The feeling of being alone in a marriage is usually something that develops over time. But it can linger.
I’ve come to realize loneliness is very nuanced.
You can feel lonely when there are plenty of people around you, or you can feel satisfied when you spend time in your own company.
I remember a friend telling me once: “Why do you want to be single? You can be alone in a relationship as well. You don’t have to be single to feel alone.”
All jokes aside, feeling isolated is such a prevalent feeling these days. It’s almost hard to imagine a world without it. But, unfortunately, my friend was not wrong.
Feeling alone in a relationship (or in the world) can make us feel empty, and most of us have seen it manifest itself in others (odd couple at the restaurant, I see you).
We are all together in our loneliness, no matter how ironic that sounds. We share the same ground, yet we often distance ourselves from each other, sometimes without us even realizing it.
Note: Alexandra is a professional Psychotherapist with specialized knowledge in relationships.– Worried Lovers
The Most Common Effects Of Loneliness:
- Shortened life span/High probability of premature death from any cause
- Increased risk of dementia
- Increased risk of heart disease or stroke
- Proneness to depression and anxiety
Being that loneliness can significantly decrease our quality of life, why are we so bad when it comes to dealing with it?
Being Alone vs. Feeling Alone
Loneliness is really about connection, not about presence.
As a well-known philosopher once said:
“The truly solitary being is not the man who is abandoned by men, but the man who suffers in their midst”– Emil Cioran, A short history of decay
You might feel lonely because you don’t have somebody present in your life daily, or you might feel lonely when you find yourself amongst people.
The latter seems to have more detrimental effects on physical or mental health.
Loneliness is not so much about not having friends, family, or a partner, as it is about not being seen, heard, or acknowledged.
Reasons For Feeling Alone In A Marriage:
1. Emotional disconnection
When one or both partners distance themselves emotionally from the other, it is a clear sign of a crisis.
There is nothing more lonesome than not being able to bond with the person you share a life with. You can end up feeling like furniture.
Luckily, there’s a solution even for the most withdrawn couples.
2. Different love languages
Lack of communication or bad communication can make you feel lonely.
When I talk about communication, I don’t just mean talking.
People communicate with each other in lots of different ways. To understand these things better, we can refer to Love Languages.
Essentially, love languages are a manner in which a person chooses to express and receive love.
Just so you can get an idea: some people prefer physical touch, while others need words of affirmation, quality time spent together, or services (like cleaning or cooking).
3. Not sharing the same values as your partner
You can live with a person that doesn’t have the same hobbies as you. You can’t live with somebody that doesn’t share the same values as you.
This goes far beyond you being a Trump supporter and her being a Hillary fan.
Values are beliefs and philosophies that guide your actions.
Day-in and day-out. More specifically, they are things to live by that give your life purpose.
If one of your core values is family, but your partner doesn’t relate to that, you’re going to clash with each other.
When you don’t have the same values as your partner, you can feel lonely in your quest for meaning. Your views can be minimized or misunderstood.
4. Not having activities or rituals that you share with your partner
Another thing that might explain why partners drift apart from each other is the lack of shared activities.
These activities are important because they create shared meaning, and that further helps you reach your most important goals.
5. Losing trust because of other reasons
Feeling alone while in a marriage else can stem from a lot of reasons, obvious or not.
For example, you might’ve distanced yourself from your partner because of their infidelity, their criticism, or their defensiveness.
Any of these situations are a breeding ground for marital dissatisfaction.
6. Being caught up in the mundane
Sometimes life gets in the way. Before you realize it, a lot of time had just passed, and most of the things you do are habits.
Half-listening becomes the rule of the day.
Distancing can occur in several different ways and for many various reasons.
The feeling of loneliness can become chronic after having a child. In addition, a Husband can feel alone in a marriage where there’s also a child involved.
It seems that most marriages tend to go downhill when a child enters the equation. One explanation may be that the mother tends to be closer to the child than to her husband.
Often, the mother and the child develop a relationship that excludes the father — an exclusive club just for the two of them.
As a result, the father feels alone and left behind in the marriage.
Things may change, but not all hope is lost. So rather than focusing on the passing of time, it’s up to us to give meaning to the time in front of us.
How To Reconnect
1. Turning towards your partner
Gottman talks about turning towards your partner when trying to reconnect. He coins the concept of bids, which are actions that encourage connection.
Let me give you an example of a bid: a wife asking her husband what he thinks about her dress.
In this case, the husband can choose to respond in several different ways: turning towards, turning away, and turning against.
Once your partner has made a bid, it’s essential that you notice it and then respond to it positively. That’s the turning towards part.
2. Passion, not just stability
While all of us look for a stable, reliable, and trustworthy person, balancing that with a little bit of adventure and kick is necessary.
A husband that’s a good father and cook can be amazing for creating a home, but it can also be a bummer for desire.
We expect the other partner to provide stability and reliability while also giving us adventure and thrill.
You can add a little bit of spark to the relationship in many different ways.
For example, you can encourage eroticism by putting a little bit of a distance between you and your partner.
Cultivating mystery, longing, and sexual imagination are all beneficial for desire.
3. Ask open-ended questions
This one also comes as a recommendation from Gottman. Asking open-ended questions may seem silly for some couples.
But here it goes: Ask your partner questions that don’t result in a YES or NO answer but rather open the door for heartfelt dialogue.
What this does is show the other person that you’re genuinely interested in them. And that increases the chances that they reciprocate.
4. Get to know each other’s love language
Loneliness can creep in when partners don’t know each other’s love language.
Knowing if your partner sees a hug or a kiss as a sign of love is important in understanding their needs in the relationship.
Every person has a love language. For some, they can be more practical or matter-of-fact, while others seek verbal cues and appreciation.
5. Create shared meaning
A couple that shares meaning is a couple in which both partners share the same rituals, values, activities, and views of the world.
It essentially means agreeing on most things and being on the same page.
These shared views about things guide each partner to follow their dreams and goals together while being able to fully count on each other.
If you struggle to find common ground on most subjects, a therapist may be able to help you. It can help couples better connect, helping you find that shared meaning more easily.
You can read more about it here.
6. Pinpoint the reasons behind your loneliness
You must figure out if there is something else beneath the surface.
We are so absorbed by our own digital devices that the reality we see on our screens may not resemble the reality outside of us.
Loneliness can stem from a constant search for an ideal relationship—a relationship where you don’t have to do the work because everything just comes naturally.
Like the ones displayed on social media.
Another thing to consider is how much loneliness is problematic and indicative of a crisis in your marriage and how much of it is because of our internal struggles or intolerance of staying with our thoughts?
Sometimes we can mistake boredom for loneliness, yet we must tolerate boredom in a relationship and incorporate it into our lives to be truly happy.
I like to think that when it comes to marriage, feeling alone is preventable. However, that doesn’t make it an easy process.
We’re thirsty for connection, yet all we have most of the time is elevator talk. The world outside doesn’t encourage us to connect in a meaningful way, and we forget how to do it at home.
We fail at seeing the reasons behind our loneliness in our marriages, and because it is such an unpleasant emotion, we deal with it in dysfunctional ways.
Our coping mechanisms can easily backfire and leave us feeling emptier than before.
We must get out of our way to actively seek more meaningful experiences with our partners because the benefits are enormous.
Good relationships give us a sense of belonging, they’re a buffer for tragic events, and they help us better regulate our emotions. Not to mention they prolong our life.
Recommended: Can Therapy Help Save Your Relationship?