone and stop caring about themselves/self-care, their bodies, health, and appearance. Continue to make yourself attractive, flirt with one another etc.” – Lydia Antonatos, LMHC
13. Consider Talking to a Professional
If you’re lonely and married, you might require professional mental help. Seeking out individual or couples counseling can help you understand your values and boundaries in the relationship, and why you’ve started feeling lonely in the first place.
How to Tell If Your Marriage Is Causing Feelings of Loneliness
“To determine whether your marriage or something else is fueling your loneliness, ask yourself how you feel when you are with and without your partner. In healthy marriages, people feel connected when they are with their partners and secure when they are away from them. If you notice yourself feeling disconnected from your partner even when you are together, then this may indicate a marital issue.” – Emily Guarnotta, PsyD
“If you feel a loss of intimacy, both physical and emotional, that is a major trigger for loneliness. If couples stop making time to nurture their relationship, that can create a sense of isolation and loneliness. If a partner is not attentive to your feelings, requests, mood, or needs, that is also a trigger that contributes to loneliness. Also, if your partner consistently prioritizes other areas of his/her life like work, school, friends, parenting, over your marital relationship, that makes you feel like you are not important. That creates a sense of being an outsider and being alone.” – Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW
“Before we assume our loneliness is coming from our marriage, we need to take a good look at ourselves. Our partner cannot meet every need we have. It is important to think through whether you are expecting this or not. Ask yourself, ‘Do I have friends that I can be with to meet some of my needs?’ ‘Do I call my family to stay in touch?’ These questions and others will help you understand if you are expecting too much from one person.
Ask yourself, ‘Do I connect with my partner on a regular basis?’ If you can say yes to this question, then it may not be the marriage. Some individuals have difficulty moving from one phase of life to another. What happens when your children leave the home? Ask yourself if you might be suffering from ‘empty nest syndrome.’
Sometimes when you start a family, it takes quality time away from the marriage. This is a very difficult new phase for families. Babies and young children change the dynamic in the relationship due to the continual needs of the children. If this is the case, you might need to understand that this is a phase and it will pass. Try and make time for the two of you to spend quality time. At this phase, quantity will not be an option, but know that this phase passes and you just have to do the best you can with the limited time you have.” – Dian Grier, LCSW