The words ‘lonely’ and ‘relationship’ in a sentence together seems like a juxtaposition. You’ve found someone you want to share your life and experiences with, to grow together, possibly make a home or a family, what can be lonely about that? In fact, a 2018 study showed that one in three married couples reported being lonely with their significant others! Feeling lonely in a relationship is a more common occurrence than you might have first thought.
There are a multitude of reasons why someone might be struggling with loneliness in their relationship, but it’s important that these issues are dealt with head on. Leaving loneliness to fester can cause it to stretch outside the bounds of the relationship and infiltrate the rest of someone’s life. It could cause them to isolate themselves entirely or trigger some mental or physical health conditions. Whatever the reason for feeling lonely, it can be a suffocating and overwhelming experience.
Why you feel lonely in a relationship
There are tonnes of reasons that might cause someone to feel lonely within a relationship. It doesn’t have to stem entirely from the relationship itself but can be a very personal experience, as a result of mental health struggles, individual loneliness from within, or unmet needs for example. Before you can discuss feeling lonely with your significant other and hopefully salvage the relationship, you first must understand what is causing your loneliness. If you are battling loneliness from within, it’s important that you don’t look to your partner to rectify these feelings as this can put more strain on your relationship.
Feeling lonely within
Each individual is made up of unique traits, behaviours, needs, and characteristics that are entirely personal and that are born through previous experiences. This means that each person will need something slightly different from their significant other in order to feel supported, heard, loved, or wanted. If you’re struggling with loneliness in a relationship but you can’t work out why, you might be lacking something critical that your attachment style needs. If you find yourself needing constant reassurance or attention, you are probably lacking a fundamental element of a relationship that makes you feel close to your partner. This can be a really lonely and tiring experience, and if left unaddressed it will spiral and grow out of control.
Mental health and loneliness
If you’re battling poor mental health or low self esteem, it can put a significant strain on your relationship and significant other. Using your partner to fill a void and give you validation will fix nothing, and you will continue to struggle with loneliness in your relationship. It can be so difficult to differentiate the negative self talk from reality, and you might find yourself doubting your partners true feelings towards you, whether they find you attractive, or if you deserve to be in a relationship with them at all.
Here at Morale, we advocate that everyone should work on their mental health, but particularly if it is holding you back or getting you down. There are so many ways that you can tackle self doubt or mental health concerns, from affirmations through to therapy. Improving how you talk to yourself will change how you perceive your relationship, you will feel more secure and less alone.
But what happens when it is your relationship that’s making you feel alone? Communicating this to your partner can be difficult and anxiety-provoking, and you might feel it’s easier to simply ignore it until it goes away rather than risk an argument or losing them. However, a sad fact of loneliness is that it never ‘just goes away’ and will continue to grow until it has cast a black cloud over every aspect of your life. If you’re feeling unhappy or lonely in your relationship, it’s so important that you have the difficult conversation with your other half and start working through it together.
It’s not the same as it once was
One major factor leading to loneliness is that the relationship isn’t working as well as it once did. This is a common occurrence in long term relationships; people get comfortable and stop grafting to prove themselves, or they believe the other person will always be there and they stop affirming or appreciating them. Each year the percentage of unhappily married couples rises culminating in 50% of marriages ending in divorce.
Over time, a break down in emotional connection can cause people to feel lonely and isolated. It’s important to communicate this with your partner, if they don’t know something isn’t right, they can’t change it. So, make sure you aren’t avoiding the difficult conversations.
Expectations, quality time, & intimacy
It’s been suggested that setting goals is important to give a relationship direction, much like any other aspect of one’s life. It gives us something to focus on and work towards, and support each other, rather than getting complacent. If two partners have different expectations it can lead to a disconnect, confusion, and frustration. A lack of direction can make someone feel sad and lonely in a relationship, particularly when values, goals, and expectations that you hold in esteem don’t match those of your significant other.
If you’re fighting to spend quality time together, because of busy schedules or a lack of effort, it can result in feelings of loneliness and resentment. Just spending a few moments a day together doing menial tasks like watching tv or getting ready for bed isn’t going to fill the void. Arranging quality time where the two of you bond, get vulnerable, have fun, whatever you want to do is so important to keep the spark of a relationship alight.
Men and women experience intimacy differently and maintaining a healthy sex life is an important factor not to be overlooked. A good sex life comes down to more than a regular roll in the sheets. Both party’s need to feel trust, respect, as well as be able to communicate what they want from bedroom activities. Women typically need to feel emotionally connected to someone before they fully let their guard down in the bedroom, whereas men often need the sexual experience to feel connected to their partner. When communication fails, this can lead to a disconnect and a lack of respect or understanding.
Why is it important to discuss loneliness in a relationship
If left undealt with, loneliness can evolve into a number of mental and physical health concerns. Overtime, feeling lonely can culminate in anxiety and depression, and might trigger someone to cut themselves off entirely from friends and family as well as their partner. Loneliness and mental health conditions are overwhelming and toxic, as they infiltrate every aspect of someone’s life and cast a black shadow over everything that was once bright and happy. It has the potential to throw things out of perspective and destroy relationships, particularly if the other person isn’t aware of what’s going on.
Loneliness has also been attributed to a variety of physical health conditions, if left untreated for a long period of time. Those who suffer from loneliness are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and anxiety, Alzheimer’s, a weakened immune system, and weight loss or gain.
Tackling loneliness and breaching those tough conversations with your partner may seem like a mammoth task at the beginning but trust us when we say they’re vital for both your health and the health of your relationship.
Tips to deal with loneliness in a relationship
- Talk. Sit down and talk to someone, it doesn’t have to be your partner. Sometimes, talking to someone outside of your relationship can help to put things into perspective, or show you an alternative way of looking at the situation. You could talk to a friend, a family member, or even a mental health professional.
- Listen. There’s a strong chance that if you’re struggling with loneliness in your relationship, your other half is too. Listen to what they have to say and hear their side of things. Get vulnerable with each other and be honest. Once you’ve both said your peace, you can find a way to navigate the waters that gives you both the support you need.
- Seek professional help. If your loneliness stems from a wider mental health concern, seek a professional to help you work through what you’re dealing with. Talking to someone unbiased and able to unpack what you’re struggling with can help you find ways to overcome them and give you and your partner some ideas to work on together.
If you’re worried that someone you care about is struggling with loneliness in their relationship, then now is the time to reach out. Send out positive affirmations to everyone in your network each day to remind them that they are not alone, and someone is always there for a chat or some emotional support. A few words of compassion and understanding will give them the confidence to start those tough conversations and help make their mindset a more positive one.
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