People are lonely in relationships or in social groups because they can’t be themselves with the people and environment that they surround themselves with every day. Loneliness is emotional and mental isolation. Many of us assume we have to be alone to be lonely but that’s not the case. In fact, it is seen that even those who are married have reported feelings of loneliness. But what exactly does it mean when you’re feeling lonely in a relationship, and does that mean you should call it quit? Not necessarily, loneliness is a state of being, and it’s not just boredom—it’s an inability to connect.
For many people, being in a stable relationship implies that they will benefit from companionship for the rest of their lives. From bouncing ideas with a special person to having a physical presence, we expect a relationship to give us a sense of closeness, mutual affection, and deep rapport. What we don’t expect though, is to feel alone in that relationship.
As a relationship therapist, I commonly see couples expressing a sense of void—a sense of loneliness within their partnership—one they struggle to make sense of. It can be very difficult for the couples involved.
Loneliness can mean different things for different people.
Let us see the 5 reasons for we feel lonely in a relationship.
5 Reasons to feel lonely in a relationship.
1. Poor Communication.
Clearly, communication is the backbone of any relationship. It allows couples to hear each other, create meaning out of the information shared, and respond in either a positive or negative way. Needless to say, there is a right and wrong way when it comes to communication. Aggressive, dismissive, uncaring, and/or argumentative communication between two partners will lead to one feeling unheard, unloved, and consequently, lonely feeling in the relationship.
2. Goals and Expectations.
What do goals and expectations have to do with feeling alone in a relationship? Goals are like the road map of any relationship. They drive us in a specific direction to reach something we both—and hopefully, equally—want to achieve.
Now, what happens when partners have different goals? What about when they expect completely different approaches and/or outcomes?
It leads to a disconnect—a feeling of confusion, frustration, and sometimes even hopelessness. Needless to say, this is enough to make partners feel lonely simply based on the fact that what matters to them and the goals they value don’t match the goals of their partner.
In this sense, compatibility in a relationship is important. Feeling alone in your relationship could mean that there is an existing or new shift in your direction and either you both need to revisit your goals and steer them in a common direction or accept that the journey is no longer following a common path.
3. Hurt and Betrayal.
Yes, this may appear common sense so I won’t harp on about this one too long. When couples experience objective or subjective feelings of betrayal—whether through affairs, lies, or other hurtful incidents—spouses may definitely feel lonely.
4. Needs and Unmet Needs.
Humans have needs—physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, and sexual needs, just to name a few. When we are in a relationship, we hope to have some of these needs—if not all, a good chunk—met by the person we love the most. When this doesn’t happen, we feel rejected, unloved, and unprioritized.
Unfortunately, what happens then is we seek to meet these needs elsewhere. It’s human nature, and it’s universal. Perhaps it’s through a third party. Perhaps it’s through a distraction such as work, friends, or hobbies. Perhaps it’s by cutting all expectations that our spouse is willing and/or able to meet our needs.
We feel lonely, and our human brain will seek to fill that void in any way it can. It take us a while to realize that expressing our needs wasn’t selfish. It was what people did when they felt safe. And feeling safe and nurtured was definitely what you wanted for both you and your partner.
Secured adults need less attention than their counterparts. They tend to be more satisfied in their relationship, trust their partner more, and balance the mix of needing support VS needing independence (and, of course, value the same in their partner). Adults with a secure attachment pattern generally don’t complain about feeling lonely in their relationship, presenting with a more ‘easy-going’ attitude.