It’s easy to assume that people in a relationship are happy by the mere fact that they have someone in their lives. The truth is one can find himself feeling lonely even when in a relationship. It’s common even for those in long-term commitments, says Niloo Dardashti, a psychologist and a relationship expert from New York. 

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Reasons people in a relationship feel lonely

1. A loss of emotional connection

In the beginning of any relationship, what draws people to each other is a sense of connection: you like the same things, go to a certain place a lot, and you might even know what the other is thinking before he even says it. However, this will not always be the case in the course of the relationship. 

“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,” says Gary Brown, a licensed family and marriage therapist in California. 

2. Unwillingness to be vulnerable

When couples fight, you’ll sometimes hear one telling the other, “I don’t know you anymore.” While this may be true in the literal sense (they hardly see each other or spend time), it could also be about one person’s unwillingness to open up to his partner—in other words, keeping things to himself. 

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Jenny Taitz, a clinical psychologist and a book author, notes: “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. You could be close to someone, but they might not know the more personal things about you.” 

3. Comparing your relationship with others

Problems arise when you compare your relationship to those you see on social media because, according to Taitz, this creates an “unpleasant distance” between you and your spouse. Whether or not you are in a relationship, spending a lot of time on social media can make people feel lonely. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2017, those who spent more than two hours a day online were at risk of feeling lonely twice as much as those who only spent 30 minutes on social media. 

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How to overcome feelings of loneliness

Share your feelings with your partner

A 2018 study found that couples are usually good at knowing when their partner is happy, but not when they are sad. While it’s optimistic to think that the feelings of sadness will go away on its own, you shouldn’t wait until it’s late before you let your partner know you’ve been having these feelings.

“This needs to happen in a way that your partner doesn’t feel judged; [it’s] more to simply let them know what your experience is,” says Brown. Thus, your tone of voice and choice of words are very important. Saying “I don’t want you to hear it so much as blame, as just more my experience” may also help.

Hear your partner out

In a relationship, it takes two, so they say, so let your partner express how he feels, too. Find out what he thinks about your feelings of sadness and how you can both work on improving the situation (he could be feeling the same thing, for all you know!).

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Says Taitz, “If you feel stuck around certain issues or have a hard time communicating effectively with your partner and [you] value your relationship, there are evidence-based couples therapies that can help you increase closeness in a set number of sessions by teaching you skills.”

However, it is also possible that what is causing you loneliness is not your partner or the relationship itself, but something within you. Dardashti suggests seeking the help of a therapist to help you confront these feelings, and engaging in activities that could raise your self-awareness.

“Confront it and try to build some awareness around what it is that comes up for you when you are alone. That’s when you can figure out what to do to address it.”

Don't be afraid to reach out if you are feeling anxious, helpless, or despondent. If you need someone to talk to: 

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