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Together, but Alone

The loneliest feeling does not come from being single. It is being married or living with someone, but feeling alone. This happens when one of the partners checks out or leaves the relationship emotionally but eats there, does their laundry there and sleeps there. For all other purposes though, you are without a partner. This happens to couples who live together as well as couples who date and marry. That means, many couples live with someone, but are alone. Many times a crisis of some type precipitates one of the partners leaving emotionally, but sometimes it just happens. You will notice your partner no longer values your judgment. You may notice your partner no longer listens to you, talks to you, or wants to engage with you.

When couples first begin feeling lonely in a relationship, they don’t automatically get help. They usually try to understand what is going on in their partner’s life. They may ask, “You okay?” “What’s the matter?” Those questions are usually answered by, “Oh, just work,” or, “I’m just tired.” Sometimes the partner will come back with, “Nothing I say is good enough, and you fight me on everything.” When this happens, the partner who asked the question begins feeling even more alone and more stuck in their loneliness. They may reach out to their friends, their family, or begin reading self-help books. Their friends may advise them to leave, validating that their partner is cruel, insecure, having an affair, or all of the other things friends try to do to make one feel better. The bottom line is, you are in a bad position. You are committed to someone and very much alone.

When children are involved, many couples that have a great distance in their marriage focus on the kids. This is not good for the children and certainly not good for the couples. The children may get an exaggerated idea of how important they are to the relationship’s survival and will share the sense of loss at an exaggerated level if the relationship fails. A marriage must always be stronger and tighter than any children you bring into it, or it has a greater chance of failure when the kids are gone.

The amount of distance in a relationship is determined by the couple and the style they develop. Many of us like more distance between ourselves and others, and this is reflected in how we relate. Just as some people are very private and others extremely open, some couples cannot go to the grocery store without the other and some travel across the world without each other. It’s a personal preference, neither is right or wrong. Feeling alone is much different from actually being alone. Feeling alone means the communication is broken. Your spouse may be in Africa and you in Texas, but if you are talking on the phone and sending silly texts or emails, they are with you. If they are at your side, but no longer engaging with you, talking to you, wanting to be with you, they might as well be in Africa. This feeling of being alone is one of the underlying feelings that cause couples to split. There are ways to prevent it from developing; as with most things, once the damage is done, it is difficult to fix.

Here are 3 tips to help you feel less isolated in your relationship.

  1. Ask yourself if you really want this relationship. Sometimes we become lonely when we long for someone or something else. Your partner may sense you feel stagnant with them or want out but are unwilling to say. They may be withdrawing as a way of not getting as hurt.

  2. Talk to your partner about how you feel. Does your partner know you feel unloved or distant? No one can read your mind, and acting out by having an affair won’t help the situation.

  3. Are your beliefs about money, sex, or faith getting in the way of your need to be connected with one another? Couples who are fighting may project the anger from the disagreement onto the relationship. The distance created is actually about disagreeing over a topic. If you talk about this, it will help bridge the distance you feel.

Humans need love, acceptance and security to grow and evolve. Our relationships are a way of satisfying those human needs. Study after study has shown what happens to babies that are isolated from human love, acceptance and security. We never outgrow that need. To be physically and emotionally alone in a committed relationship is unbearable because the hope of connection is lost. –Mary Jo Rapini


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