By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Being single can feel lonely, but being in a relationship can feel lonely, too. If you’re in a relationship but still feel like you’re on your own emotionally, the fact that you have a partner is not much of a consolation. In fact, when you are together with your partner, you might even feel more alone because you’re with the very person who should be providing the closeness you need. You might be tempted to ignore the problem, hoping it will resolve itself, but this isn’t a good idea. You’ll likely just continue to feel lonely, and your relationship will get worse. So instead, consider your options to improve the situation, and then take action.

If you’re feeling lonely in a relationship, you have three basic choices (other than doing nothing):

Improve your relationship: Talk with your partner about how you feel. It could be that they also feel lonely or an emotional distance. At the very least, if they care about you, they will naturally want to ease your loneliness.

Before having this discussion, think about what is creating the distance between you. Are your schedules so hectic that you don’t have time to connect? Is something putting a wedge in your relationship? Or, does your partner’s impatience with your personal struggles leave you talking with anyone but him about topics closest to your heart? Whatever the reason, knowing it and then talking about it with your partner may help you feel closer again.

If talking about it doesn’t help, or if makes tensions worse, consider trying couples therapy. A professional third party might be just what you need to close the emotional distance in your relationship.

Lessen your loneliness through outside support: If you don’t feel you can rely on your partner to help relieve your loneliness, turn to friends and family. Allow them to support you. With less intense loneliness, you might find that you are better able to work through issues with your partner. Or, if you don’t think that you can get more from your partner, you might be able to nurture relationships with others enough to relieve your loneliness.

Leave: There might be reasons you choose to stay in a relationship even when you feel lonely – such as a commitment to marriage or choosing to help your partner through difficulties that prevent them from being emotionally available. However, you might also decide to move on because the relationship does not provide enough for you. In this case, before talking with your partner, be sure you’re comfortable with your decision – maybe discussing it with people you trust.

Feeling alone and lonely in your relationship is a serious problem. Don’t let the days, months, and years slide by without addressing it. It will surely leave you with regret. Instead, give your situation serious thought. Then do whatever is necessary to regain a sense of love and connection.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.