Why Do Couples Isolate Themselves?

In some couples, the individual experience of the two on the social level is impoverished. This weighs down the relationship itself, which becomes much more vulnerable.
Why Do Couples Isolate Themselves?
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Some people blame romantic love for couples choosing to distance themselves from their social circle. However, the reasons are rather more complex..

Couples have different levels of risk of losing their social networks. It seems that the greatest risk of all is that their own parents have divorced or they’ve grown up with a single parent. Certain personality traits, such as neuroticism, are also often identified as risk factors, as are some external circumstances. For example, maybe both partners spend a great deal of time at work.

As a rule, the more isolated a couple is, the greater their feelings of dissatisfaction.

Why do couples isolate themselves?

Happy couple
When a relationship starts, couples want to isolate themselves to make the most of what they feel toward each other.

There are couples who, by choice or because of their reserved nature, prefer not to have social relationships, except for professional or family reasons. Some accept living like this and appear to adapt well to that situation. However, for how long can this last? Can a couple really survive if they don’t also have relationships with others?

The first important point to take into account is how old the relationship is. If they only met a few months ago, the explanation probably won’t be the same as if they’d been together for several years. Let’s take a closer look.

Couples who’ve only been together a few months

At the beginning of a relationship, love is all-consuming. The couple can’t bear to be apart from each other, even when it comes to spending time with their own family. They prefer to stay at home together, to be free to show each other all the affection they want, without worrying about what others might think.

At this stage in the relationship, they only seem to need each other. However, a couple needs to be built by facing the outside world. In fact, the passage of time means that things change and certain dynamics are established in the relationship.

If the couple doesn’t interact with the outside world, the evolution of their relationship will be limited and restricted. That’s because the situations likely to strengthen the couple are reduced. The main risk is that it takes too long for them to discover what their partner is like in their relationship with others, like their family and friends.

The couple that’s been isolated for years

The couple that’s been together for several years and has lost all their social relationships is in danger. They’ve isolated themselves, which has reduced their social circle, making them far more vulnerable. Their circle of support has shrunk and any serious setback to one of them means that the other has to unconditionally support them. That’s only because they have no other options.

This dependency is usually extremely costly for the relationship in terms of wear and tear. Even before the pandemic, research showed that couples who were socially isolated fared worse than those who were well-integrated in their social networks.

In addition, it should be noted that a well-established social circle around the couple enriches communication. They have more things to talk about and their indirect experiences allow them to enrich each other.

Ways to recover social life

Relationships work best when couples agree on how often they want to go out and attend social events or visit friends and family, but can struggle when they disagree on this issue.

  • When the members of the couple differ in their social needs, they must reach an agreement if they want to avoid problems. Both of them must decide how often and which social gatherings they’ll attend. Indeed, good solutions are only those that really benefit both parties.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable for one partner to attend an event without the other. Indeed, as we mentioned earlier, accumulating social experiences individually enriches the relationship, not only in terms of conversation but also in respect of more contacts.
couples eating together
Making plans as a couple with others strengthens the relationship.

Warning signs

We’ve already listed several reasons why isolation can occur. There are also reasons why it’s not recommended.

Perhaps the most dangerous situation is when isolation is generated by one of the partners in order to manipulate or mistreat the other. After all, isolating a partner is a direct way of making them more vulnerable.

It’s unclear what comes first in these kinds of difficult situations: the problem or the lack of help. It could be due to gender-based violence when the perpetrator (usually a man) wants to prevent their partner from getting help.

Acquaintances often don’t realize that problems and episodes of abuse have developed. They continue to assume that the couple is fine. Therefore, if a relationship between friends breaks up for no apparent reason, if one of the friends is one half of an isolating couple, this should always be a cause for concern.

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.

  • Armenta-Hurtarte, C., Sánchez-Aragón, R., & Díaz-Loving, R. (2012). ¿ De qué manera el contexto afecta la satisfacción con la pareja?. Suma psicológica19(2), 51-62.
  • Benjamin B. Haggerty et al .: La pareja desconectada: relaciones íntimas en el contexto del aislamiento social. Opinión actual en psicología, 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.06.002.
  • Haggerty, BB, Bradbury, TN y Karney, BR (2022). La pareja desconectada: relaciones íntimas en el contexto del aislamiento social. Opinión Actual en Psicología , 43, 24-29. Publicación anticipada en línea: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.06.002.
  • Streri, A., de Hevia, MD, Izard, V. y Coubart, A. (2013). ¿Qué sabemos sobre la cognición neonatal?. Ciencias del comportamiento (Basilea, Suiza) , 3 (1), 154–169. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3010154.

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