It only feels acceptable to be lonely in certain situations — like if all your friends are traveling, or if you’re homesick. But there are other situations where it’s easy to feel lonely, and you’d never know, because no one talks about it. For instance, feeling lonely in a relationship is pretty common.

Let’s dive into how and why you can feel lonely in a relationship, and what you can do about this confusing feeling.

Why do I feel lonely in my relationship?

When we feel that distinct, painful disconnect of loneliness, we become desperate for partnership. We watch movies and listen to music that depicts romance as the one size fits all solution. A relationship promises acceptance and connection – and we want in.

We download apps, go out, and fake it till we make it, presenting ourselves as complete and flawless to attract a partner. But then six months pass, and our worries haven’t been wiped away as we expected. We look at our relationship and realize: we still feel lonely.

It’s not your fault, and not a problem with you. There are a number of ways we can end up in relationships that make us feel lonely.

We take first impressions too seriously

When we meet someone new, our need to feel accepted can accidentally warp how we present ourselves. After all, we’ve all been told how important first impressions are.

In fear of being rejected, we subconsciously present the best version of what we think someone wants from us — without asking ourselves if we really care what this particular person thinks, or how we feel about them.

We focus on whether they’ll like us, instead of asking ourselves whether we truly feel good in their presence.

We don’t know ourselves as well as we think

Although our relationships can provide us with human contact, we often still feel lonely because we enter relationships without being connected with ourselves. Thus, we cannot feel fully understood by our partner. How can they understand us, when we haven’t spent much time trying to understand ourselves?

Also, in fear of rejection, we often fail to set clear boundaries with our partners – boundaries which, again, come from knowing ourselves.

By honoring our own best interests, we set an example for how we need to be treated. And, we allow ourselves to honor the best interests of our partner, in turn. 

We expect too much from one person

These aren’t the only ways you can feel lonely in a relationship. Another is just that we’ve been given unrealistic expectations of what romantic partners are. We’ve been made to expect that our partners should provide for all of our emotional support – and that’s just not humanly possible!

Many of us have entered relationships and over time become disconnected from our friends and families. We find ourselves unconsciously asking our partner to fill the void and provide all that support to us, themselves.

To change things up, remember that each person has strengths, but also their own struggles and needs. Try honoring your partner’s limitations rather than feeling rejected by those limitations. They want to be there for you, but they’re not the only one who can support you. And they have to be there for themselves, too.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling rejected by our partners, which leads to an increased feeling of loneliness. 

What can I do if I’m feeling lonely in a relationship?

If you are feeling lonely in your relationship, the best thing to do is first check in with yourself.

  • How long have you been feeling this way?
  • What needs do you need met to help feel a stronger connection to others?
  • Who could you ask to fulfill these needs for you?

Remember that you’re not alone in having to work through loneliness. It’s an epidemic. Most of us have spent most of our lives disconnecting from our true desires to please those around us – we’ve been expected to go through life presenting a false self.

But healing loneliness requires radical vulnerability. We must be willing to allow ourselves to be seen and to make space in ourselves to see others.  In terms of our relationship, creating space for true emotional intimacy requires vulnerability and commitment on both sides.

By allowing ourselves to be completely seen, we can begin to feel the connection we have been missing and heal the feeling of loneliness in our relationships.