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Loneliness, by definition, is a state of sadness or an unpleasant emotional response to real or perceived isolation. It is worth noting that loneliness is not an emotion which is just felt by people who are single or alone. Many couples also find themselves experiencing feelings of loneliness in long-term relationships and should not feel ashamed or guilty to address them. Here, I will be highlighting some of the reasons why one may feel lonely in a relationship, while part 2 of this blog will focus on tips to overcome this feeling.

 A 2018 study, found that about 28% of respondents who frequently experienced loneliness also felt a dissatisfaction with their family, social and community life. Loneliness can come about due to a number of reasons, however, it commonly occurs when a couple’s emotional connection has started to fade. Gary Brown, an America based licensed family therapist explains that even in the best of relationships, there may come a time where one or both of the partners drifts apart and causes feelings of distance from one another.

Clinical Psychologist Jenny Taitz also attributes loneliness to unwillingness to share vulnerable information with one’s partner. This highlights the importance of sharing our feelings in relationships and opening up about more personal things.

Another contributing factor to loneliness within relationships is social media. With such easy access to different platforms, couples can easily get caught up comparing their relationship to ones they see on social media. Even if you just had a good night with your partner, then see photos of couples abroad or sharing gifts, this may lead to instant feelings of loneliness leading to distance between you and your partner. In 2017, a study by Primack et al., found that those who reported using social media for more than two hours a day were twice as likely to feel lonely compared to participants who 30 minutes on such platforms.

In some cases, loneliness can also stem from outside of the relationship. Some studies suggest that loneliness could be a genetic trait, with some people being predisposed to feeling bouts of loneliness across their lifespan. Here, we must remember that getting into a relationship in order to try and get rid of pre-existing feelings of loneliness, is not a solution.

There can be many other reasons for loneliness in a relationship including; the birth of a new child, physical distance, health issues, intimacy issues, emotional issues or incompatibility.

Part 2 of this blog will focus on ways to combat loneliness within your relationship.

Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Volunteer Manager within Willingness Team, while pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy locally.

References:
https://www.norc.org/PDFs/GSS%20Reports/Research%20Highlights-GSS%20(ECON)%20FINAL%20slightly%20different%20layout-DTP%20Formatted.pdf

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/03/americans-unhappy-with-family-social-or-financial-life-are-more-likely-to-say-they-feel-lonely/

Primack, B., Shensa, A., Sidani, J., Whaite, E., Lin, L., Rosen, D., Colditz, J., Radovic, A. and Miller, E., 2017. Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53(1), pp.1-8.