Have you ever thought, “I am in a relationship, but I feel alone?” I call this alone together, the feeling of not being connected to an intimate other. Yes, you are physically together, but the relationship feels more like going through the motions. When this happens, changes need to be made to build back connection and intimacy.

Loneliness is a subjective state of mind. It develops when you desire more contact with others than you are getting. And it can happen in relationships for many reasons. Work and family are the most common reasons that contribute to couples drifting apart. Busy schedules with childcare, working and other responsibilities can take up time and create distance. Stress can create tension and conflict and put a strain on any relationship. It can also punctuate problems in a relationship. And expectations can play a role  especially when you feel your needs are not being met.

To build connection and stave off loneliness:

  • Be vulnerable. To stay close to another person requires a level of honesty and vulnerability. When you feel upset, stressed, not cared for and more, be willing to share those intimate feelings. Otherwise, there is no way to work on them. Keeping feelings to yourself creates more space and can result in resentment and bitterness.
  • Invest time in each other. Get to know the other person’s inner workings, their likes and dislikes. Develop similar priorities and goals. Give meaning to eternal and important things by having deep conversations. Develop interests together and talk about your day. Otherwise, feeling empty is easy to achieve.
  • Exercise self-care: When you feel lonely, you may skip exercise or healthy eating. Both can impact your sleep and be the cause of stress and negative thinking that comes with self-neglect, especially if you turn to substance use. So, while it might sound counterintuitive, the better you take care of your physical body, the better you will be in a relationship.
  • Stop negative thinking: It erode intimacy because you think things like, he doesn’t meet my needs, she doesn’t know how to be with me, he doesn’t seem interested in me, she avoids me or doesn’t spend time with me. When you think like this, it’s easy to conclude the other person is selfish or not trying. Then a host of negative thoughts lead to more distance. So, check your thoughts. Thoughts impact your emotions and behavior. When they are negative, they can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. And those feelings lead to emotional distance and more lack of connection.
  • Connect spiritually: Pray together, read the Bible together, keep yourself accountable for how you behave and show love to your partner. In couples work, I notice that when couples drift in their spiritual lives, their marital lives lose connection as well.

Whatever the cause, you can fix being lonely in a relationship by trying to be intentional with not only more time together, but improved quality time. If you need help to bring back the connection, consider seeing a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) to help with the process.

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