Here's How to Deal With Feeling Alone In a Relationship
Even in otherwise thriving and happy partnerships, there are moments—sometimes long, sometimes short—where either party can be left feeling alone in a relationship or disconnected from their significant other.
Feeling alone in a relationship isn't unnecessarily uncommon, and the good news is that you and your partner can overcome feeling this way so long as you're both willing to prioritize each other and put in some intentional work to nourish your connection. Keep reading to understand more about what causes feelings of isolation in a romantic relationship and the effective steps you can take to get back to that deeply fulfilling, highly bonded place.
Meet The Experts
- Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert for JustAnswer.
- Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D, is a New York City-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind
- Alison Savage, MS, LPCC, is a licensed professional clinical counselor at SUN Behavioral Health
In this article:
- Is It Normal to Feel Lonely in a Relationship?
- What Causes Someone to Feel Lonely in a Relationship?
- What to Do If You're Feeling Alone in Your Relationship
- How to Communicate Feeling Lonely in a Relationship
Is It Normal to Feel Lonely in a Relationship?
Feeling alone in a relationship is a very normal experience, and it's particularly common in long-term partnerships where life's day-to-day takes over and our relationship settles into a lower priority tier.
It doesn't mean that your relationship is doomed or that there's something inherently "wrong" with you or your partner. It simply means that you're in a season of disconnectedness and that both of you can benefit by communicating more and prioritizing your relationship.
What Causes Someone to Feel Lonely in a Relationship?
If you're wondering, "Why do I feel lonely in my relationship?" there are a handful of key causes to consider.
1. You're not communicating.
Loneliness in relationships can occur if there is a lack of communication between people. "Sometimes we need deeper connection," explains Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert for JustAnswer. She urges making time for deep conversation that help strengthen the bond between you and your partner.
2. You don't spend quality time together.
Life is busy and, sometimes, spending quality time alone with your partner is placed on the back burner. "If you don't have alone time [together], you may feel less connected… and like there is no intimacy in the relationship," notes Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D, a New York City-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind. "Spending quality time with your partner allows you to build memories, communicate and connect with each other."
3. You struggle with vulnerability.
In some instances, feelings of loneliness aren't necessarily triggered by your partner. This can happen if you struggle to be open and vulnerable with your partner. If you're uncomfortable sharing your feelings with them, you may feel as though they don't know personal things about you which can contribute to loneliness, Dr. Hafeez explains. Conversely, it may be your partner struggling with vulnerability—or perhaps both of you are reluctant to share.
4. Your relationship lacks trust.
Trust is the foundation of every strong relationship. Without it, one or both partners can experience feelings of loneliness. "Trust is essential in a relationship because it allows both partners to feel entirely accepted and free to express their feelings in a safe space," says Dr. Hafeez. "Without trust, an individual won't feel secure that their partner will love and be loyal to them, contributing to feelings of isolation."
What to Do If You're Feeling Alone in Your Relationship
Given the above common reasons for experiencing loneliness in a relationship, here are some steps you can take to re-establish your connection and feel more bonded to your partner. Remember: these things take time, and intentional daily effort is required to ignite real change.
Carve Out Quality Time Together
Many couples find themselves drifting apart due to hectic schedules and trying to balance life, work, families and self-care. "Plan date nights or a new adventure, or take up a new hobby or sport and do it together. This can reestablish the connection and help with loneliness," Kelman says.
Be Intentional About Communication
Even if you're sitting side-by-side, you two may feel a world apart if you're not communicating. Take the guesswork out of knowing what the other's thinking or feeling and instead ask them to communicate it outright. Simple questions like, "How can I show up for you today?" or "How are you feeling about this particular situation?" can go miles in nourishing your connection and overcoming feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Practice Being Open and Vulnerable
Along with asking questions and listening to what your partner says, take care to open up yourself. The ability to be vulnerable with your partner is a foundational component of relationships. Share how you're feeling or what you're going through, and don't be afraid to speak up.
"Vulnerability strengthens a relationship by allowing you to establish an emotional connection," Dr. Hafeez says. "Being honest and open with each other fosters intimacy, empathy and compassion in a relationship. Opening up to your partner is a way to move forward together and it makes your partner feel like they can do the same."
Nourish Yourself and Your Hobbies.
While it may sound counterintuitive, to give yourself to another person you must first give to yourself. "If one relies only on their partner to fill all of their needs, this can lead to feelings of loneliness," Kelman explains. "Find your own passions—but [also] find the right balance, so that both of you aren't always out there doing your own thing."
Heal Your Past Traumas
Similarly, it's important to do inner-work so we can show up completely in our relationship. "Everyone brings their own life experiences into relationships," says Alison Savage, MS, LPCC, licensed professional clinical counselor at SUN Behavioral Health. "These life experiences create the lens through which we view our lives and everyone in it."
"If you have had unhealthy and/or traumatic relationships and life experiences, these experiences can lead to feelings of loneliness [or] fear and a limited ability to step into vulnerability and truly ask for what you need."
How to Communicate Feeling Lonely in a Relationship
Along with taking the above steps, it's important to address the issue head-on with your partner if you want to overcome feeling alone in a relationship. Speaking with trusted friends and family or bringing the topic to a professional can help, as well.
Communicating with Your Partner
Let your partner know if you've been feeling lonely in your relationship and that you long to feel more connected. Using specifics can help, such as how long you've been feeling this way, highlighting moments or situations when you feel more alone than others and sharing some suggestions for ways to re-connect.
It's also helpful to frame things in a "teamwork" mentality where it's both of you working toward a solution to a shared problem—versus a "you make me feel this way" mentality, which might be met with some natural defensiveness.
Communicating with Friends and Family
Family and friends are a built-in support network that can provide a wealth of understanding, experience and even advice. Open up to those you trust about how you're currently feeling about your partnership. You may be surprised to hear they've gone through similar situations. Be clear with them about what you're seeking—just a listening ear, helpful advice or someone to check in on you throughout the weeks.
Communicating with a Professional
If you and your significant other are finding it challenging to overcome feelings of loneliness in your relationship, Dr. Hafeez recommends seeing a couple's therapist or family therapist for additional support.
"Although it may seem intimidating at first, a couple's counselor can help you explore what could be contributing to feeling alone," she says. "A counselor can also be a third party that sees things objectively and can give you techniques to improve your relationship."
Let your counselor know about the dynamics of your relationship, how you're feeling and what your goals are for the future. From there, they'll be able to work with you to pinpoint the cause of the loneliness and offer exercises and solutions to help you feel more connected.