Feeling Lonely in a Relationship: Signs & Solutions

What are some signs that you're feeling lonely in a relationship?
on January 22, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare
feeling alone in a relationship

Loneliness isn’t isolated to those who are single. 

Feeling lonely in a relationship can be very isolating and intimidating, as you struggle to come to terms with why your relationship is not fulfilling you in the way it should. 

These feelings of loneliness and disconnection could indicate that there is something wrong in your relationship, whether that’s a problem you haven’t addressed or a personal issue that you have brushed aside. If you’re feeling lonely in your relationship, it’s important to get to the root of the issue so that both partners feel heard and understood every step of the way. 

What does it mean to be lonely in a relationship?

Healthy relationships make you feel safe, supported, and satisfied — with both partners feeling equally sustained by their significant other. 

Without emotional connection or intimacy, it’s easier for a sense of loneliness to creep in. If you don’t feel heard or understood by your partner, you can start to feel isolated as you start to drift apart from your loved one. 

“It’s quite common to mix up loneliness and solitude,” says Sarah Calvert, a UKCP and COSRT-accredited psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist.

“They can both occur when being alone. However, loneliness is unwanted, and solitude can be a desired isolation. Loneliness is often categorized as feeling a lack of connection and a desire for more connection than one has.”

While you may be physically close, whether you’re living together or in a long-term relationship, it doesn’t mean that you can’t feel alone. As life gets in the way and distance grows between you and your partner, it’s more difficult to re-establish that emotional connection. 

Is it normal to feel lonely in a relationship?

Even though this disconnection may feel like defeat, it’s becoming increasingly more common in romantic relationships. 

According to research by the Pew Research Center, 1-in-10 Americans say they feel lonely in their day-to-day lives, with 28% citing dissatisfaction with their family life as the main cause. Other studies have shown that even couples in long-term relationships feel lonely. 

Therefore, relationship loneliness is unfortunately on the rise of poor communication and connection becoming commonplace amongst couples. 

“Feeling lonely is a negative state that needs addressing whether this is due to feeling lonely in a relationship or feeling lonely more generally,” says Calvert. 

“Loneliness can feel even more acute when we are in a relationship but feel disconnected. If one or both parties are feeling lonely within the relationship it is a sign that there is a feeling of lack of connection, which is usually accompanied by a feeling of dissatisfaction within the relationship. Such issues do not resolve themselves without change. My experience is that if issues are left unexplored or unresolved the feeling of disconnection can become more entrenched.”

Even if you’re in a strong relationship, these periods of distance and disconnection can take their toll — leading to defensiveness and dissatisfaction over time. While relationship loneliness may be more common, it doesn’t mean that you should just accept it. 

While you may not be alone in feeling lonely, it’s not something you should ignore. Even though you might go through periods of disconnect, both partners should make an effort to overcome loneliness as a team. 

What causes relationship loneliness?

While relationship loneliness is on the rise, there are numerous causes to consider when evaluating your own relationship. 

“There are lots of reasons why a person may feel lonely in a relationship,” says Calvert. 

“It may be due to underlying relationship issues such as problems with communication, a lack of emotional intimacy, or resentments that have built up over time, which have caused one or both to withdraw,” she explains.

Every relationship is different and there are a lot of factors that determine your relationship quality, especially since every relationship can go through rough patches. It’s important to check in with your partner and find out what’s causing you to feel this way for the sake of your relationship. 

1. Codependency

Codependent relationships can be very unhealthy from a number of different perspectives. In this kind of dynamic, it’s easy to lose your individuality and personal autonomy. 

While you’re spending time with your partner (and perhaps, only your partner) it doesn’t counteract feelings of loneliness. In fact, isolation from friends and family members can lead to emotional abuse and toxicity in the relationship. 

This can leave you feeling alone and unheard to an extreme degree, leading to an unhealthy relationship overall. 

2. Controlling partner

If you’re dealing with a controlling partner, it can feel like no matter what you do — you just can’t win.

This kind of dynamic can leave one partner feeling very lonely and unloved, as they fight to gain the attention of their partner to no avail. This is particularly common if one partner has narcissistic tendencies or has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). 

In this scenario, it’s likely the loneliness will only become more crushing if one partner can’t change his ways. 

3. Infidelity 

In a monogamous relationship, it goes without saying that infidelity is not acceptable on any level. 

