Many people grow up with stories about soulmates and their one true love only to find that when they get married, their spouse can’t fulfill everything they need. This can bring on feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disappointment, and can push couples to the edge. If you find yourself in that situation, you may wonder if your spouse could ever be enough company, and what you can do to keep loneliness from ruining your relationship.
Your Spouse Should Not Replace Your Friends
At the start of many relationships, new partners tend to spend a lot of time together dating, getting to know one another, and developing intimacy. It is healthy for your spouse to be one of your good friends, and you should enjoy spending time together. But some couples take this too far. They may begin to rely on their spouse or partner for everything. That can lead to problems and may even be a sign of an abusive relationship.
The strongest relationships find a balance between “us” activities, and individual activities. Each spouse should have friends and family that they spend time with on their own. It is great if your spouse gets along with these friends, but you should also have the freedom to have a “girls’ night” or a “boys night” separate from your spouse.
Isolation Can Be a Sign of Abuse
If your spouse is unable or unwilling to let you spend one-on-one time with your friends, it could be a sign of bigger problems. Often, if one partner is abusive, he or she will try to hide their behavior. That means cutting you off from people you might talk to about what is happening t home. This kind of isolation can also cover over unhealthy patterns of codependency, or dominance and control. Without friends to check in on you, you can easily find yourself caught in an unhealthy and abusive relational pattern. The longer you remain isolated, the harder it may become for you to get help.
Loneliness in Relationships Can Create Problems for Couples
That doesn’t mean loneliness is always a red flag. Even people in healthy relationships can feel lonely. Over time, many spouses find themselves doing nothing together. They spend time by each other’s sides, but they still feel alone. This can lead to problems for individuals and couples. If left unchecked, they can even drive a relationship apart.
Loneliness can often spur on fights over unimportant things like bad habits or differences of opinion. When romance fades, arguments can seem better than silence. But bickering also emphasizes the negative parts of your relationship, making it harder to see the best in one another.
If one member of a couple feels lonely, they may find themselves open to extramarital relationships. This is especially true when sex and intimacy are absent or infrequent at home. However, if those relations are done in secret they can cause tremendous harm when they are later discovered. Any temporary gain will generally be outweighed by the loss of a committed, healthy relationship.
Many people who are lonely pour themselves into their work. This can give them access to coworkers, or simply distract them from emptiness of their relationship at home. However, when one partner spends all their time at work, it can unfairly shift the burdens of the household onto the other partner. Unless these decisions are made intentionally, through open conversation, that can cause resentment and drive couples further apart.
When spouses feel alone or unsatisfied at home, they may also turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the feeling of loneliness or isolation. When this becomes an escalating habit, an occasional drink or vape can turn into a substance abuse problem. This can drain family resources, hurt the user’s physical and mental health, and further distance them from their spouse.
What to Do if You Feel Lonely in Your Relationship
Quarantines and stay-at-home practices during COVID-19 have only aggravated many couples’ struggles to overcome loneliness in their relationship. If you feel isolated or lonely, as though your spouse is never enough company, short-term couples therapy can help. Working together with a psychotherapist, you can:
- Identify the causes of your feelings
- Understand each other’s feelings more clearly
- Find ways to comfort each other
- Plan ways to have more fun together
- Rebuild trust in one another
- Improve communication
- Increase intimacy and repair sexual relations
Your relationship doesn’t have to be on the edge of divorce to benefit from couples’ counseling. Sometimes, all you need is a helping hand to decrease loneliness and improve your friendship with your spouse.
David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience who helps individuals and couples learn strategies for addressing loneliness within their relationships. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.