“Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate,” said Germaine Greer. Indeed, there’s something about the presence of another person that can actually intensify the pain of loneliness. Loneliness is not the absence of other people – rather, it is the absence of a human connection with them. There is nothing more lonesome than feeling disconnected from someone you love.
When your relationship feels lonely, it can actually have an impact on your physical health. Besides putting us at a greater risk for depression and anxiety, loneliness can weaken our immune systems, increase inflammatory responses, and put us at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. You can literally die of loneliness. Sadly, the physical death that could result from a growing distance between you and your partner is not even the worst part. The relational and emotional death that loneliness can lead to is a far more painful thing.
The agony of feeling lonely when you are in a committed relationship can be a hard thing for others to understand. After all, most people understand loneliness as a byproduct of being alone. To someone who is alone most of the time, you might sound ungrateful for your partner or even greedy for attention. It can be hard to explain the feeling of losing a connection while still spending plenty of time with the person you once shared that bond with. It doesn’t make sense to miss someone while they are sleeping right next to you – and yet, thousands of people experience this phenomenon every day. Not only is it alienating, but it is deeply sad. Mother Teresa once said “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”