We often think that when we’re in a long-term relationship we have a companion forever. Someone with whom we’ll share the ups and downs of daily life... family life... a fulfilling sex life...
But what about when that close bond seems to be evaporating? What about when, despite that apparently stable romantic relationship, you begin to experience feelings of loneliness?
Loneliness is something we associate with being on our own, isn’t it? We think of feelings of isolation. We imagine a lack of social connections, perhaps feelings of sadness. In short, it’s something that can only happen to us when we don’t have a significant other, right?
Wrong. In fact, it is entirely possible to be both in a long-term romantic relationship and to be experiencing feelings of loneliness. Because loneliness can be as much, if not more, about a lack of emotional connection as it can about physical proximity to other people. Despite spending a bit of time with friends, it may be that those feelings of loneliness just wont shift.
So what’s making you feel so alone? What are some of the most common signs of loneliness in a relationship?
Is there something you feel you need to discuss with your partner, yet don’t feel you can? Perhaps you’re unsure how they’ll react, or perhaps you’ve tried and failed to raise the issue before.
An unresolved issue, whether big or small, can drive a wedge between two people. It can fester and grow and even create other flashpoints as you both become more frustrated by the situation.
Little irritable moments and offhand hurtful comments can niggle away until it feels as though you’re both on a completely different page. And a gulf of emotional loneliness can wash over you before you even see it is coming.
Perhaps there are money issues, family issues or other problems for which you’re struggling to find a resolution. Perhaps you’ve just reached a phase in your relationship where you’re not getting on quite as well as you used to.
Whether the regular arguments are a new thing or they've been building up over time. The feeling that you’re walking on eggshells all the time and never know what to say, can become a constant source of anxiety. And left unchecked, can lead to one or both partners withdrawing simply to avoid yet another fight. And the loss of connection that eventually results can feel devastating.
Another cause of emotional disconnectedness and potentially loneliness is if you begin to feel your partner doesn’t understand the way you’re feeling. Or worse, you feel they’re not even trying to understand or empathize.
When we’re feeling down, whether it’s two days a month or 20, the thing we want most in the world is for the one we love to wrap us in a big hug and tell us it will all be OK.
Perhaps that’s over-simplifying things, but it’s important to know that our other half will be there for us when things get tough. That they won’t just react with frustration, but will show us kindness and support.
Not getting what we need from our partner, or feeling that they simply don’t understand us, can lead to a heavy feeling of loneliness. Not to mention a worry that our partner is drifting away from us.
Intimacy is vital in any healthy relationship. It’s that need for emotional connection rather than simply a physical one that makes us human. When we choose a life partner, we commit to learning everything we can about them and they about us. They become the person we know best in the world. The first person we want to tell about the good stuff and the bad. And the one we turn to at the end of a long day.
But when things are off kilter in our relationship it’s easy to lose that sense of closeness without even noticing. The sweet messages and thoughtful gestures dry up, we seek space from one another. And that disconnection can lead, over time, to feelings of loss and a very real sense of loneliness, despite the shared family, home and even bed.
It’s not uncommon to experience feelings of loneliness despite being in a relationship. But that doesn’t mean to say it’s normal. It should not be. In fact, loneliness and relationship anxiety can have very real physical health and mental health issues if left unchecked. Symptoms such as heart disease have even been linked to loneliness.
When we’re in a healthy relationship, we should expect to feel connected to our other half. While there may be the odd misunderstanding, we should feel we have the tools and desire to resolve those differences. And we should have an innate feeling of being ‘in it together’.
If you begin to feel a sense of loneliness it’s important to address this before it leads to such a large emotional gulf that’s it’s almost impossible to come back from. If you’re feeling lonely or disconnected from your partner, it’s a sign that something is not right. The good news is that there is almost certainly something that can be done about it.
When you’re looking to overcome feelings of loneliness, it’s important to first understand why they might be happening.
If the issue is one of communication or connection with your partner, the best way to tackle it is to open up to them about how you feel. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, find a time that you’re both feeling relaxed. Avoid a busy morning school run or an evening when your partner is preparing for an important presentation the next day. Instead choose Sunday morning over coffee, or a lazy holiday evening when the kids are in bed and you’re relaxing with a glass of Rioja.
Start by asking if you can talk to them about how you’ve been feeling. Introduce the conversation gently rather than simply springing it on them or inflaming the situation. When you speak, do so in a non-judgmental way. Use phrases like “I have been feeling…”, making sure you stick to your own thoughts and emotions rather than putting the blame on your partner for making you feel a certain way. Remember, your partner is not responsible for your feelings. Of course they can help and support you, but ultimately you choose how you want to feel and react.
You may find that your partner has been feeling the same way and is keen to do the work to resolve things. Or you may find you need to allow them some space to process what you’ve said. Either way, make sure you explain your feelings as calmly as you can and then sit back.
Depending on your partner’s reaction, you may suggest some ways you can begin to rekindle that connection. And ask them for some ideas too. Perhaps plan to spend some quality time together, inject some fun by spending time playing games one evening a week instead of crashing in front of the TV – you might find the benefits are surprising. There are plenty of ways you can get closer to your partner beyond sex. Or, if sex has fallen off the agenda, you may feel it would be beneficial to commit to more regular sessions. Try our articles on foreplay, sharing sex fantasies and using sex toys for inspiration on how to get back in the bedroom and spice things up.
Sometimes no matter how much you try to talk to your partner or make efforts to rebuild that connection, there’s just something getting in the way of that strong relationship you used to share.
It’s very common to find that it’s hard to resolve relationship issues alone. Perhaps we’re too close to the problem, too defensive about what’s really going on, or we’re simply unwilling to open up and share as much as is required to get to the root of the problem.
That’s when relationship therapy can be really helpful. There’s no shame in seeking help and often issues can start to improve after the first session. For some people, simply the relief of knowing they’re taking a positive step can help to make everything feel a bit better.
If the idea of face-to-face therapy seems too stressful or too costly, there are other options to explore. The Blueheart app is designed by a sex and relationship expert using proven Sensate Focus techniques to help bring you back together. Blueheart offers a tailored plan that will focus on the problem areas within your relationship. Simply take the assessment here and you’ll receive personalized recommendations to help you get started. The beauty of Blueheart is you can begin immediately and work through the program as slowly or quickly as you want to.
Blueheart can stop you drifting apart, help you rebuild that connection and banish loneliness from your relationship.