Dealing with loneliness when in a relationship is incredibly difficult. Emptiness is accompanied by self-criticism. I mean, how can you have a partner and still feel lonely?!
You’re not even sure how it got this bad. You want assurances you can’t have. All you know is you deserve to feel the ebb and flow of a true partnership and, right now, it doesn’t exist. Worse, you have no idea how to fix it.
The “lonely in a crowd” feeling is quite common in long-term relationships. My clients dealing with loneliness before divorce experience it regularly. It’s the result of bad habits that were, likely, set very early on between you and your partner.
There’s good news here! The feeling of connectedness is possible and, as always, it starts when you connect with yourself. Here are the steps you need to do just that.
1. Listen to your gut
When you’re dealing with loneliness when in a relationship your intuition alerts you to a problem inherent in a long-held pattern in the partnership itself.
All relationships have a learning curve. How you each of you treats time, money, goals, communication and obstacles becomes understood over time and, often, through misunderstandings.
If you took the time to clarify differences and reach shared interpretations your communication deepened over time. If not, you wind up kind of “making do” along the way. This means, at some point, layers of misconceptions create a shaky foundation inside the relationship. This can be true even when everything outside seems to be pretty orderly.
Look closely at what precedent was set and, as a result, the hard-to-break patterns that took hold.
Investigate your habits and look for trends.
When you feel most lonely have you:
- Wanted to talk about something but haven’t?
- “It’s just easier if I ____” or “I know what they’ll say anyway”
- Your problem: avoidance
- Dive in and try to be open minded.
- Felt the need to follow up on a previous conversation but didn’t?
- “I don’t know to beat a dead horse,” or “I should just get over it.”
- Your problem: you diminish your own contributions
- You’re allowed to have (and share) new insights over time. If you don’t value them, who will?
- Find that many of the things you used to love (like coming home to your partner) now feel obligatory?
- “I really don’t want to face our routine,” or “I need something more meaningful.”
- Your problem: complacency
- Need meaning? Seek meaning! Offer meaning! Be meaningful! There’s no need to wait for your partner to get it.
- Are you looking outside of your relationship for something your partner once provided? (Communication, recreation, common interests, sex, etc)
- Your problem: co-dependency
- There’s absolutely no reason to wait for someone else to provide what you need. You want it. YOU provide it. Start conversations, make plans, take a class together, initiate sex. If your partner doesn’t participate then you have data about whether or not you’re still a fit for one another. Start that conversation, make plans with that in mind, take therapy together, initiate sex anyway.
When your instincts tell you to pay attention, pay attention!
You can’t ever change anyone but yourself. Be your own best partner first. The things you wish you had from them…do them for yourself. The relationship will either grow to match you or it won’t. Either way you’ll have information you need to cure your loneliness.
2. Create “togetherness” again
When you started out as partners in life’s grand adventure you each grabbed a shovel with the determination to forge a path as a team.
Digging side by side, discussing your progress, innovating the shovel or the path itself … the daily “digging” brought you together.
The daily grind took over. Your paths, unwittingly diverged. You realize that instead of a unified path your unfettered labor created a rut, turned ditch, turned canyon!
You’re in your own little worlds just working away but not working together. Your canyon is beautiful. It may even have elements of your initial goals in it. But… did you really want a canyon in the first place?! Is that what you set out to do?
It’s time to evaluate the value of each others’ contributions to:
- each other and
- your environment.
Here are some examples to get you started.
- Map out your original goals. What did you each want? How did you perceive the other wanted? What did you want to create together?
- Compare them to your current goals. What do you each want? How do you perceive the other’s goals? What do you wan to create together?
- What can you give? (self, other, environment)
- Are you willing to receive what the other is able to give?
- Question everything until something in the conversation ignites your motivation.
Process your thoughts and feelings with an objective friend, life coach or mentor of some kind. Due to the inevitable curveballs and hard truths, you want to your conclusions to be well thought out and honestly reflected back to you.
Working with others in such an important way is a major piece of proof for your subconscious that you’re anything but alone right now.
3. Communicate the hard stuff
Upon completion of Step 2 you’re going to have 3 sets of ideas in front of you:
- Areas that need clarification from your partner
- Realizations about what you want/need
- Ideas for next steps
Schedule some dedicated time with your partner to discuss any or all of these.
Ask for (and grant) 100% honesty. Some truths are hard to say. They can be even harder to hear.
Set ground rules intended to interrupt and potentially sabotaging communication patterns that are already established.
Remind each other that you’re on the same team.
You’re lonely for connection and there’s only one way to get it. You go back to basics with your significant other, looking for where your tabs fit in their slots (and vice versa).
You have the right to ask for this conversation. They have the right to accept or refuse your invitation. Either way, you now have data that gets you further along the path toward companionship.
4. Practice makes perfect
Repeatedly use this new-found clarity about what you want and what you’re willing to give. You have all kinds of relationships to practice with.
Want more honesty? Be more honest and be open to the honesty of others! Work, school, friendships … even at the grocery store. To cashier: “I always try to get in your line, you’re efficient AND friendly.”
Want more adventure/activity? Get out and do stuff. Join Meetups, the company softball team, grab a movie (even if by yourself for now).
Need more orgasms? Be a better masturbator. Invest in a fantastic vibrator. Get your glow on and watch your partner (and new people) magnetize to your glow!
These may be solitary acts at times. The change in your energy alters others’ perception of you. You meet interesting people by being an interesting person. And, anything you do outside of the relationship brings a new you into the relationship. Your reinvigorated contributions create the possibility of a reinvigorated partnership!
5. Allow for change
The clarity you gain will bring about changes. You’ll enjoy some. Others….not so much. That’s OK!!
- Your partner’s receptivity to your insights (or lack thereof) may change your relationship. Stay open to what evolves. There is more than one possible outcome from your new commitment to yourself.
- Some people may not appreciate this more active and forthright version of you. If they want to leave, let them. I know that’s scary when you already feel so lonely. Remember, you feel alone with them in your life. If your partner doesn’t mitigate your loneliness with their presence, it may be their absence that you need.
- Others may be inspired by your new, more insightful self. It feels good to be around people who like themselves, even when times are tough. They may need to see that in you so they can do it for themselves.
- There will be new friendships, too. You understand yourself better. You’ve made room for invigorating relationships. Let them show up.
Expect change. Embrace evolution. It’s what you’ve asked for, so let it happen.
Dealing with loneliness while in a relationship can feel really scary, I know.
Do what you’ve always done and you guarantee a deepened chasm between you. Change is necessary.
Change starts with you:
- How you treat yourself, first and foremost.
- The way you present the improved you to your partner comes next.
- Lastly, the path forward between you two and your life circumstances.
You’re already on your way, I can feel it!
Dealing with loneliness when in a relationship means facing some potential outcomes that scare you. If you need help processing any of those feel free to leave a comment or question. Better yet, schedule a free 20 minute phone chat with Triffany and you can hash it out together.
Triffany is a Certified Professional Life Coach, best selling author and single mother of two, incredible teenagers. She helps strong women tame their inner hot mess in order to get through life’s toughest transitions and thrive once again.