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a couple distant in their home, lonely in their relationship

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The year 2020 has been a dumpster fire in so many ways. It’s been incredibly taxing when it comes to loneliness and social isolation. More than usual, we have had to rely almost exclusively upon social media and video communication to maintain crucial connections with friends and loved ones. We have all been affected in some way, and it hasn’t been easy.

But if you thought the distance and isolation we have felt due to something beyond our control is rough, something also challenging and even confusing is finding yourself lonely and isolated within a relationship. Feeling like you are by yourself when you have someone you love and care about next to you. How do you deal with that situation?

Feeling lonely in your relationship can be due to many reasons, but some of the most common are stress and changes in your life that change who you are or how you show up in your relationship. It could be a shift in the way you operate as a couple, like moving in together, getting married, having children, having to work from home together and home school your children full time, or becoming an empty-nester, among other adjustments. Loneliness and isolation can come at any point in your relationship, whether it’s new or you have a long-time love.

Another reason, though it may be hard to face, could be that your relationship isn’t working the way it used to. Perhaps it’s the communication, or your connection has broken down. The sustained sense of loneliness in a relationship usually comes when a pair has lost their emotional connection to one another, which can happen even in the healthiest relationships. There will be times when you feel distant or estranged from one another, and you drift apart. But what do you do if you feel this way most or all of the time?

If the relationship is one you want to preserve and remain in, here are some steps to consider to help break the loneliness and isolation cycle:

  • The first thing you need to do is some deep introspection to find a way to articulate what you are feeling and why to your partner. Afterward, approach them and initiate a conversation with them with the understanding that this discussion may need to be a series of talks.
  • An essential part of broaching these conversations is ensuring that your partner doesn’t feel judged or blamed, which could lead to them shutting down, even if your feelings are partially or wholly due to something they are doing/have done. Instead, focus the initial discussions on creating a safe space to express your feelings and share your experience in the relationship. Do your best to avoid an accusatory tone or poor language and remain emotionally open in expressing yourself.
  • Then listen. Just listen. Suppose your partner is on the same page as you about breathing new life into your relationship or finding ways of restoring a sense of closeness. In that case, you can then focus the conversation on mending the relationship and addressing the issue(s) that caused the rift and fix it. If the problems are difficult to discuss or end up provoking more negative feelings, and it seems impossible to navigate, consider seeking help.
  • There are all kinds of resources available to couples in this situation. There is counseling, courses, books, and online resources. All can help you and your partner defuse tension rather than escalate it and talk through the tough stuff to come to a resolution.
  • If your partner is genuinely doing their best to remain connected to you and giving the relationship their all, then you may need to look more closely at yourself to see if there is something more going on with you. Meaning that perhaps the feeling of loneliness exists only within you and is something you could consider seeking counseling or professional services to help address or figure out. The issue may not truly be about your partner or your relationship at all.

The other hard truth to consider is that you may realize after all of these conversations and the process of introspection that you aren’t with the right person. Perhaps you aren’t as compatible with one another as you once were. It may be time to consider your options.

No matter the outcome of the process, at a minimum, you will have the answers you need as to why you are experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation in your relationship. You can draw from them to begin making the best decisions and changes that are right for you. Best case scenario, you will have had important conversations with your partner and started to do the necessary work together. With that first step, you can get your relationship back to a more healthy, connected, and loving place.

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