What Causes Romantic Loneliness And 8 Ways To Overcome It

Experiencing loneliness while you’re in a romantic relationship can make you feel overwhelmingly sad — but you’re not alone in this struggle.
Photograph Of Man And Woman Standing Apart While Holding Hands And Looking Over A Cityscape From Their Apartment

The thought of experiencing loneliness while you’re in a relationship seems contradictory since we (wrongly) assume that only single folks are lonely.

Key Takeaways:

  • One study found that 40% of people reported feeling that their romantic relationships are not meaningful.
  • Sometimes feelings of fear or the belief that you can only be happy if you’re in a relationship can cause people to stay with a partner even if they’re feeling unfulfilled.
  • The most important step toward reconnecting with your partner, hands-down, is communication.

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Once we partner up or commit to a relationship, we think our lonely days are over.

But in reality, relationships don’t always keep us from feeling lonely.

The reason for this is simple: Being in a relationship does not necessarily mean we are fulfilled by it.

There are plenty of people who have a partner but still struggle with feeling lonely.

In fact, being in a relationship where you have little (or no) real connection with your partner can actually increase your loneliness.

8 Ways To Overcome Your Romantic Loneliness

photo of two lit sparklers in front of a man and woman overcoming their loneliness in their romantic relationship

Romantic loneliness can be overwhelming. Many people struggle to make sense of it, especially when they’re not sure how to relieve their feelings.

Here are some ways that may help you alleviate romantic loneliness.

1. Communicate

This might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason why we listed this one first.

Communication is the backbone of connection within any relationship.

Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling without placing blame. Be vulnerable and share your fears and worries with them.

They may have no idea you’re feeling disconnected, and you can discuss ways you can both make changes and improvements that will help to reduce feelings of romantic loneliness.

2. Acts Of Service

Every morning my partner brings me coffee. It’s a very small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it makes me feel cared for and it gets my morning off to a great start.

My partner is really into music, so if I’m out and I see something related to one of their favorite bands, I’ll get it for them.

Letting your partner know that you’re thinking about them — whether it’s through a small act of kindness or even a purchase — shows that you care and will help keep you close to one another.

3. Physical Touch

I want to preface this by saying that physical contact is a good idea if both partners enjoy this and crave it.

As we mentioned earlier, some romantic relationships do not prioritize physical intimacy (nor have any at all!) — and if that’s what works in your particular relationship, don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

If you’re in a relationship that does prioritize physical contact and human touch as part of a means of connection, however, make an effort to increase its frequency.

To increase intimacy within my own relationship, I try to hug my partner every day.

Touch is a non-verbal way to let your partner know you care about them. When you touch your partner, it conveys a feeling of being accepted and cared for.

If you’re in a sexless marriage or relationship and are unsure about how to rekindle the spark, you can read more about that here.

4. Quality Time

Earlier, we talked about how a lack of quality time together can create a sense of disconnect between partners.

So…when is the last time you had a real date?

Particularly for couples who are raising children together, “date night” is an event that often gets pushed aside because of family or work obligations, or the babysitter bailed, or the in-laws are in town, or [insert any excuse of your choice here].

Plan a special date — stick to it — and go have some fun with your partner!

You might go to a paint and sip or get tickets to see a comedy show. Get a hotel room for a night and pretend you’re a thousand miles from home — and the obligations of your daily life.

If you really can’t go out into the world, why not try to replicate the spaghetti and meatballs recipe from your favorite Italian restaurant?

These types of personalized activities will allow you to spend time with your partner and make them feel special.

5. Undivided Attention

We spend so much time on our phones and computers these days. It’s a constant stream of external stimulation — one that diverts our attention away from the people who are right in the room with us.

Try to let go of social media and work emails for at least an hour every night to give yourselves time to talk about your day or make plans for the weekend.

It’s really beneficial to connect with one another without interruptions.

Additionally, it’s nearly impossible to be fully present in a conversation with your significant other when your phone is open to a social media app like Facebook.

6. Self-Care Together

If you don’t take time for self-care, you won’t be able to bring your best self to your relationship.

This is true for you — and your partner.

Make time to do things that make you happy. Take a restorative yoga class, have brunch with a friend, or get a hot stone massage if that’s your thing.

Even if your self-care involves just taking a shower and putting on clean clothes every day, do whatever it is that keeps you feeling your best.

On that note, make sure your partner is doing the same. In fact, you can strike a deal with your romantic partner to ensure that you’ll both take steps to practice adequate self-care.

Particularly when we’re in long-term relationships, it’s easy to think “This partner is mine, I can stop trying so hard now,” and backslide on our own self-care.

Again, we feel our best when we’re doing our best for ourselves — and that self-care can translate to an improved connection with our partner at the same time.

7. Couples’ Counseling

If the other suggestions we’ve made just aren’t working, or if you and your partner are struggling to communicate with one another, couples’ counseling may help.

Not only can counseling allow you and your partner to get to the root of your romantic loneliness, but a counselor should be equipped to teach you how to communicate effectively with one another.

Additionally, a couples’ counselor can provide methods for working through communication barriers while offering useful suggestions that will enable you to rebuild your connection with one another.

8. Let Go

I’m going to be brutally honest, here.

While the connection with your romantic partner is important, there are times when a relationship just cannot be fixed — nor should it.

