Are You Feeling Lonely?


By Zana Busby


Feeling lonely is not reserved for single people. For many people loneliness is frightening but it is even more frightening when you experience loneliness as a couple.

You can be in a long-term relationship and still feel lonely because something is not working. This sense of loneliness can often take place when the lack of emotional support from your partner bleeds out all the trust, happiness, and comfort out of your interaction with them so you start to feel emotionally disconnected.

And if it happens that you are married, the impact is huge because with this lifelong commitment normally we expect to feel contentment, not loneliness. We need to feel loved, understood, supported, and above all appreciated by our marriage partner in order to feel fulfilled and emotionally secure.

There are a variety of reasons for feeling lonely in a relationship, such as lack of communication, intimacy lacking, emotional and/or physical abuse, and other issues.

However, the four toxic relationship behaviours, that the psychologist Dr. John Gottman, rightly named the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (FHOA) bring not only deep loneliness but ultimately lead to a relationship breakdown.

These negative communication styles are so destructive and when coupled with the feelings of loneliness are highly detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing.

The four TOXIC behaviours

Keep an eye out for these counterproductive behaviours – criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Do you and/or your partner ever engage in any of these behaviours?

Criticism. This refers to attacking one’s character or personality, rather than the behaviour itself and if it becomes your default behaviour even though deep down you know it isn’t right, communication with your partner becomes difficult. Do you mistake a complaint about criticism?

Defensiveness. How often do you make excuses to avoid taking responsibility for the behaviours that are hurting your partner? If your attitude is to project the blame onto your partner or try to find faults in their behaviour just because they complained, then this shows that you are not actively listening to your partner and you are not taking their concerns seriously. This exacerbates the conflict further.

Stonewalling. This is a form of emotionally abusive behaviour where you give your partner the ‘silent treatment’ as a way of punishing them. You withdraw from communication to such an extent that you don’t acknowledge your partner at all when they ask you something or try to engage with you. Such dismissal of your partner’s presence makes them feel rejected and abandoned.

Contempt. This is one of the most damaging behaviours rated as the single greatest predictor of divorce. It usually involves mean sarcasm, name-calling, inappropriate ‘humour’, and total disrespect for your partner.

If you feel the need to deliberately hurt your partner as much as possible because you have anger issues and are lacking emotional self-regulation, you need to seriously address this passive-aggressive way of telling your partner how you feel.

Loneliness is not always the same as being alone

You may choose to be single and live happily, or you may be in a relationship and still feel lonely, especially if the four toxic behaviours are present in your relationship. This can also have a negative impact on your mental health if these feelings and the emotional abuse lasted a long time.

Putting off dealing with relationship problems often results in one or both people feeling lonely and resentful. Avoidance does not solve problems; it only creates detachment and more conflict, ultimately leading to making the decision to end the relationship.

Breaking patterns like this is easier when both people are motivated and committed to change and have a clear understanding that no relationship can survive without a healthy communication infused with respect, understanding, and love.