7 Honest Ways To Deal With Feeling Lonely In A Relationship
I have felt deeply lonely in a relationship twice in my life.
The first time ended in a divorce.
The second time brought us closer together, both emotionally and physically. I moved across the state, uprooted my entire life, and never looked back.
It was the best decision I ever made.
There are many reasons why you may be lonely in your current relationship.
The good thing about that? It means there are plenty of possible solutions.
In this article, I’ll cover:
- Why Do People Feel Lonely In A Relationship?
- Signs Of Relationship Loneliness
- What To Do About It — 7 Honest Ideas
Why Do People Feel Lonely In A Relationship?
Every situation is different, so the reason behind those lonely feelings will differ from person to person — and relationship to relationship.
In 2019, 61% of Americans reported feeling lonely, with 47% saying their relationships were not meaningful to them.
No one is immune to loneliness. Gen Z participants (ages 18 to 22) in the UCLA Loneliness Scale reported the highest loneliness score of all adult participants.
In another survey, 43% of seniors reported feeling lonely on a regular basis.
And not all of these people are single. It’s a safe bet that many are in relationships. As it turns out, that doesn’t provide a defense against loneliness.
One study found that 40% of people reported “their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated” sometimes or always.
Loneliness in relationships can be caused by:
- Lack of physical intimacy or a sexless marriage
- Lack of communication
- Busy lives spent moving in separate directions
- Not spending enough quality time with a partner
- The end of the “honeymoon phase” in a relationship
- Waiting for a soulmate and realizing your current partner isn’t the one
- Being in a long-distance relationship
- Poor physical or mental health
- A lack of compatibility between partners
- Abuse and violence within the relationship
Signs You’re Feeling Alone In A Relationship
It’s not always easy to recognize loneliness when you’re in a relationship with someone. You might attribute your feelings to stress or feeling tired.
In my first marriage, I was constantly exhausted and stressed out. I knew that I felt alone in my marriage but told myself I “shouldn’t feel that way” because I was married. I had a partner.
But the truth is that I didn’t want to talk to my husband — and I certainly didn’t want to be intimate with him. Looking back, there were much larger problems that went beyond loneliness.
In hindsight, though, I see that my behavior may have led him to feel lonely, too.
Here’s how you can tell you’re feeling lonely in your relationship:
- You feel disconnected or have a lack of interest in your partner.
- You start pulling away from your partner. You’re not communicating as much or sharing the details of your life.
- You’re spending even more time on social media than usual. It might even feel like an escape.
- You lack concern for your partner, yourself, or your life. Things just don’t feel as important as they once did.
- Intimacy is non-existent in your relationship. This isn’t just about sex, either. You don’t want to share parts of yourself — your thoughts, feelings, or your life — with your partner.
- You might feel unwanted, which could make you desperate for attention.
7 Honest Ways To Deal With Loneliness In A Relationship
You can’t always control what you feel, but sometimes you can help yourself and your relationship.
The “fix” for loneliness depends on the cause and you have more options at hand than you probably realize.
You don’t have to be stuck feeling like this — there are ways to alleviate the loneliness you’re feeling in your relationship.
- Talk to your partner:
I know this is the “boring” solution, but it’s always the first thing to try because it works in a lot of situations and it’s the best place to start.
Talk to your partner — openly and honestly — about how you feel, and allow them to do the same. Maybe they’re feeling the same way…but you’ll never know until you have that conversation.
Even if it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
Looking back on my first marriage, I can see how my own unwillingness to talk with my partner may have contributed to his feelings of loneliness.
As I mentioned earlier, we had much larger problems at the time — but one thing we didn’t do was talk about it.
When you and your partner are on the same page about a problem, then you can begin to work together to figure out the cause and find solutions to deal with your loneliness.
But that starts with communication.
On that note, it’s important to embrace vulnerability — on both sides.
A lack of intimacy makes it much harder to connect to your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together.
Vulnerability — sharing your true feelings, saying difficult things, being fully yourself — might be difficult, but it’s how we connect meaningfully.
If your partner is willing to communicate and listen, now is the time to be very real with them.
You can write your thoughts down beforehand if it makes it easier.
Some of us excel at expressing our thoughts and feelings through the written word, but we get flustered and ramble incessantly — or forget what we wanted to say entirely — if we try to communicate everything we’re feeling verbally off the top of our heads.
If this is you, it’s okay to organize your thoughts on paper first.
The most important thing is to let yourself be vulnerable and honest about how you feel and what you need.
Likewise, it’s important to desire and accept that same vulnerability from your partner.
Communication within a relationship should always be a two-way street.
