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Published on February 5, 2021

6 Real Reasons Why You’re Feeling Alone in a Relationship

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6 Real Reasons Why You’re Feeling Alone in a Relationship

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. However, it generally includes some of the following:[1]

  • Feeling unheard or not listened to by your partner
  • Feeling unloved or uncared for
  • Feeling disconnected from the relationship
  • Feeling anxious in bringing up issues
  • Not sharing news (good or bad) with your loved one
  • Overlooking their input or not feeling like your input matters
  • Feeling unsure about the future, the relationship, or yourself
  • Finding yourself a solo decision maker
  • Beginning to make plans (short or long term) that don’t involve your other half
  • Feeling sad, empty or hopeless

If you are in a relationship and yet already have begun to feel alone, you may wonder what caused it and how to fix it.

Relate (UK) acknowledges how complex the notion of loneliness can be. It can include internal factors, which—to a degree—belong to you as well as factors that are shared with your partner equally.[2] Understanding both of these can help you address them better.

1. Feeling Lonely From Within

You might stare at this and wonder how internal factors (personal traits, temperament, or behaviors) can make you feel alone in a relationship—while in the company of someone you love.

Hear me out.

Attachment Styles and Relationships

We’ve all heard about “attachment” when it pertains to children. But how does attachment play a part in adults when it comes to relationships?

In brief, there are four attachment styles grown-ups can display.[3]

Secure

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.

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Dismissive-Avoidant

Partners with a dismissive-avoidant attachment tend to put distance between them and their loved one. They may isolate or take on the role of the “manager” or “parent.”

Dismissive-avoidant partners may attempt to convince themselves that they’re independent and no longer need a connection from their spouse. However, this only leads to an element of detachment and defensiveness. They may be harsh and/or act like they just don’t care (but newsflash—they do).

Anxious-Preoccupied

Spouses with an anxious attachment style tend to seek—sometimes at the risk of really annoying their partner—constant presence and reassurance. They have been described as “emotionally hungry.” They may talk about needing their partner to complete them or “rescue: them. Worse, they may feel that without a fulfilling relationship, they do not matter or are only ‘half’ of themselves.

The risk in this attachment style is becoming clingy and needy and being rejected by an exhausted partner, causing them to feel alone in their relationship.

Fearful-Avoidant (a.k.a. Disorganized)

Finally, a partner in a disorganized attachment pattern may live in a constant state of fear and/or confusion trying to balance being too close or too distant from their partner. There’s a real ambivalence in these people in that they feel they never get it right and feel overwhelmed by their emotional cyclones.

Sadly, adults with this attachment style often have a history of difficult upbringing. This translates to constantly feeling hurt (subjectively at times) by the person they need to feel safe. To make matters worse, they generally struggle in resolving their needs.

You can see how your attachment style may have something to do with feeling alone in your relationship. If you’re not quite secure in your attachment, it’s not too late to change this. Rewriting your narrative via self-help books, therapy, or with the help of an understanding partner is a good place to start.

Mental Health and Loneliness

How does mental health have anything to do with feeling lonely in your relationship? Put simply, a great deal.

Our thoughts affect our emotions and subsequently our behaviors. Imagine how a depressed person may feel about their relationship if they’re feeling flat, low, insecure. They are likely to feel lonely because depression makes us feel like that.

The same goes for anxiety. If we’re feeling anxious, we might find ourselves feeling fearful, jumping to the worst-case scenario, or simply internalizing all these emotions and blocking our partner’s influence by the same token.

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Taking this one step further, trauma may impact how we manage relationships, trust others, and assume the worst. When people have genuinely experienced adverse events through their lives, they may continue to expect them. This may also lead them to feel very lonely as a result of their somewhat distorted experiences.

    Working on your mental health is beyond important. It’s vital to a healthy relationship. This is because you matter. Your happiness matters. Your relationship matters, too.

    Depending on how your mental health may be compromised, you could attempt to work on it by yourself via motivational podcasts/quotes, self-help, self-care, and other simple ways to help your overcome depression. If your mental health requires a little bit more work, please seek professional support from a therapist and/or your family doctor.

