It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
You found a great guy. You get along well. You should be happy.
But something feels different in your relationship.
Even when he’s with you, it doesn’t feel like he’s with you.
He’s distracted. He’s listening and saying, “Uh huh,” but you can tell he’s not paying attention.
Sometimes you think he takes you for granted. He’s gotten used to you. But there’s more to it than that.
It’s more like…
You used to be important to him, and now you’re not.
If you feel lonely in your relationship, you’re not alone.
More than half of U.S. adults feel lonely, even when they’re in a relationship.
We tend to think that having a romantic partner is the “cure” for loneliness. Once you find someone, you never have to be alone again.
But you can feel alone even if you’re surrounded by people who love you.
Loneliness is a complicated emotion.
While we often focus on the external factors causing loneliness—poor quality relationships, isolation, being apart from those we love—there are internal factors that predispose us to feel lonely.
You’re more likely to feel lonely if you have a history of trauma, insecure attachment, or a parent who was lonely. (Yes, loneliness can have a genetic component.)
Although it’s easy to reach for blame—you’re lonely because he’s not listening to you, he’s not paying attention to you, he’s not treating you like you’re important—it’s more helpful to see loneliness as a call to action.
Feeling lonely motivates you to reach out for social connection.
And that’s good for you, good for your relationships, and good for your health.
Evolutionary psychology suggests that the discomfort of loneliness played an important role in keeping our ancestors socially connected.
As a tribal species, our fate depended on sticking together.
Loneliness served as a warning sign that social connections were missing or at risk. It motivated us to reach out, reconnect, and repair relationships.
So don’t let loneliness make you feel bad about yourself. There’s nothing “wrong” with you because you feel lonely.
At the same time, it’s not necessarily helpful to blame another person for your loneliness.
Instead, you might say to yourself:
“I feel lonely. What am I going to do about it?”
Loneliness is a Cry for Connection
When you feel alone in a relationship, the underlying question is:
“Are you really here for me?”
When you know that your partner will always show up for you, always take time for you, and always be there for you, you feel secure.
You feel looked after and cared for, even when he is not physically present. You carry him in your mind and heart.
But when you’re lonely, it feels like he’s here with you but he’s not here for you.
It can make you panic.
You start to wonder if he no longer wants to be with you. Has he lost his feelings for you? Is this what it’s going to be like from now on, sitting on opposite sides of the sofa in your own separate worlds?
When we panic, we often react badly.
You might say, “Why do we never sit together anymore? Why do we never talk anymore? Why do we never do things together anymore?”
He hears an accusation. He gets defensive. It becomes an argument. He gets up and walks away, leaving you in despair.
This time, you recognize your loneliness as a call for connection.
You turn to your partner and say, “We’re sitting here on the sofa, and I feel so distant from you. I don’t know why. I love curling up with you, and I never do it anymore. Do you ever feel that way?”
And he looks back at you, surprised, and says, “Huh. That’s interesting. I guess you’re right. I hadn’t thought about it.”
You say, “Would you mind moving close to me so that we can snuggle? I’d love to curl up in your arms for a moment.”
Of course he’s going to say yes. He gets to be your hero.
In his arms, you feel safe and held again.
No one wants to be the first to reach out and ask for a hug or reassurance. That is why loneliness is so important. The discomfort motivates us to take emotional risks we might not have otherwise taken.
Allow loneliness to help you create a more connected relationship.