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Published on February 5, 2021

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

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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    Published on May 4, 2021

    How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

    How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

    They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

    In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

    How to Spot Fake People?

    When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

    Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

    1. Full of Themselves

    Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

    Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

    2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

    Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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    It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

    3. Zero Self-Reflection

    To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

    Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

    4. Unrealistic Perceptions

    Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

    A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

    5. Love Attention

    As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

    6. People Pleaser

    Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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    Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

    7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

    Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

    8. Crappy friend

    Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

    It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

    The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

    How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

    It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

    There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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    1. Boundaries

    Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

    2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

    Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

    3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

    If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

    4. Ask for Advice

    If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

    Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

    5. Dig Deeper

    Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

    Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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    6. Practice Self-Care!

    Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

    Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

    Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

    Final Thoughts

    Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

    We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

    More Tips on Dealing With Fake People

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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