Are you feeling alone in a relationship? You are not alone
What is the last thing you touch at night before you go to sleep? What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Although loneliness is not new, it’s no longer about feeling isolated. Over the past decade, we have experienced a new kind of loneliness: the loss of connection, trust, and capital when we are right next to someone with whom we shouldn’t be alone. The isolation comes from comparing our lives with the carefully-curated social media profiles and friends of people we don’t know. The loneliness dilemma has grown as every other aspect of our lives has been disrupted. We spend more time online than ever, trying to keep up with the latest information and working. We’ve been exposed to the primary emotion that underlines loneliness in a new way: Ambiguous loss, which Pauline Boss first developed. It is what we feel when a loved person is physically present but absent in any other way from a relationship.
- Do you remember a time when your partner was half listening, their face lit up by the soft blue glow from the phone? They’re not there, but you’re still talking to them.
- What about the lag when you call a family member who is multitasking or checking social media?
- Do you know someone you can always reach out to, only to get a reply a few days later?
- Do you feel strangely like middle school? Are you feeling overwhelmed as you try to negotiate who you can see and want to see? What would you like to know of you?
A Crisis Can Make You Feel Alone in a Relationship
We can delegate complicated feelings. Our already conflicting coping strategies become more extreme in times of crisis. One partner is more stressed and worried than the other, while the other tries to calm things down. One who worries is more likely to be anxious than the other. The one who soothes does not bother. If we tend to over-activate, then the other will also be hyper-activated. This is evident in our conversations, planning, sex lives, and desire to try new things.
Feeling Alone in a Relationship is The Norm
Even more challenging are the problems always there and have only gotten worse over the past few months. For those of us who have lived on different continents but were living together 24/7, it has been more difficult. It’s been said before: Crisis exacerbates tensions within society and our relationships. This year has brought out new levels of loneliness in those who felt lonely in relationships. These are just some of the many situations I hear:
- A partner who believes they must initiate every conversation
- A partner who wants the conversation to end when there is nothing more to say
- A partner who refuses to have conversations because they have never seen anything positive come from them
- Partner experiencing a lack of empathy
- If one partner doesn’t feel comfortable talking about anything, the other will criticize it and reply defensively.
- They have a partner who is everything to them.
- A partner is desperate for intimacy and feels rejected by others.
Reconnection requires going a different way.
To reach a deeper level of connection, you must take a different route. This path is filled with difficult conversations, and I want to help you have. Let’s get started:
- Set a time limit and make an appointment for an activity.
- You can change the environment by going for a walk, taking a bath or sharing a cup of coffee in the morning. This will help to break up the monotony of conversation.
- Begin the conversation by acknowledging your discomfort and expressing gratitude for their willingness to talk.
- Mention a recent productive conversation.
- Limit it to one issue at a time.
- Listen to them with curiosity and inquisitiveness.
- If your partner says they feel overwhelmed or shut down, you don’t need to reply, “but I didn’t do anything.”
- Ask them to tell you more.
- It is essential to know that listening to others can make people feel less alone.
- Listening does not mean agreeing. This is something you should remind yourself and your children of.
- Recognizing the experience of another person doesn’t make it invalid.
- Do not try to outdo them by bringing up your grievances. Ask them to do it for you.
- You are not responsible for their negative feelings.
- They are not responsible for your negative emotions.
- Remind your partner that it is impossible to solve all your problems in one conversation. However, every conversation is an important step.
- Your partner can always ask you, “Is there anything I can do to make this conversation more productive?”
- Try writing to one another if the conversation feels difficult. It can make all of the difference.