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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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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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