If your partner is having an affair or has been unfaithful to your marriage, it’s very easy to feel isolated and lonely. Cheating in a relationship, especially continuous cheating, can leave one partner feeling trapped — with no obvious way out. 

These feelings of loneliness are incredibly impactful, and if you’re going through this situation, you should seek help from a couples therapist or relationship expert in order to give you the right kind of advice. 

4. Long-distance relationship  

When you’re in a long-distance relationship, it can be more difficult to retain an emotional connection as you fight time zones and lack of date nights. 

It’s normal to feel more lonely in this relationship dynamic, as you’re battling the very real distance between you and your partner. If one or both partners feel lonely, it could be a sign that you’re not making enough of a commitment to stay connected

5. Rough patch 

Feeling lonely in a marriage or a relationship can affect any couple, no matter how strong they are overall. 

Almost every relationship goes through rough patches, where partners are driven apart by circumstances outside of their control. For example, one partner may be dealing with health issues or work stress that takes them away from their significant other, leaving one partner feeling lonely.

Ideally, this kind of relationship loneliness will not last long — as long as both partners make an effort to reunite.  

6. Overall well-being 

There is also a factor to consider that is technically outside of the relationship itself. 

Think about your past relationships and if there is a pattern of loneliness present. If loneliness is a constant factor are your relationship progresses, it could indicate a problem within yourself that you need to resolve. For example, it could indicate that your mental health and well-being are not in a place where you can commit to another person. 

This may be a harder pill to swallow, especially if you crave the kind of love and affection you get from romantic partners, but is a very important step to take. 

10 signs of loneliness in a relationship 

Loneliness is a feeling like no other, but when you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to convince yourself that you couldn’t possibly be lonely because technically you’re around people all the time. 

However, this isn’t how loneliness works — you can feel entirely alone in a room of your closest friends. 

“A desire for more connection is a common indication that there may be loneliness in the relationship, along with a lack of emotional intimacy,” says Calvert. 

“One or both parties may feel unable to express their thoughts and feelings within the relationship. This may be accompanied by a feeling of not being heard.”

If you’re feeling lonely in your romantic relationship, there are usually a few telltale signs that loneliness has crept in. 

1. You don’t miss each other anymore

Relationships are naturally filled with yearning. 

In a new relationship, this need to see your partner can feel constant — even if they just left five minutes ago! While this naturally diminishes over time, it certainly shouldn’t lapse altogether. 

If you never find yourself missing your partner, or wondering when you’ll see them again — this could be a sign that your partner isn’t fulfilling you emotionally. This kind of distance and the lack of care about your relationship indicates your own loneliness and isolation.

2. Relationship feels cold 

Maybe we’re romantics, but we feel that relationships should feel like a warm hug at the end of the day. 

If your relationship takes on a kind of coldness or briskness, it could be a sign that both partners are feeling distant and isolated from each other. 

3. Don’t make any effort to make plans 

When date nights and deep conversations fall off the agenda, it can be hard to keep your emotional connection. 

If your partner never makes an effort to make plans, or if you’ve stopped bothering yourself, it can leave you feeling lonely and unwanted — with the distance only growing as time goes on. 

4. Lack of communication 

While you may still converse about household tasks and who's doing the school run, it doesn’t mean that you’re really communicating. 

Without deep conversations or honest communication, it can leave you feeling alone in a relationship with no one to confide in. Or, if you’re constantly looking outside of your relationship for comfort and support, it could indicate that you don’t want to depend on your partner or that you no longer trust them. 

5. Preference for other plans

Even if your partner wants to schedule a date night — you’d rather hang out with your other friends.

This could indicate that loneliness has been present for some time and that you no longer want to make the effort. In this case, the emotional chasm has grown so wide that you may have run out of things to say to each other! 

6. Lack of physical intimacy 

When you’re feeling lonely in your relationship, it’s natural that your sex life will dwindle

After all, if there’s emotional distance, it’s unlikely that there will be physical proximity or intimacy between you. This lack of intimacy only contributes to the overall feeling of loneliness, as this is an important aspect of any relationship. 

7. Pursuing separate interests 

Relationships are about two individuals coming together, but even though it’s important to have your own separate life — there’s a line. 

If you’re both constantly pursuing different things, it’s difficult to retain a connection without an intersection of interests. 

8. Lack of questions 

Curiosity is key when it comes to a relationship. 

