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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
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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 July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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