As we mentioned earlier, some people will stay in an unhealthy relationship for far too long because it is familiar and they’re afraid of being alone, or they’re convinced that they can’t (or won’t) find anything better.

You deserve to be loved just as much as you deserve to be fulfilled by your romantic relationship.

If your partner isn’t meeting your needs on every level and they are incapable or unwilling to do so, it’s okay to let it go.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, I assure you.

What Is Romantic Loneliness?

photo of a man and woman sitting around a bonfire and looking out at the sea, experiencing loneliness in their romantic relationship

Romantic loneliness is the feeling of disconnect from a romantic partner. This type of loneliness can occur at any stage of a relationship, even in long-term partnerships.

Where loneliness is the desire to have more social connections than one currently has, romantic loneliness is specific to wanting a greater amount of romantic connection with a partner than a person is receiving.

When two people first meet, get to know each other, and form a relationship, they are connected through shared interests, sexual chemistry, and the intense feelings of happiness associated with falling in love.

You might believe that the things that brought them together and forged that initial connection will be strong enough to maintain the relationship over time.

However, this isn’t always the case.

People who are in romantic relationships or even marriages may contend with loneliness for a variety of reasons.

Romantic loneliness can occur from:

  • A lack of shared quality time: Not making the time to do different activities together to strengthen your bond can result in feelings of loneliness in one or both partners.
  • A lack of self-care: Both partners need to practice self-care to be the best version of themselves. Particularly in long-term relationships, self-care can fall by the wayside, which can have a negative effect on mutual attraction or become a cause of concern over the amount of effort each partner is putting into the relationship.
  • Poor communication: By not conveying your thoughts and feelings to your partner (and vice versa) poor communication can shred the connection between romantic partners over time.
  • A lack of physicality or intimacy: Although some romantic relationships can and do survive a lack of physical intimacy, partners who don’t touch, cuddle, or have sex may experience loneliness and a dwindling sense of connection between them.
  • Declining emotional or mental health: Your mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. Although romantic partners generally provide mental and emotional support to each other, if one partner is struggling with emotional or mental health issues that the other partner cannot “fix,” it can lead to feelings of disconnect within the relationship.
  • A lack of appreciation or acknowledgment. When partners don’t take the time to acknowledge their significant other or make them feel special, this can erode the sense of connection between them.

Why Do People Experience Romantic Loneliness?

The root cause of romantic loneliness is feeling the lack of a strong, intimate bond between one or both partners.

Normal stressors of daily life like family, career obligations, or mental health issues can cause a lack of connection on a deeper emotional level between partners.

Such stressors can cause a couple to become isolated from each other, making one or both people feel lonely in the relationship.

I experienced romantic loneliness when I was dealing with some personal struggles.

At the time, my happiness was something I needed to work on and it had absolutely nothing to do with my partner.

I went to therapy on my own, which helped immensely. With time, everything fell back into place — including the connection between my partner and me.

According to a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, partner relationships have been found to be the strongest component against loneliness.

However, the study goes on to say that loneliness might still develop if a relationship is unsatisfying. In fact, another study found that 40% of people sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful.

Romantic loneliness is also strongly tied to single loneliness because both evolve from the feeling that the desired quantity or quality of one’s relationships is unfulfilled.

There is also a societal pressure to be in a relationship — and be “happy” within it.

Modern culture prizes romantic relationships, which can add unnecessary strain on single people who feel pressured to pair up with someone as soon as possible.

For this reason, a person might seek any romantic relationship they can find, just to fill the void and meet that expectation.

The result, however, is that they might find themselves in a romantic relationship that isn’t meeting their needs or providing them with the connection they desire. Thus, romantic loneliness ensues.

On the other hand, a fear of being alone can cause someone to stay in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

That same fear can provoke someone to remain in a constant search for a soulmate or twin flame, keeping them in a never-ending search for a “perfect” mate.

This may leave a person feeling more lonely, particularly if they experience a series of short-term relationships with very little success or fulfillment.

All of this points to one basic truth: Romantic relationships are not necessarily a “cure” for loneliness.

Just because you are in a romantic relationship does not mean you can’t (or won’t) feel lonely.

At the end of the day, if you’re not connecting with your partner and your needs are not being met, you may very well experience romantic loneliness.

When you’re in a relationship and feeling disconnected from your partner, it can be very confusing as to why.

But when life’s stressors get in the way, disconnect between partners can be inevitable.

And remember, being in a relationship is not a cure for loneliness.

Closing Thoughts

Experiencing loneliness while you’re in a romantic relationship can make you feel overwhelmingly sad — but you’re not alone in this struggle.

Romantic loneliness can and does happen for a lot of reasons.

When the trials and tribulations of daily life create a sense of disconnect from our partner, we can feel desperate to understand why — and how to fix it.

The solution begins with communication, but there are several things you can do to rebuild a connection with your romantic partner.

With time and effort, you may be able to get your relationship back on track and perhaps, even better than ever.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of The Roots Of Loneliness Project, the first-of-its-kind resource that comprehensively explores the phenomenon of loneliness and over 100 types we might experience during our lives.

Find Help Now

If you’re struggling with loneliness while in a romantic relationship, we’ve put together resources to meet you wherever you are — whether you want someone to talk to right now, or are looking for longer-term ways to help ease your loneliness.