    As my mental health improved, so did my relationship. It was such an uplifting time both personally and as a couple. I didn’t feel lonely after that.

    2. Feeling Alone Within Your Relationship

    We’ve established that it is possible to feel lonely based on what might be going on internally. However, in many cases, this loneliness comes as a result of relational factors.

    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, alone in the relationship.

    Scheduling Issues

    Regardless of how much couples may love each other, without some nurturing and prioritizing the time to see each other, in time, partners may start disconnecting. Partly, it’s habit. Partly, it’s individualizing day to day routine. Nevertheless, we can not have a relationship with a ghost!

    Setting time aside to connect is paramount. This is certainly relevant for partners who may work away and deal with physical absence and/or physical distance. Scheduling some one on one time is one good way to stop feeling lonely in your relationship.

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    Quality of the Time Together

    As we discussed above, it’s important to find time to be together if we don’t want to find ourselves lonely in our relationship. But what is as important is making sure that the quality time that is spent is actually good. Emptying the trash together might be time spent as a couple, but what kind of quality time is it?

    Pay attention to the quality of your time together and make it fun, enjoyable, and/or diverse. Take turns in planning your activities for a broader range of fun!

    3. Goals and Expectations

    What do goals and expectations have to do with feeling alone in a relationship?

    As explained by Austin Bollinger when emphasizing the importance of setting goals, 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, 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 directions 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.

    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, unlove, 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, 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 anyway it can. It took me a while to realize that expressing what my needs were wasn’t selfish. It was what people did when they felt safe. And feeling safe and nurtured was definitely what I wanted for both me and my partner.

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    5. Sexy Times

    Men and women experience intimacy differently. There’s a lot involved when it comes to having a good sexual experience including trust, respect, communication, and reading each other’s likes and dislikes.

    For many women in long term relationships, they need to feel emotionally connected to be in a sexy mood. Many men, however, need the sexual experience to feel connected to their partner. What does this mean in practice?

    This means that when couples are disconnected sexually, whether because of scheduling issues, relationship difficulties, parenting/stress, and/or physical/mental health issues, they may feel a degree of loneliness in their relationship.

    6. 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.

    Repairing the damage is absolutely doable but may require patience, commitment, and major efforts on both parts. Depending on what the issues are, couples may benefit from a relationship expert to guide them in the right direction.

    To Wrap It Up

    Feeling lonely in a relationship sounds like an oxymoron, but it happens. it may be due to internal or external reasons, all as valid as each other.

    To kick the loneliness to the curb, try the following:

    • Write a gratitude journal.
    • Challenge your negative self-talk.
    • Make time for each other.
    • Listen actively to your partner.
    • Express your needs and consider your partner’s needs.
    • Work on common goals.
    • Dates, cuddles, and romance. Don’t be afraid to indulge in the good stuff!

    If all else fails, seek help. Your relationship will thank you later!

    Read These If You Want To Strengthen Your Relationship

    Featured photo credit: Andrik Langfield via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Stephanie Azri

    Women, couples, and family Therapist; Translating almost anything into concrete steps towards success and happiness.

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    Last Updated on January 5, 2022

    How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

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    How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

    We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

    Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

    Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

    Expressing Anger

    Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

    Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

    Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

    Being Passive-Aggressive

    This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

    Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

    This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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    Poorly-Timed

    Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

    An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

    Ongoing Anger

    Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

    Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

    Healthy Ways to Express Anger

    What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

    Being Honest

    Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

    Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

    Being Direct

    Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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    Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

    Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

    Being Timely

    When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

    Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

    Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

    How to Deal With Anger

    If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

    1. Slow Down

    From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

    In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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    When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

    2. Focus on the “I”

    Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

    When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

    3. Work out

    When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

    Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

    Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

    4. Seek Help When Needed

    There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

    5. Practice Relaxation

    We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

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    That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

    Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

    6. Laugh

    Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

    7. Be Grateful

    It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

    Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

    Final Thoughts

    Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

    During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

    Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

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    More Resources on Anger Management

    Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

    Reference

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