7 Steps to End Loneliness in a Relationship

The vision of having a special long-term partner or spouse in your life does not always live up to the reality that many experience. Unfortunately, being in a committed relationship does not guarantee that you’ll feel closely connected, satisfied, or fulfilled.

Research shows that about 20% of the general population admits to being lonely, and one recent study found that over 60% of people in older marriages feel isolated from their partners. Those percentages represent many lonely people out there in relationships (and of course many lonely singles as well).

Loneliness is not often considered to be a problem in marriage, and it’s certainly not talked about much. Not many people even admit it to themselves, much less to anyone else — including their partner! It’s something that can feel awkward and embarrassing.

In addition to being an unpleasant experience, chronic loneliness affects our mental health. The risk of clinical depression and related negativity can sink our feelings of self-worth, and also lead to anxiety issues. Loneliness is also shown to negatively impact our physical health by weakening our immune system and upsetting our cardiovascular and digestive functioning, in addition to causing other physical ailments.  

Feeling disconnected in our committed relationship is often the result of a lack of having deep conversations with our partner and poor communication in general. In the day-to-day busyness of life, it’s easy to fall into a routine that focuses mostly on basic maintenance: household chores, parenting issues, and paying the bills. Certain sensitive periods in relationships, such as when a first child is born or when having work or health stressors, can also negatively impact our connection.

Unfortunately, what often gets lost are meaningful exchanges with our partner. Our hopes, dreams, life philosophies, and goals do not get shared, the dialogues that may have helped connect us to our partner in the first place.

While it’s not easy for couples to find their way back and recreate the sparks that originally brought them together, it is in fact possible to reestablish their special connection. Here are seven suggestions to help combat loneliness in an intimate relationship:

  1. If you’re feeling lonely, don’t accept it – take action! Share with your partner what you feel is missing, and be specific about what you would like different. Clearly state what is bothering you, and talk about what you feel is going to make you happier. Take responsibility for how you may be contributing to the current state of your relationship. 

  1. If you’ve been feeling lonely for a while, chances are that your partner is feeling a similar disconnect as well. Give your significant other equal time to express his or her own needs and opinions on the subject. Listen with compassion, and reflect their thoughts back to them, to make sure they feel heard.

  1. Address, and attempt to resolve, any past or present issues that might be preventing the intimacy and connection you’re looking for. Seek outside help, if necessary. Any longstanding resentment needs to be addressed in order for your situation to change.

  1. Make an effort to increase your physical proximity as well as your emotional connection. Although recreating sexual intimacy is important, start with smaller steps such as sitting next to each other, holding hands, and becoming more affectionate. It’s often these “little things” that have fallen by the wayside when we feel isolated from our partner.

  1. Focus on increasing quality time together. Participate in more shared activities or hobbies. Introduce your partner to something you enjoy, become better acquainted with his/her favorites, and/or try something totally new for you both! 

  1. Remember that the key to effective communication is to make it happen consistently. It’s unfortunately easy to revert back to the unhealthier patterns and habits without a determined effort.

  1. If, after several weeks, little has changed in your sense of loneliness or depth of connection, approach your partner about the possibility of going to couples counseling. A trained professional can assist in clearing the air, removing those isolating roadblocks, and help you reestablish the intimacy you once had.

Being in a relationship is more than just living together – it’s sharing your life.  Make it as meaningful as you can.

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