Feelings of loneliness can stem from a variety of factors. It’s not always about what’s going on with other people, but rather what’s happening internally. While physical isolation is what we often think about when discussing loneliness, mental isolation is just as detrimental. This is why it’s incredibly common to feel lonely in the most intimate relationships — especially romantic ones.
Here are the main signs you or your partner are feeling alone in the relationship:
- A decrease in intimacy, both physical and emotional
- Appearing disengaged or uninterested most of the time
- Not feeling supported or appreciated
- Feeling distant, even when you’re in the same room
- An increase in screen time, especially social media
- Avoiding conversation
- Lack of warmth or concern
- A disinterest in date nights
- Becoming more closed-off
Of course, feeling lonely in a relationship doesn’t just occur overnight. Typically, there are underlying issues at play that slowly wear down relationship satisfaction, leaving you feeling isolated and emotionally drained. Maybe you’re not feeling heard, loved, or appreciated, or you’re concerned about the lack of sex. Or ultimately, you might just be with the wrong person.
Here’s the harsh reality: you can feel lonely without actually being alone. Loneliness in a relationship is a psychological state that causes you to feel empty, detached, and unhappy, even when you have a partner by your side.
That said, there are ways to help you move past it. Here are eight tips for when you’re feeling lonely in a romantic relationship:
As difficult as it sounds, it’s incredibly necessary to harness good communication skills and tell your partner how you’re feeling. The only way to ensure they understand is to gather your emotions and say them out loud. Be clear, direct, and honest as delicately as possible, and decide together how you can address the issues.
Take some time to reflect on what might have changed in your relationship that is causing you to feel lonely. Are you struggling with raising kids or having financial issues? Have you stopped prioritizing the relationship, often skipping date nights? Before you can move forward, you’ll need to figure out what has shifted and how it’s impacted your connection.
And we’re not just talking about sex! (Although that’s important, too.) Plan a night once a week to be intimate, even if it’s just for an hour: hold hands on the couch while watching a movie, give each other a massage, have an old-fashioned make-out session, or sit and reminisce about one of your favorite memories as a couple.
Recreate one of your first vacations together, visit somewhere new, or have a staycation in a nearby hotel. Sometimes, the best way to get out of a rut is to switch up the scenery. The mundane happenings in everyday life can get old, which does nothing to help when you’re feeling lonely.
The five love languages include acts of service, physical touch, giving/receiving gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation.
For example, if your love language is acts of service, you might prefer your partner to do a chore you can’t stand as a way of showing love. If it’s words of affirmation, you might want your partner to write a love note or send a loving text during the day. Discovering each other’s love languages makes a huge difference in how you show appreciation for each other, and can significantly improve relationship satisfaction.
Sometimes, we need to focus inward in order to improve the world around us. Take some time to practice self-care by reconnecting with friends and family, trying a new exercise routine, eating healthier foods, or trying meditation. Helping yourself be happy—instead of relying on your partner—can give you the psychological boost needed to kick loneliness to the curb.
Reaching out to a couples therapist or relationship coach does not constitute failure! Choosing to seek help from an expert is a sign that you’re committed to making the relationship work. If in-person therapy isn’t your thing, you can always download a relationship coaching app like Relish. You’re given therapist-approved quizzes and lessons tailored to your specific needs. You can send messages to real, expert relationship coaches 24/7 — all from your phone.
While it’s normal to feel lonely in a relationship sometimes, it can also signal the inevitable end. The best way to determine if a breakup is necessary is to pay attention to how your partner responds to your concerns. If you’ve expressed your feelings but don’t feel they are stepping up to help, it might be time to move on.
Although it can feel devastating, feeling alone in a relationship isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. By being honest with yourself and your partner, you can work together to erase feelings of loneliness and replace them with love, support, and appreciation.