- Connect with friends and family:
If you’re feeling lonely because the other half of your relationship lives hundreds of miles away or works long hours, it’s a good idea to find ways to connect with other people when you’re not able to spend time with your partner.
I’m not talking about surfing dating apps to find a side piece, however.
It’s important to nurture your other relationships — those you have with your friends and family — to avoid falling into the trap of codependency.
If you rely on your partner for all of your emotional support and socialization, not only can that put an undue amount of pressure on them, but it can leave you feeling lonely when they’re not available to provide it.
Although you can and should rely on your partner for emotional and social support, of course, it’s important to make sure they’re not the only source of it.
Make plans to go to lunch with a friend. Call your mom and chat for an hour.
Connection is key to feeling less lonely — but if you’re unable to spend time with your partner, make sure you’re connecting with others in a healthy way.
- Try a new activity together:
It’s not the amount of time spent with a partner that matters, but the quality of that time. New activities lead to new memories, a few laughs, and a new point of connection you didn’t have before.
Brand new experiences can make us happier — and that joy can be doubled if two are taking part in it.
Maybe you’d like to train for a marathon or learn macrame. Perhaps your partner has always wanted to ride a subway in New York City, or you’ve both wondered what it would be like to ride in a hot air balloon.
Trying a new activity can seem a little intimidating, but there is strength in numbers — and there’s a certain comfort that comes with knowing you won’t be doing it alone.
If you’re not sure where to start, you and your partner can make a list of ten things you’d like to do — right now — and then compare notes with one another.
I guarantee you that unless you’re complete polar opposites, there is going to be something you’re both interested in trying together.
(And if not, make a new list and try it again!)
A new activity will give you something to talk about and look forward to with your partner. And afterward, you’ll have a shared experience — and probably some laughs, too.
Finding a new form of common ground like this can be a great way to reconnect and feel less lonely.
- Plan your next trip to see each other:
This one is primarily for those in a long-distance relationship.
Loneliness is a very real (and common) experience when you have miles between you. At times, the sheer distance can seem overwhelming and insurmountable.
Thankfully, we live in a modern world where no one is more than a day’s travel by plane.
Now is a great time to plan your next visit — even if it’s months away.
When I was in a long-distance relationship, planning a visit gave me something to look forward to.
Instead of feeling lonely in the moment, I was able to focus on the future — and what it held.
- Put your phone down:
Using social media as an escape is understandable — and a lot of people do it.
But if you’d rather doom scroll through Facebook instead of talking to your partner, you’re not helping yourself — or your relationship.
Put down your phone. If you’re spending time with your partner — even if you’re just watching a movie at home — be in the moment, and stay there together.
Beyond aimlessly scrolling through social media, I know it’s tempting to document everything through photos and videos saved on your phone — whether you’re at a concert or just walking in nature.
There can be value in that, certainly, but it comes at a steep price: Distraction.
If you’re taking a video of a concert, you’re not living in the moment — you’re seeing it through the lens of your phone’s camera.
Likewise, you’re not sharing the moment with your partner — you’re doing your own thing while you happen to be sharing space together.
When you’re with your partner, be with them — no distractions — and that means putting your phone away.
It’s not going anywhere, I promise.
- Consider couples therapy:
Not every problem in a relationship can be solved with a conversation over dinner or a hike up into the mountains together.
If you struggle to say what’s on your mind or you feel like you’re not listening to each other, a therapist who specializes in relationships may be able to help.
Therapy won’t fix all the problems in your relationship, but it will give you the tools to help you decide what to do — for yourself and your relationship.
- Get real about your relationship:
Look, not every relationship is meant to last. Some continue well beyond their expiration date — and loneliness is often the outcome.
If abuse is part of the equation, this is even more important. Your safety and well-being are vital and you deserve to be with a partner who treats you well.
Above all things, you need to examine your relationship honestly and decide if it is worth saving.
Sometimes, it isn’t.
The hardest thing I ever did was ask my husband for a divorce.
I hated breaking his heart. But it was also the best thing I ever did because it allowed me to grow and become the person I am today.
Ending that relationship also allowed me to (eventually) meet the man of my dreams, move across the state, and live a life that a younger me never imagined possible.
None of that would have happened if I had not taken a real, honest look at my relationship.
Feeling lonely in a relationship is common — and it isn’t something that “only” you are going through.
Many people experience relationship loneliness for a lot of different reasons.
Figure out how you feel. Do some soul-searching about why you feel lonely, decide what you need, and talk to your partner.
Can you fix your relationship? Maybe — but you’ll never know for sure until you take those first steps.
You deserve to be happy — we all do — what matters most is what you do about your loneliness, and how you move forward from here.