What It Means When You’re Lonely in a Relationship

A woman feeling lonely in a relationship, leaning against her boyfriend and thinking.

Loneliness is the feeling of drift that results when you lack meaningful relationships. Loneliness isn’t aloneness. It’s the experience of isolation, which means, contrary to conventional wisdom, you can experience loneliness in the presence of other people. This also means you can be lonely in a relationship.

Loneliness in a relationship is a serious issue, although it’s not always clear how to solve it. When you feel isolated from your partner, it can be difficult to ask for help or even have a discussion of your feelings. But before you can learn how to deal with loneliness in a relationship, it’s important to learn a bit about the condition.

Loneliness has been linked to increased risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. It’s also hereditarya twin study conducted in 2005 suggests that genetics can account for 50% of loneliness in adults.

There are two types of loneliness: transient and chronic. The transient or acute type of loneliness usually follows a life event such as a move or a breakup, while the chronic type may be harder to deal with. Loneliness can also change how you perceive your relationships making it difficult to evaluate why a relationship doesn’t give you the nourishment you need.

So there’s all the bad, but what can you do? Well, there’s no surefire way to beat loneliness in one fell swoop, especially if you and your partner have been growing apart for a long time.

If you’re feeling lonely in your relationship, you may find it difficult to bring up the issue with your partner. This begins a vicious cycle of withholding which causes more loneliness which causes more withholding.

The best course of action is to start by telling your partner how you feel. They may feel lonely, too or maybe they’ve sensed that something is wrong. It’s easy to detect mood changes in committed relationship, even if you’re not sure what’s changed. It may be difficult, but if you want to salvage the relationship you have to get your feelings out there. This practice of withholding may not have started the loneliness on its own, but it contributes to perpetuating it.

Now, enroll your partner in a plan to change the relationship dynamic. Plan moments of intimacy. Cook dinner for each other. Go on novel dates. Schedule sex if you have to. The key is to actively be mindful of the time you spend together. When you’re together, try to cut back on the time spent on activities where you’re not interacting with each other, such as spending time on social media or watching TV. The goal is to enjoy each other’s company again.

Next, examine your own role in your relationship. We’re often fed a narrative that love is up to chance, and things will be perfect once we find our soulmate. This is never the case. Love can happen by chance, but it’s never perfect when we find it. And why would you want to leave something so important up to chance anyway? You and your partner are both responsible for the maintenance of your relationship. It’s easy for the relationship to become routine and mechanical. It takes effort to build happiness once the smoldering passion fades. In many cases, it’s possible to reconnect with your partner, but it takes work.

On a day-to-day basis, check in with your partner. Send them texts throughout the day and when you see them, ask how their day is going. Ask them to check in with you. And give all of these tactics time to take effect.

Now that you’ve set up good relationship habits. Reexamine your feelings and see if you still feel lonely. If you do, remember that loneliness can be chronic and depression can cause loneliness. If you think the issue may be chronic or you’re struggling with depression, it’s good to seek professional help. A licensed professional is better equipped to help you solve these problems than any casual article or friend.

If you’ve ruled out depression or chronic loneliness as the root cause of your feelings and you’ve explored all other possibilities, it may be that your partner isn’t giving you what you need and the relationship isn’t working for you. If you’re unhappy and feeling distant from them, it may have nothing to do with their behavior and everything to do with your feelings.  Other times, relationships are too entrenched in cycles of bad habits or bruised feelings to recover. The sad truth is not every relationship is salvageable.

Loneliness isn’t an easy problem to confront in a relationship. There’s no steadfast answer that will work for everyone, but your best bet begins with action and patience. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling and you may find the power to change it.

Alex Bocknek

Alex Bocknek is the senior editor of The Date Mix and works at Zoosk, the online dating service. He’s also a recovering music critic and an aspiring fiction writer (probably lost) on the way to an independent bookstore near you. He can be found occasionally musing about politics, philosophy, and love in the modern world.

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