No matter how much you and your partner love each other, loneliness can infiltrate your relationship. Loneliness typically occurs when a couple loses their emotional connection, says Gary Brown, a licensed family and marriage therapist. “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,” he says.
And if you currently feel capital L Lonely - you’re not alone. According to a 2018 Pew Research Study, 28% of people who are dissatisfied with their home lives feel lonely most of/all of the time.
Ready for the good news? A brighter future is ahead. Here are the steps experts recommend for rekindling the emotional spark:
Step 1. Talk to them.
Sure, this sounds obvious. But wait! There’s a catch. According to Brown, “It’s important to come from a place of vulnerability when you’re explaining how you feel and to use a non-accusatory tone and language.”
So instead of: “I feel so lonely and disconnected from you,” which subtly assigns blame to your partner... Try: “I want to trust you with what’s happening in my inner world — I’ve been feeling somewhat neglected recently, and I don’t want you to hear it as blame, it's just more about my experience.”
Really Hear Their Experience.
Next up, in the interest of fairness, is to hear their side. “If you are on the same page about wanting to mend the relationship, you can have a series of conversations geared towards figuring out what may be damaged in your relationship and how to fix it,” Brown says.
BUT, if your partner doesn’t share your sense of loneliness, then continue to step 3.
Step 3. Examine Your Relationship With External Stimulation.
Are you - possibly, maybe, on the off chance - putting too much emphasis on external stimulation? Praise? Validation? Immediate gratification? Understanding this about yourself is the tough kind of work, it requires honesty and self-awareness. If you can identify a crutch you’ve developed around external stimuli, it is possible you’re ignoring or unaware of subtler messages of love coming from your partner.
In other words: it’s possible you’re missing the signals without realizing it.
So, what do you do? Figure out what it is you’re getting from these external stimuli, and find ways that YOU can give them to YOURSELF. Turn the External into Internal. How can you self-soothe? In what ways can you self-support? What can you do for yourself that you’ve been relying on the outside world to give you? Once you answer those questions… you might find you feel much closer to your partner.
Once you’ve moved through these steps, do a check-in and see how you feel. Closer to them? Less alone? If you don’t notice a difference, rinse, repeat, and start over at Step 1.