Find someone to love, and you’ll never be lonely again.
But tell that to the many married adults who feel lonely even when their spouse is sitting right beside them.
You can be together but not feel together.
When your partner is detached, preoccupied, or busy, it’s like he doesn’t know you exist. Your attempts at connection go nowhere. You feel like a ghost hovering in the periphery, waving desperately in an attempt to be seen.
When you’re single, you expect those feelings of loneliness to come and go. When you’re in a relationship, you don’t expect to have those feelings. So they hit you harder.
But loneliness in relationships is more common than you might think. It goes hand in hand with emotional distance or drifting apart.
When the person you love more than anything acts as if he doesn’t want to be with you or pushes you away, the pain is acute. Even if he just wants a bit of space, it’s easy to start catastrophizing.
“Does he not love me anymore? Did I do something wrong? Is it all over? Has he met someone else?”
But loneliness doesn’t have to be an emergency siren, warning of a cliff ahead.
Instead, it can be a gentle wake-up call, reminding you to redouble your efforts at connection.
When a couple is young and inexperienced, it can be easy to assume that the initial flush of love is enough to last a lifetime. It’s not.
Stop making an effort, and you may be able to coast for a while … but eventually you’ll find yourself on opposite sides of the bed, with a big fat cold space in between.
Being in a relationship doesn’t guarantee you won’t ever feel lonely. All relationships, if not maintained, eventually drift apart. It takes work to stay together.
Loneliness is a wake-up call. Your relationship may not be heading towards a cliff quite yet, but it may get there if you don’t take action now to change its direction.
What should you do if you find yourself feeling lonely in your relationship?
Here are three ideas.
- Start a conversation he’s interested in.
When couples first meet, they can’t get enough of hearing about one another. They want to know everything about one another. They talk about everything under the sun.
The longer they’re together, the more they’ve memorized each other’s stories. They assume they know what each other thinks and feels. Their conversations become transactional, or focused on topics like where to go for dinner and who should take the car in for an oil change.
They stop complimenting one another. They stop listening to one another. They stop discovering one another.
You can get back that loving feeling by getting curious about your partner again.
You know a lot about him, but what don’t you know? Do you know what he’s working on in his job this very moment? Do you know what he’s singing along to on the radio? Do you know what he wanted to be as a kid?
Start having those conversations again. Ask him about himself. Showing interest in him can make all the difference.
- Balance “me” time with “we” time.
It’s tricky to get the balance of togetherness and personal time right. We want to enjoy feeling connected, but we don’t want to feel suffocated.
Getting the balance right means enjoying your time together and enjoying your time apart.
Men need “me” time just as much as women do. They can pull away when they feel overwhelmed, stressed, or drained. John Gray called this “going into their cave.”
When a man goes into his cave, it’s important to realize that he’s not rejecting the relationship. He’s simply trying to cope in a way that works for him.
When he goes into his cave, that’s a sign that you’re free to do what you need to do. Go out with your girlfriends. Do something social and fun, and don’t wait around for him. You don’t need to be lonely just because he’s not around.
Enjoy your “me” time, and your “we” time will be better for it.
- Be honest about your feelings of vulnerability.
If you’ve tried and tried but still don’t see an improvement, then it’s time to talk about it.
Tell him that you’re missing the feelings of closeness you used to share. You’re missing him! You don’t want to drift apart and risk losing this relationship that means so much to you. Is there anything you could do?
Conversations like that are hard. But they’re better than losing the war against loneliness.
Don’t let the intimacy you once shared go without a fight. Your relationship needs you. Reach out and connect.