Creative Ways to Overcome Loneliness in a Relationship

Did you know it's possible to feel lonely without, well, actually being alone? Yes, you hear correctly. You can absolutely feel loneliness in a relationship, even a relatively healthy one. You're busy, you're stressed, and you're not seeing friends. Read on to learn more.
Creative Ways to Overcome Loneliness in a Relationship
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Did you know it’s possible to feel lonely without actually being alone? It’s true. You may utterly feel loneliness in a relationship, even a relatively healthy one. You’re always busy, your job stresses you, and you miss your friends and family. According to Kiaundra Jackson , a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, “Being alone is when you’re literally by yourself”. 

On the other hand, loneliness is a psychological state lasting longer than a mood. Yes, loneliness in a relationship tends to linger. Unfortunately, this is something that can happen for days, weeks, or even months or years if it’s that deep. This is pretty sad. Many of us assume that we have to be alone to be lonely, but that’s not the case. 

In fact, a recent study has shown that even those who are married have reported feelings of loneliness. But what exactly does it mean when you feel lonely in a relationship? More importantly, does that mean you should call it quits? Not necessarily, states Alysha Jeney, a millennial relationship therapist. 

She also says that loneliness in a relationship is a state of being, and it’s not just boredom. It’s an inability to connect. So how exactly do you know if you’re lonely in your relationship? Feeling lonely in a relationship often stems from holes in communication. When someone doesn’t pull their weight in shared responsibilities, it boosts loneliness. 

These responsibilities may be household tasks or helping kids with their homework. Loneliness in a relationship also stems from putting a lot of energy into a role as a parent. Yet not as much attention to detail into your role as a partner. 

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

 -Paul Tillich-

Why we feel lonely in a relationship

There’s often loneliness in a relationship or in a social group when people aren’t genuine. Sadly, these people can’t be themselves with the people and environment that they surround themselves with every day. Loneliness is emotional and mental isolation. Some signs to look out for include feeling unable to be yourself with your partner, and lacking genuine intimacy. 

This state can stem from many different things, including depression, grief, and anxiety. Every romantic relationship is different. If you’re feeling lonely, it can be one of two things. The first is that you may be with the wrong person, even if you may match well on paper. 

Because of this, you may have been unable to let your partner connect with the authentic you. Therefore, you have nothing in common or don’t even have similar values or needs. The second situation is that you’re actually with the “right” person but are too afraid to let them in. 

You may be experiencing isolation because you haven’t taken risks at being vulnerable and shown them the real you. Thus, you aren’t connecting deeply. The positive news is that, if your relationship falls into the latter group, there are ways to fight these feelings. Other signs of loneliness in a relationship can include:

  • Isolation or a lack of desire to spend time with other people.
  • Changes in eating patterns.
  • Not completing daily responsibilities (cooking dinner, helping with the children, etc.)
  • A change in communication with others.
  • A shift in hygiene (showering less or not grooming as usual).
  • A shift in social media activity.
  • Wanting more physical closeness with your partner.
  • Hiding your true feelings and likes.

What to do when you feel lonely in a relationship

Feeling depressed or lonely in your relationship makes you question yourself more than you may ever have before. Be careful. According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people suffer from depression . Depression is often overlooked, but in reality, it’s the leading cause of loneliness in a relationship. Depression should be taken seriously.

When a relationship is going well, it’s partly because you feel like you’re a part of something. You’re on a team, and you have someone around who always has your back. Besides, let’s face it, there’s kind of no greater feeling. So when things go south, being in a relationship can feel like the loneliest place in the world. 

But, believe it or not, feeling loneliness in a relationship isn’t all that uncommon. Have you been feeling the heavy cloak of loneliness draped over your shoulders, though your partner is a few feet away? It’s time for a conversation. Like, a real, in-depth conversation about where you stand in the relationship.

Whether something’s changed or not, try to talk openly, without accusation or anger. Express your needs and listen to them. If they’re receptive, make time to connect every day. Talk about your feelings and theirs. If you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness in your relationship, you need to bring the issues to light. 

Sit down and talk to your partner, discussing how you feel and what you need from them. But be sure to listen to what your partner needs as well. You owe it to yourself to speak up and do whatever’s necessary to make you feel connected again. Don’t wait around for another opportunity. Communicate clearly and effectively.

Common causes of loneliness in a relationship

As we mentioned above, loneliness occurs even if you’re in a relationship. In fact, just because you’re married or dating someone doesn’t exclude you from the possibility of feeling lonely. What are the main causes for loneliness in a relationship and what are ways you can deal with it?

Loneliness happens to anyone and at any point in their lives, in or out of a relationship. Feeling lonely in your marriage or relationship? Consider the reasons why and recognize the signs. Here are some of the factors that lead to feeling lonely:

  • Intimacy fizzles. Some relationships just lose their spark. Feeling an affection loss? You may be left simply going through the motions. Intimacy plays a big part in getting deeply connected. Without this connection to your partner, you start feeling a sense of isolation and separation, leading to loneliness.
  • Distance and physical separation. When a spouse or partner is away for long periods whether due to military service or work, it’s difficult. This physical separation may lead to one or both partners suffering from loneliness.
  • Health problems. Feelings of loneliness may occur in relationships where a spouse or partner is dealing with a chronic illness. They may be battling a serious disease or may be even hospitalized.
  • Emotional issues. Issues like substance abuse and depression introduces loneliness in a relationship. It’s important that your healthcare provider, a therapist, or counselor is engaged. They can help address all factors of the relationship, including the causes and effects.
  • Physical or emotional abuse. Any kind of abuse in a relationship can certainly lead to loneliness. But it also leads to depression, substance abuse, and injury as well. If there’s abuse occurring now or in the past, inform your healthcare provider, a counselor, or therapist.

Consider the possibility of ending the relationship

Couples who get together and ultimately find they aren’t compatible end up in a dead-end relationship. Resentment, intolerance, impatience, and unhappiness replace what was once possibly a blissful existence. Are you in a relationship like this? Loneliness is among the emotions and feelings bubbling to the surface.

You’ve spent time together, opened up to your partner, and communicated your needs, yet nothing works. You have to face the reality that you may need to end your relationship . If you can’t work it out, decide if it’s time to move on. If it’s too hard to do this alone, reach out to a therapist or a couple’s therapist. It may prove helpful!

Loneliness in a relationship can have detrimental effects on your mental health. Thus, it’s better to be single and happy than to be miserable together. You may not even have to entirely break up. Rather, you can just take time away from each other. Having a week or two to yourself might just help you see things differently.

If you have irreconcilable differences, it’d be better to just separate amicably so that you can move on. This is hard. Would you rather live a lie and walk on eggshells all your life? Or would you rather change to make yourself feel better as a whole even if you’re alone?

Struggling in a relationship that seems lonely? It’s vital to tend to your emotional and physical health. Only YOU know whether the relationship is worth it. Try communicating with others, such as your partner, friends, family, and therapist and consider these options for working through loneliness. Browse our blog for more ways to overcome loneliness in a relationship.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Russell, D., Peplau, LA, y Cutrona, CE (1980). La Escala de Soledad de UCLA revisada: evidencia de validez concurrente y discriminante. Diario de la personalidad y la psicología social , 39 (3), 472-480.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.