All March long, we are sharing a three-part series around loneliness. 

Loneliness is challenging. It’s a universally painful emotion, leading us to feel isolated, unseen, and unheard. Because of its isolating tendencies, loneliness is often associated with singleness or separation from family and friends. This association is understandable, and individuals who are single or far from loved ones can face a unique challenge in connecting with others. However, as a couples therapist, I often hear from people in committed relationships who tell me they feel lonely too. This doesn’t always fit the narrative we have of what loneliness usually looks like. Shouldn’t this problem be solved for a partnered person? After all, they have someone next to them at the end of the day; why would they feel alone?

Here’s why, from my point of view: Loneliness is more than just the lack of physical presence. It’s also a lack of connection and understanding. Someone may physically see you with their eyes, but if they do not see and understand your hopes, fears, love, or desires, that physical presence won’t be enough.

If you’re in a committed relationship and have felt the ache of loneliness lately, this is not cause for panic or despair. But it is cause to pay attention. I often tell my clients that emotions flaring up are like lights coming on the dashboard of our cars. Let’s pop the hood, so to speak, and see what’s going on.

Behind the emotion of loneliness is a need for connection, a need to be seen, heard, and loved. Ideally, this would combine both the comfort of physical presence and the validation of emotional understanding. If you feel lonely in your relationship, here are a few things to consider:

Loneliness and the need for connection do not make you burdensome; they make you human. We are not meant to live in isolation. I want you to remember that this is a valid emotion to feel and a valid need to communicate to your partner.

Have you communicated to your partner that you feel this way? Have you asked them if they have felt similarly? This could be a possible first touchpoint to gauge where you both are as a unit.

Can you identify ways that your partner makes you feel less lonely? Do you have examples of things they said or did that made you feel seen and loved? If you have not already discussed love languages with each other, this would be a great time to do so!

It takes courage to acknowledge and communicate a sense of loneliness in your relationship. But it may end up being the first step toward restoration for you and your partner. Your emotions deserve the attention they need, and loneliness can be an especially challenging one to face. So let’s talk about it.

By: Laura Bradshaw, LMFTA

Laura Bradshaw is a LMFTA at Mathews Counseling. She currently taking new clients but space is limited. Request your appointment today! Learn more about Laura here

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