Being lonely is not just an emotion reserved for those who are single or alone. But there are ways to work through it.
“It’s very common that people find themselves in long-term relationships feeling lonely,” says Niloo Dardashti, a New York-based psychologist and relationship expert.
People in a relationship can be lonely because something isn’t working in the relationship itself or because they look to their partner to fill a void that they’ve been carrying within themselves, according to Dardashti.
Whatever the culprit, here, a few experts explain why you might be feeling this way and provide ways to address the root of the loneliness you may be experiencing.
Why do some people feel lonely in their relationship?
One reason for feeling lonely could be that your relationship is not working as well as it once did. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 28% of people who are dissatisfied with their family lives feel lonely all or most of the time. And the number of people who are unhappy at home is rising — the most recent General Social Survey conducted in 2016 by NORC at the University of Chicago recorded the highest number of unhappily married couples since 1974.
This sense of loneliness can often take place when a couple has lost their emotional connection, says Gary Brown, a licensed family and marriage therapist in Los Angeles. “Even in the very best of relationships, there are going to be those times when one or both partners may have drifted apart and feel somewhat distant and estranged from one another,” he says.
An unwillingness to be vulnerable can also contribute to feelings of loneliness within romantic relationships, according to Jenny Taitz, a clinical psychologist and author of How to Be Single and Happy. “One contributing factor to loneliness is not talking about your feelings or sharing things that are maybe a little less safe and risky to share,” she says. “You could be close to someone but they might not know the more personal things about you.”