Being married doesn’t protect you from loneliness, and you don’t have to be physically alone to experience it. When you feel lonely in marriage, you can make changes to improve the situation.

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Marriage takes hard work, patience, and dedication. Sometimes things get complicated and interfere with the positive aspects of your relationship. It can lead to feeling lonely even when your partner is in the same room.

Many believe marriage involves spending every day with your best friend and confidant. While this is the case in some situations, you might experience loneliness.

You might feel unwanted or misunderstood by your partner, wondering why you seem to be alone.

Connection is necessary for easing loneliness, and you can make some changes to rebuild your relationship. Understanding loneliness can help you recognize it in your life and work to overcome it.

On the outside people may see a loving, loyal, or typical couple — perhaps even with a complementary partnership. But inside you may feel exceedingly lonely due to circumstantial factors, as one or both of you may:

  • be deployed for a military tour
  • be incarcerated
  • travel for work much of each year
  • have opposite work shifts
  • work multiple jobs and hardly at home
  • have an addiction, compulsion, or obsession that consumes much time and energy
  • be emotionally (or physically) absent due to:
    • medical illness
    • mental health disorder episodes
    • grief
    • trauma
    • unemployment or financial destitution
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In an article for TED, relationship expert Carol Bruess writes that healthy relationships require:

  • friendship
  • adoration
  • respect

Something might be wrong if your relationship feels off and your partner’s behaviors have shifted. If you experience this situation, you might realize that you feel lonely in your marriage.

You might notice you:

  • no longer share humor
  • don’t enjoy your spouse’s quirks or your partner becomes annoyed by yours

Other times, you might find that your emotional needs are unfulfilled. Feeling emotionally abandoned can even occur when your partner is nearby.

Sometimes you’ll notice that you no longer talk about your thoughts anymore. You or your partner might not do kind things for one another or offer loving words. The relationship may shift so that the things that once mattered don’t occur anymore.

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Other things you might notice in a lonely marriage include:

  • criticism when you discuss your feelings
  • spending time segregated on electronics or scrolling social media when together
  • seeming disinterested in a conversation
  • feeling like you must raise your voice to get their attention
  • lack of eye contact
  • dismissive behavior

Is it common to feel lonely in a marriage?

Experts indicate that most married people view their relationship as emotionally supportive. But around 33% of older adults experience loneliness in their marriages.

Identifying why you feel alone and learning to change it can help you improve your relationship and feel emotionally connected again.

Some of the reasons you feel lonely could include:

  • Ambivalence: One partner provides low support but high strain. It can leave you feeling torn between the good and bad of your relationship.
  • Indifference: One partner provides low support and minimal strain. They may offer little help but don’t make demands, causing feelings of neglect and loneliness.
  • Aversion: Negative behaviors aren’t followed by positive ones, continually harming the relationship quality. This situation could feel lonelier than any of the others.

You might feel lonely in your marriage because of negative marital qualities. When there’s more negativity than positivity, it can make you feel like you’re alone. Additionally, juggling busy schedules can leave little time for you to spend quality moments together.

High support expectations of your partner can lead to loneliness because they can’t live up to your ideal. Idealizing a perfect marriage can leave you feeling like your relationship lacks something essential. You also might feel like you have different priorities and goals.

How do you live with a lonely marriage?

You might think it’s OK to feel lonely in a relationship, but it can have detrimental effects. Research from 2015 indicates that feeling lonely can increase your risk of early mortality. Feeling isolated can also increase your risk of:

If you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts, please seek professional support immediately.

Calling or texting a crisis helpline will connect you with a trained counselor 24/7, any day of the year, completely free of charge:

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Knowing these potential risks could encourage you to make some changes to improve the situation. Feeling lonely doesn’t mean there’s no hope for you and your partner. Instead, it can be an opportunity for improvement, bringing you and your partner closer together.

You can make changes to improve your relationship and feel connected to your partner. These tips may help you address issues within your relationship, allowing you to move forward together.

Tell your spouse you’re lonely

Telling your partner that you’re lonely requires vulnerability and not criticizing them. Relationship coach and bestselling author Laura Doyle explains that complaining about your partner and criticizing them can create more distance.

She recommends saying “I miss you” because it can get your point across without causing further strain. You can let your guard down and practice vulnerability rather than criticizing your partner.

Doyle explains, “there’s no criticism or manipulation in telling someone you love that you miss them. Rather, it’s nice to know that you are loved and thought about.”

Appreciate the little things

Once you talk with your partner about your loneliness, you can appreciate the little things they do for you. Their small actions can be meaningful, and they might stop doing them if they think you aren’t appreciative.

Doyle suggests that if you consider the little things insignificant, “it communicates that his efforts are not wanted or appreciated.”

Plan how to handle the loneliness together

Relationship expert and co-founder of the dating app So Syncd, Jessica Alderson, suggests working together. You can focus on working together so that it comes across as a team effort.

It can ensure your partner doesn’t feel blamed and could make them feel comfortable discussing what to do next.

Your partner might not have had time to consider how they feel about the situation. Alderson explains, “they may need time to process the information so be prepared to give them space to digest everything.”

Creating a safe space for communication is essential, and Alderson says it requires that you are:

  • nonjudgmental
  • kind
  • supportive

Be patient

It will take time and effort to repair your relationship, but it can happen. You can try remembering all the good things about your relationship and what you love about your partner. Recalling these memories can help you stay patient as you work to rebuild.

Connect with your partner

Your partner might not know where to start rebuilding your connection, and you don’t have to wait for them to start a conversation. You can ask them a question about their day or inquire about their thoughts on something.

Engaging with your partner can help overcome barriers and encourage them to ask questions.

Find opportunities to be together

Spending quality time together doesn’t have to be extravagant. You can find opportunities for joining your partner and emotionally connecting at home. Some things you can do include:

  • cooking dinner together
  • listening to music
  • lounging around in your living space

Attend couples therapy

A couples therapist can help you and your partner overcome your challenges. They can help you learn how to connect in a loving, welcoming way.

While loneliness in marriage is a common occurrence, you don’t have to live with it. You can talk with your partner and make adjustments to your relationship.

Addressing the problems can help you build a healthier relationship and find fulfillment together again. Working together to rebuild your connection can make a difference in easing your loneliness. Reconnecting takes time and effort, but you could start today.