What to Do When You’re Feeling Lonely in a Relationship

feeling lonely in a relationship.

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You don’t have to be socially isolated to feel lonely. You might be in a long-term relationship or even in a family with many siblings. You might live in a shared house with friends and still feel alone.

Loneliness is a negative state in which you feel discomfort or social pain. You may feel alone, empty, or possibly even unwanted. It’s not unusual to feel lonely in a crowd or with a loved one. This feeling of social isolation often takes place even if you’re among other people.

This article will focus on feelings of loneliness despite being in a romantic relationship. In these cases, feeling lonely might seem to make no sense, especially if you feel alone as you sit at the dinner table next to your significant other. That’s because loneliness is a feeling and a perception. So, let's look at why some people may feel lonely while in a relationship and tips for dealing with that feeling.

Loneliness Is on the Rise

According to recent research, loneliness is a public health problem. In addition, the global pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness in America and can cause premature mortality.

A new Harvard report suggests that 36% of Americans feel profound loneliness, including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children. Moreover, since the outbreak of the pandemic with its many restrictions and lockdowns, loneliness has increased substantially.

Among couples, it’s often a challenge when one person feels lonely in the relationship. Sometimes, both partners feel isolated. Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem.

Reasons You May Feel Lonely While in a Relationship

If you feel lonely, maybe one of you has pulled back. Or both of you have drifted apart and aren’t as close as you used to be. Situational pressures like spending more time taking care of children or spending late evening hours on work projects might cause a rift between couples.

You might be too tired to reconnect for intimacy. You might feel too pressured (or tired) to meet someone else’s needs. It’s important to figure out what is causing your feelings and to be honest with yourself.

If you feel lonely while in a relationship, you might not be sharing your fears, worries, and vulnerabilities with your partner. Or you might be relying too much on your significant other to help you find meaning in life during trying times.

Another reason you might feel lonely even though you’re in a relationship is that you are trying to fill a void that has nothing to do with the relationship. This void might be something that your partner cannot reasonably be expected to fill for you.

Signs of Loneliness in a Relationship

Here are some things that might indicate feelings of loneliness in a relationship:

  • If you feel lonely even when you are in physical proximity to your partner, you know something is off.
  • If you notice that your communication is lacking and you’re sad and disappointed, that’s a sign.
  • If you’re no longer eager to share stories about your everyday life (that includes work, family, and friends) with your partner, that might be a red flag.
  • If you stopped having sex, that’s another sign that all is not right.
  • If you seek to avoid time with your partner and tell your best friend that things are not working, it might be wise to pause and consider what’s going on.

Impact of Loneliness

While it may seem like no big deal, according to the Cleveland Clinic, loneliness is a risk factor for chronic health conditions. When you’re feeling lonely, cortisol increases. This is not good because having more of the stress hormone can hinder your mental performance, impact your immune system, and increase your risk for inflammation and heart disease.

The price you pay for loneliness might include a range of serious physical and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse, and domestic abuse. Loneliness has also been implicated in premature death.

Limit Social Media

Many of us are spending an inordinate amount of time on Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram and we don’t even realize it. Although social media is a viable way to connect us when we can’t be together, it’s become clear that living more on our phones than in real life has negative consequences.

In a study called "Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.," published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, heavy social media users felt more socially isolated. This does not bode well as they form relationships and mature.

With the prevalence of social media, young adults and others are constantly viewing images of happy couples having fun all over the globe. It’s natural to compare yourself and your partner to these people, especially as you go through rough times.

You might become jealous or feel like you or your relationship is lacking. But you’re looking at superficial images and only the sanitized and filtered version of real life.

One surprising way to make your relationship better is to go to bed at the same time and do not scroll through your phones. When one partner seems distracted by their phone, the other feels less valued and cared for.

How to Alleviate Loneliness in a Relationship

If you've been feeling lonely in your relationship, here are ways to work through those feelings.

Discuss Your Feelings With Your Significant Other

Remind the other person you’re not blaming or criticizing in any way, but want to share your feelings. Then share that you are really lonely. Maybe you both need to make changes.

Or this might be attributable to some feelings you have that predate the relationship and that you need to address yourself.

Take a Break From Social Media

Instead of texting your partner, make a phone call. Or better yet, meet up with them for a quick drink at your favorite café. Aim to focus on connecting with your partner.

Do Something Nice for Them

If your partner loves history, buy them a book about the Civil War. Or offer to drive the kids for ice cream after school so your partner, who works from home, can take a break and play a video game for a little while.

Volunteer

Think about others and give back. If you love animals, maybe both of you can volunteer at an animal shelter. Or reach out to see if you can work together on building a house for Habitat for Humanity.

Hug Your Partner

Be physically affectionate. When you hug your partner, oxytocin (often called the "cuddle hormone") is released. When you touch one another, you’ll feel a sense of closeness. You’ll also gain deeper feelings of connection, bonding, and trust.

Nurture Other Relationships

Call your buddy or spend time with your sister. Don’t forget to nurture your other important relationships. You’ll be reminded that you love others and that you yourself are loved.

Try Couple's Therapy

By speaking to a couple's therapist, you can learn proven skills to bring you closer together. Lean on this professional to guide you personally or together on ways to not feel isolated inside a relationship.

A Word From Verywell

Solitude and being alone can be a good thing. It can help you recharge and give you time to go inward through meditation, reading or journaling . But if you’re feeling lonely, disconnected and isolated even with your partner, look for ways to help yourself and your relationship. Do something constructive. The goal is to have a healthy relationship both with yourself and with your partner.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cacioppo JT, Cacioppo S. The growing problem of loneliness. The Lancet. 2018;391(10119):426.

  2. Harvard University. Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It. Published February 2021.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. What Happens in Your Body When You're Lonely?. Published February 23, 2018.

  4. Primack BA. Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. AJPM. 2017; 53(1):1-8.