Married - but lonely?
Real couples feel lonely.
It happens with my couples who come to therapy, it happens in my own relationship - there are MOMENTS - which can sometimes turn into days… weeks… months… or years, where we feel so alone.
It feels like the one person who is supposed to be there for us is “with” us, but not really PRESENT. Maybe they’re on their phone, maybe they’re busy with work or kids, maybe they’re sitting right next to you but they’re just not emotionally accessible.
This can be devastating, and it’s so hard to talk about. It’s hard to talk about because it makes you wonder if your partner even LIKES you - and when you’re not sure if your partner LIKES you, you aren’t able to even tell them you miss them because that would be way too vulnerable.
Your initial reaction…
Feeling super lonely, disconnected, and starved for affection and attention in our relationships creates stress and tension, and we can often REACT rather than respond… because we’re feeling SO MUCH.
We react by withdrawing. Or we argue. We feel increased frustration and rage at little things. We struggle.
It’s important to realize that these reactions are your TRIGGERED RESPONSE. When we’re triggered, we withdraw, rage out, argue, or turn our feelings off so we don’t have to feel so bad. But these things are not effective, as you likely have realized by now - they push our partner away and they make us feel bad about ourselves because we don’t want to react that way, it’s not true to who we really are. It often breeds MORE loneliness and frustration.
Instead of showing your reactivity… show your vulnerability
When you’re feeling lonely, instead of showing your partner your reactivity (your triggered response, that thing you say and then regret saying a few minutes later once you’re in a different emotional state), show them your vulnerability.
This is hard to do, but so worth it - even if you can do it ONE TIME you’ll notice a big shift in how you and your partner communicate in that moment.
How to share vulnerability rather than reactivity:
Determine whether you’re feeling lonely (it might look like anger at first, frustration or irritability). To do this, ask yourself - Am I actually frustrated by what my partner is doing, or am I feeling disconnected? When was the last time we spent quality time with each other, cuddled, were intimate, talked about our lives, or did something special for each other? Have I been wondering lately whether my partner actually cares about me, likes me or wants me?
Breathe. Pause. Don’t say anything right away - give your body a moment to adjust to this new thought, this realization that you’re feeling lonely and missing your partner, hurting rather than angry (or maybe a bit of both).
Reach out to your partner with vulnerability. Say “Hey… I know you’re busy doing ____ tonight, but I want you to know that I miss you.” Maybe say it in a text if that feels more comfortable.
Offer a solution. Say something like “Could we spend some time this Saturday cuddling on the couch? Let’s watch that movie” or “Maybe on Sunday morning, we can go for a hike.”
Recognize that reconnecting sometimes takes many tries, and it can feel tiring - especially if your partner doesn’t seem enthusiastic about the suggestions you’ve made. Alternately, your partner may be very excited for whatever you suggest and you might feel better right away. One hard part about relationships is our partner’s reaction - we can’t predict or control it, so it feels really exposing to put ourselves out there, especially when we’re worried we won’t get a positive response. If that’s the case for you, send your partner this email so they can get on the same page as you.
Know that there are many ways to start feeling more connected. Some ideas:
Send your partner some “I like you” cues: a flirty text, touching them on the shoulder as you walk by, looking them in the eyes, smiling when you see them, giving them a long hug, telling them you think they’re hot, basically just being present in the moment with them
Plan a special date for the 2 of you
Pick up their favourite treat on the way home
Take a chore off their list without them asking
Write them a sweet note
Express vulnerability, as discussed above
The long-term solution
It might feel like you’re doing all the work to reconnect. Remember that by reaching out with vulnerability and offering solutions to your partner, you’re helping them understand your needs.
This is not a long-term solution to beating loneliness though.
The LONG-TERM solution is to build connecting HABITS into your routine that you do whether you “feel like” doing them or not. For example, an extra long hug a few times per day, date night every Thursday, spending 10 minutes talking about your days while you’re lying in bed every morning - these things are VITAL to your connection, especially if you do them even when things are rocky.
When we’re feeling disconnected, the first thing we do is stop sending each other “i like you” cues and stop doing the things that “happy couples” do. But if you keep doing those things that happy couples do, you’ll find you don’t get as disconnected and when you do feel disconnected, it doesn’t last as long.
For more info…
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Reach out if you have any questions! You can message me via the contact form at jenatharani.com.