What when your relationship feels like a lonely place to be…?
Why are you feeling lonely in your relationship? How to recognize those feelings? are you really feeling lonely in your relationship? or you are feeling lonely when you are only with yourself too?
When couples reach out looking to improve their relationship through couples therapy, we noticed something,
one of the most common feelings that are reported is that the relationship has become a lonely place to be. Even though we are physically close to our partner (living in the same house, for example), we grow to feel remote and disconnected. And if we can’t meet or connect our emotions, this inevitably takes a toll on us.
And it’s not a feeling that we expect to feel in a relationship because we often have an ideal of what a relationship should look like.
it should include connection, passion, fun and love.
Maybe we’ve experienced something very different in the past where far from the lonely feeling that we have now. We felt a deep connection to our partner and we could really open up and share with a feeling of safety.
Perhaps we find ourselves at a point far removed from our expectations of how our relationship would look, but that we’re finding it hard to break the cycle of negativity or defensiveness that is preventing our relationship to grow and develop how we would like.
So how does this experience of loneliness come about? and what can we do to start to bridge the gap, and to re-connect with ourselves and our partner? even before we engage in relationship therapy?
A retreat into safety… and isolation
Firstly, it’s worth remembering that the things we do make sense to us, at least in the moment that we take those actions. So if we’ve retreated into ourself, or maybe we’re investing our trust into other relationships – friends, family, work colleagues and so on – we’ve done this for a reason!
Think about when we take evasive action if we find ourselves in danger. If we sense that something is falling on us, don’t we automatically move out of the way or otherwise try to cover our head or other vulnerable areas?
If from previous experience of being vulnerable, we’ve found that those things that we shared have been turned against us in anger, or to put us down, are we not going to think twice about repeating those actions?
As a species we’ve developed defensive reactions to keep us safe from danger. Think about our ancestors in the past running away from danger or fighting for their lives. Their survival depended on their ability to keep safe by taking immediate, urgent action in getting safe. Whether that meant climbing a tree, getting behind a fence or into another defensive position.
Danger triggers stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol leading us to summon high levels of focus, concentration and strength to escape from whatever is putting us in danger.
We still have these capabilities that can keep us safe in the world, including in our relationships. That danger that we may feel, could be an attack by our partner – either physical or emotional, and the fear to our being feels real enough!
The question is,
are those defensive reactions that are designed to keep us alive, going to lead us to a fulfilling happy relationship? Or maybe just to SURVIVE?
How can we overcome feelings of loneliness in the relationship?
1️⃣ Finding a safe space to talk
people s ‘it’s good to talk’, though it’s important to discern WHO we choose to confide in. You may have friends, but is there someone you can trust? someone that can give you the space to process what is happening and to give some useful perspective?
It’s helpful if they are able to listen without jumping in or telling us what we should do, or turning the conversation back to themselves. It is not easy to admit that you are feeling lonely in your relationship.
It’s also worth considering the balance of our friendship. And whether the relationship is strong enough for us to be able to unload our relationship issues onto the other person without placing an unfair burden on them.
If you don’t have access to such a person, consider involving a professional in the process.
2️⃣ Cultivating our own ‘secret garden’
In order to be intimate with another person, we need to have our own personal intimacy. Some call it ‘ your secret garden’. If we don’t establish this personal space, we tend to merge with the other person in an unhealthy way. And boundaries can break down into co-dependency.
This can look different for each of us, it could be taking a walk to have space, reading a book or doing a physical activity so that we can remember what is important to us.
Far from being a distraction from our loneliness in the relationship, this will give us a healthy perspective and helps us to remember that we have a being and life OUTSIDE of the relationship too!
3️⃣ Evaluating whether our relationship can give us what we need
Maybe there are specific issues that have led to some relationship changes and led to you feeling lonely. Such as our partner has lost their job, or they are going through treatment for a medical condition. It could be that when we look at the long arc of the relationship.
It’s just a difficult moment where we need to carry more of the burden. And for as long as this issue goes on, maybe we accept that this is how it’s going to be. Or maybe the pattern is long-standing and not connected to any particular event but more the pattern or dynamic that has developed over a long time.
In either case, some external perspective can be useful in seeing the most positive way forward – whether our partner decides to join the process or not.
We work with couples and individuals looking to get CLARITY on whatever relationship situation they are experiencing.
Take the Scorecard now to see where your relationship is strong and where the most important opportunities are going to be to turn things around.
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