I enjoy helping people figure out how to maintain healthy relationships, with others and with themselves.
When You're Lonely and Struggling, but not Alone
When you said "I do," you thought you were committing to a lifetime of cooperation, shared experiences, and mutual support. Today, you're wondering what happened.
If you're a woman, you may think, "We never talk anymore. And why can't he take out the trash once in a while?"
If you're a man, you wonder what happened to that fun woman you once knew. All she seems to do these days is complain and criticize!
By the time you're searching the Internet for solutions, you've already begun daydreaming about splitting up and enjoying a single life where you're responsible for yourself, and to yourself. But don't give up until you've read this article!
Reasons for Loneliness in a Committed Relationship
There are at least seven common reasons that couples grow distant from one another. Sometimes several of these reasons are present at the same time, making it even harder for a couple to recover their relationship.
Let's look at a brief description of each, and the best tools for addressing the causes of loneliness in your relationship once you've pinpointed the cause.
In the beginning, you felt like you meshed naturally and without effort. You liked what he liked. She had the same pet peeves that you did. Now, it feels like cooperation is impossible. You both complain that the other's trying to change you and can't accept you as you are. Passive-aggressiveness may rear its ugly head—sure, you agreed to do the dishes, but you'll do a poor job of it so she won't ask you again, dadgummit!
While power struggles are a normal stage as relationships develop over time, compatible couples can overcome the challenges they present. Incompatible ones cannot.
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Note: If you're dealing with prolonged silent treatments, you may be in an abusive relationship. Although you may still find some helpful tools here, abuse doesn't resolve on its own and I encourage you to see a professional therapist.
Sometimes physical separation can create anxieties that sabotage relationship. Whether one of you is attending school, deployed for the military, or working away from home for an extended period of time, long distance relationships face unique challenges. The person left behind may be forced to assume responsibilities that were once handled by their absent partner in addition to their normal responsibilities. When their loved one returns, they may not be ready to relinquish some of those duties completely. To make matters worse, their own doubts about the relationship may surface, and either of them may wonder if their partner's cheating. The worst case scenario happens when one does cheat. Infidelity is a deep betrayal that leaves scars for a long, long, time. Some couples may recover, while others never will.
Lack of Bonding
When our relationship or marriage has been rushed, we might not have had a chance to build a deep, enduring friendship with our partner. The best relationships have a deep sense of friendship that's characterized by mutual respect, trust, and appreciation. Boredom and suspicion can undermine a relationship faster than we can say, "I love you."
Work demands, children, taking care of your home, doing laundry, making (or buying) meals, and slipping in a bit of recreation and sleep can drain us. Once we deduct 8 hours for work, another 8 for sleep, and an hour for the miscellaneous stuff we do like driving to and from work and showering, we have seven hours left in the day. It sounds like a lot, but think of the many extra tasks each of us handles regularly. We pay bills, mow the lawn, wash our cars, clean the house, take care of the kids, and still want some down time for watching television or surfing the Internet. How much of your time is truly free, with nothing on your "to do" list? How much of your partner's time is?
When one or both of the people in a relationship have an alcohol or drug addiction, life becomes a chaotic roller coaster. The good times are really, really good, but the bad ones are downright traumatic. Often, people in abusive relationships are ashamed to talk honestly and openly to other family members or friends about their problems because they're afraid of criticism and feel ashamed. They feel pressured to maintain an acceptable image. "What goes on here should stay here" is their mantra, and it can lead to a very lonely life.
Imbalanced Personal Growth
Sometimes partners simply don't attend to their relationship enough to grow together. Each day, we make observations and pass judgments on the things going on around us. At work. What we see on television. What we heard somebody say. Over a period of years, our values, beliefs, and personal interests may change because of these trivial events. If we fail to pay attention to the little things our partner experiences on a day-to-day basis, we risk losing touch with the things that are important to them. In other words, if we don't grow together, we'll grow apart.
Poor Communication Skills
Most couples therapy seems to center around teaching communication skills. Although I realize that counseling can help some couples, I believe the majority of couples wouldn't have communication problems if the "real" problem was addressed.
By "communication skills," I'm not referring to using "I statements." You've probably already tried it and found that it didn't work, or you wouldn't still be reading this page. However, I do believe that how we communicate our empathy and admiration can draw our partner closer or alienate him or her. Couples with so-called poor communication skills have a bigger problem: They lack empathy. They don't champion their partner. They prioritize their own short-term wants rather than the relationship's long-term needs. This can leave one or both parties feeling frustrated and alone.
What Are Readers' Most Common Loneliness Experiences?
Questions & Answers
Question: How do I effectively communicate what I desire from my partner?
Answer: You tell them, or show them. If you've done this and yet feel single, it's because they're not invested in your relationship emotionally to the same degree that you are.