No matter how long you’ve been together, there are always more questions to be asked and more to learn about your partner! If the questions stop, this could indicate the space that has grown between your pairing. 

9. Relationship needs are not being met 

Every relationship has needs, from the basic to the most complex. These needs have to be fulfilled in order to have a happy and healthy relationship, where both partners feel they can rely on each other to meet these needs. 

If relationship needs are not met, it can lead to feelings of abandonment or loneliness — as you feel let down by your loved one and lost in the relationship. 

10. Lack of personal care or interest 

No matter how long you’ve been together, it’s nice to make an effort for date night — even if that means spending two hours picking out your outfit. 

If you’ve let your health or hygiene lapse because you feel it just won’t make a difference in your relationship, or that your partner won’t notice anyway — this could be a very bad sign. This lack of interest in self-care could indicate deteriorating mental health, as you’ve lost respect for yourself as well as your relationship.

How to stop feeling lonely in a relationship

When feelings of loneliness stem from relationship patterns:

If you are feeling lonely in your relationship, try inviting your partner into your world. Reflect on your boundaries and consider if any of them are too strict or inflexible. Address the fears that may be driving these rigid boundaries, which can prevent you from connecting with others. Remember that loneliness is not solely your problem; humans naturally crave closeness and attachment. Therefore, when feeling lonely, it is important to identify what is hindering that connection. It is completely normal to experience loneliness from time to time.

Sharing your feelings of loneliness with your partner may create pressure for them to fix the issue. Remember, they are the love of your life and don't want you to feel this way. Just as you need to work on yourself, your partner may also need to do the same.

Approaching the conversation with your partner with empathy and compassion that they might not have had deeper intimacy modeled for them growing up. So when you say “I feel lonely” or “I want to be closer to you” they might not have a clue on how to start that movement closer to you.

How to communicate feeling lonely in a relationship

When you’re feeling lonely in a relationship, it can feel like no one will care even if you do make the effort to speak up and make your case. 

However, this approach isn’t fair to your romantic partner, as they may not be aware of the extent of your feelings. Instead of pointing fingers, or playing the blame game, try and open up an honest conversation where you convey the depth of your emotions. 

“The key factor in maintaining and improving your relationship with your partner is communication,” says Calvert. 

“Good communication is the key to supporting each other, and without this, we can start to feel disconnected or lonely,” she explains.

Give your partner the time to express their own feelings — they may even be feeling the same way! Since loneliness is a deeply emotional issue, it can sometimes feel silly to verbalize how you’re feeling. Remember that your feelings are valid, and if your partner tries to gaslight you into believing you’re ‘crazy’, this says more about them than it does about you. 

Ideally, your partner will respond proactively to your feelings and want to do everything they can to help you. 

“We all have different expectations and beliefs about emotional intimacy, many of which are formed during our childhood and through experiences we have had in relationships throughout our lives,” says Calvert. 

“It’s important for both people to consider how they might be contributing to this situation and learn to communicate their needs to one another.”

Once everything is out in the open, it’s easier to work on a solution as a team. Even if you need to start with baby steps. 

If you’re struggling to communicate how you feel with your partner, or you feel the relationship is too broken for this kind of honest conversation — it may be time to suggest couples therapy to help you find the right words. 

When the loneliness bubbles from within:

Get curious about your moments of pulling away or turning inward. Spending time with yourself is a great thing. After all, you are the longest relationship you will have in your life. When you keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself, it can make it difficult for others to connect with you. Instead of them asking you questions and wanting to spend time with you, they seek connection elsewhere to meet their needs, and that loneliness is not so much about any relationship but more about why people might struggle connecting with you.

If you feel lonely and rely solely on yourself to meet your emotional needs, it may be worth exploring why. What scares you about being emotionally vulnerable with an intimate partner or close friend? Consider what feels safe and connected in a relationship when you don't feel lonely. Even if it's just a temporary moment, how do you show up differently in that relationship? Do you reach out more, share more, listen more, or experience less anxiety and stress when you're with that person?

If loneliness is a continuous presence in your life and you don't want to continue with it, it may be time to completely switch things up and step out of your comfort zone. We often desire to feel safe or excited before engaging in something new. However, in reality, we sometimes need to dive into something new even if we're internally resistant. This is not just about "trying new things," but also about challenging your patterns of behavior to show up differently as you try new experiences.

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