Why You’re Feeling Lonely In Your Relationship (& What To Do About It)
Despite what TV and movies have told us all our lives, being with a partner doesn't mean that you'll never feel lonely again. In fact, it's entirely possible to feel lonely in a relationship that's generally a happy one.
A 2018 survey of 20,000 adults by health service company Cigna found that nearly 50% of Americans always feel alone or left out. Over 40% even said they feel like their relationships aren't meaningful. Another 2018 study by the Pew Research Center also found that nearly a third of people who are unhappy with their family life, which includes their marriage, are more likely to feel lonely or isolated.
Jessica Small, LMFT, a marriage counselor and relationship coach, says it happens because we miss opportunities to connect. "People often experience the feeling of loneliness in their relationships because they're disconnected and missing opportunities for intentional moments of intimacy, whether it be a 10-second hug or kiss in the morning or a date night each week," Small tells Bustle.
Below, you'll find more reasons why you may be feeling lonely in your relationship — and exactly what you can do about it.
You're Not Talking About The Communication In Your Relationship
Communication is key to a successful relationship, but how often do you assess how you're communicating with one another? "If you're feeling lonely in your relationship, you need to meta-communicate," Dr. Justine Grosso, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist specializing in women's wellness and relationships, tells Bustle.
It's important to discuss any lack of communication, how you're feeling, whether your partner feels the same way, and what you both need to feel more connected. Grosso suggests talking about this when you're not feeling lonely so that you don't come off like you're attacking your partner.
You Prioritize Fun Over Connection
It's good to keep trying new things to keep the relationship feeling fresh. But Amy McManus, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle to be sure that your desire for keeping things fun isn't pushing your emotional connection to the side. If you have a lot of fun memories together, try taking some moments to just sit in bed, talk, and be vulnerable.
"Begin to open up about some of the things that worry you about your life or yourself," McManus says. "This will inevitably lead to a greater feeling of connection with your partner; they will get to know you so much better, and they'll likely open up more as well."
You're Not Practicing Self-Care
If you're feeling lonely in your relationship, it's important to check in with yourself. According to Small, your loneliness might not be solely related to your relationship. Instead, it could reflect a need for self-care.
"Consider if you are experiencing symptoms of depression," Small says. If you think about your past relationships and you realize that feeling lonely is a common occurrence for you, it might be something you want to discuss with a therapist.
You're Keeping A Secret Or Trying To Avoid A Specific Topic
If you're keeping something from your partner, or you avoid talking about a certain subject, it might cause you to get a little distant. "Some may feel lonely because they've lost connection around a specific topic (like talking about finances), which can then lead to avoiding other topics," Dr. Ellen Ross, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist and owner of True North Psychology, tells Bustle.
If you need to talk about an uncomfortable subject, knowing where to start can be a challenge. Ross suggests you start by saying what you're thinking out loud. For instance, "I've noticed neither one of us wants to talk about our finances. Do you think we should try?" Then take the time to actually talk about it.
"If you're not confident in your relationship to do this, it may be time to think about if you want to be in the relationship you're in," Ross says.
If you're feeling lonely in your relationship, the most important thing to do is work on your emotional connection with each other. Sometimes you'll realize you're in the wrong relationship, but other times working on your communication can make all the difference.
Jessica Small, LMFT, marriage counselor and relationship coach
Amy McManus, licensed marriage and family therapist
Dr. Justine Grosso, Psy.D., licensed psychologist
Dr. Ellen Ross, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist and owner of True North Psychology