For many, being in a stable relationship is something that means they will benefit from the companionship of that person for life. Whether it is bouncing ideas off someone or just having a physical presence, we expect a relationship to give us closeness, mutual affection, and a rapport that is not matched by anyone else. What we never expect is a feeling of aloneness when in a relationship. Unfortunately, this feeling of loneliness when in a partnership is one that occurs often. It can be very difficult for the people involved in the couple. Loneliness means different things to different people. However, it often includes feeling:
- Unheard or not listed to
- Unloved and uncared for
- Unable to share news with a loved one
- Anxious about talking about important things
- Uncertain about the future
- Like a solo decision maker
- Empty and hopeless
- Like future plans do not include your partner
If you are feeling alone in a relationship, you may wonder how to fix it or even the cause behind the feelings. The truth is there are some internal factors and some you share with your partner. If you can learn to understand both areas, they can better be addressed. These are shared below.
Feeling Lonely Within
It can be confusing to understand how internal factors can make you feel lonely in a relationship when you love the person you are with but there are some factors you must understand. One of these factors is attachment styles and how they affect relationships. When attachment styles are discussed it is normally in relation to children, but it can also affect adult relationships. There are four attachment styles that adults can display, which will be shared here.
- Secure – Secure adults need less attention than their counterparts and tend to be more satisfied in relationships, trust more, and balance needing support and independence. They tend to value a partner that is the same. These individuals generally will not complain about being lonely in a relationship.
- Dismissive-Avoidant – Partners who have a dismissive-avoidant attachment will often put distance between themselves and a loved one. They may take on a parent or manager role while isolating. These individuals may convince themselves they are independent and do not need a connection, but this leads to defensiveness and detachment. They may act as if they do not care, but they really do.
- Anxious-Preoccupied – Spouses with this attachment style may seek constant reassurance and presence. They are emotionally hungry and talk about their partner completing them or rescuing them. They may feel incomplete without their other half. The risk of this style is being rejected by a partner for being too needy and leaving the partner exhausted. This can leave the person feeling lonely.
- Fearful-Avoidant (Disorganized) – A partner who has a disorganized attachment style may live in constant states of confusion and fear while trying to balance being too close or too distant from their partner. These individuals may have an ambivalence because they never feel they get it right. Adults with this style usually had a tough upbringing and may constantly feel hurt by the one they are with that should make them feel safe and secure. They also tend to struggle in resolving their own needs.
Attachment styles can lead to feeling alone in a relationship. If you are not secure in your attachment, it is not too late to change with the help of a supportive partner, therapy, and other forms of self-help.
Loneliness and Mental Health
Mental health can have a great deal to do with loneliness in a relationship. Our thoughts affect our emotions and behaviors. A depressed person may already feel down and low, leading to insecurity in the relationship. The same is true for those who are anxious as people jump to the worst-case scenario when problems arise in the relationship. Anxiety can also cause people to internalize emotions and block the partners help and influence. Trauma may also impact how we manage relationships, assume the worst, and put trust in a partner. When people have had trauma, they expect them to continue leading to feeling lonely as a result of the experience.
Working on your mental health is vital to a healthy relationship. You matter and so does your happiness and relationship. If you are able, you can attempt to work on your mental health through self-help and motivational techniques. Though if you are severely depressed or anxious, seek professional help. Your relationship will improve as your mental health does.
Feeling Alone Within the Relationship
While it is possible to feel lonely due to internal factors, in many cases the loneliness comes from relational factors. Some of these factors are shared below.
- Poor Communication – Communication is the backbone of relationships. Couples need to hear one another, create meaning from shared information, and respond in some manner. There is a right and wrong way to communicate. Stay away from aggressive, uncaring, dismissive, and argumentative communication to limit lonely feelings.
- Scheduling Issues – Even when couples love each other, nurturing and prioritizing is necessary or they will disconnect. Set time aside to connect by scheduling one on one time to avoid loneliness.
- Quality Time – When you do schedule time together, it needs to be good, quality time. Make sure you are having fun and take turns planning activities for diversity.
Goals and Expectations
Goals are the road map of relationships. They drive us toward reaching something we both want to achieve. When partners have different goals, expectations, and approaches, it can lead to a disconnect. This can cause frustration, confusion, and hopelessness. This leads to loneliness because personal goals do not match with those of the partner. This is why relationship compatibility is so important. Feeling alone could mean that there is a shift in goals that you both need to revisit and try to join or realize that there is no longer a common path.
Humans have all different types of needs. When in a relationship, we hope to have all or most of these needs met by the person we are with, but if it does not happen, we may feel unloved, unprioritized, and rejected. Sadly, we often seek to have these needs met elsewhere, sometimes by a third party or through distractions or cutting all expectations that your partner will be able to meet any needs. We may end up feeling lonely and the mind will want the needs met in some way. Learn to ask for what you want and need from a partner and expect the same from them.
Intimacy is different for men and women. A good sexual experience means having trust, communication, respect, and knowing one another’s likes and dislikes. For women in long-term relationships, they need emotional connection to feel sexy, but men tend to need the sexual experience to feel connected. When couples are sexually disconnected for any reason, they may feel lonely.
Betrayal and Hurt
When couples experience betrayal, subjective or objective, the spouse may feel lonely. Repairing the damage is doable, but requires patience, effort, and commitment. Depending on the issues, couples may need to seek professional help for guidance.
It may seem like an oxymoron to be lonely in a relationship, but it can happen. The reasons can vary, but all are valid. To try to overcome this loneliness, try some of the following.
- Gratitude journal
- Make time for each other
- Challenge negative self-talk
- Create common goals
- Actively listen
- Express your needs and concerns to your partner
- Indulge in cuddles, dates, and romance often.
When all else fails, seek professional help and your relationship will be thankful.