September 25, 2017

Loneliness in a Relationship


One isn't always the loneliest number. Sometimes, it's two. 


You would think that having a significant other would mean never being lonely again. You'd have scheduled dates, and unscheduled dates. Someone to share your thoughts and feelings with. A partner in physical intimacy. No need to worry what you're going to do with yourself during that long weekend, or on birthdays, holidays and special events. You have your partner in crime.

Except, what if you don't. What if you're in a relationship, but for some reason or another, you're feeling lonely. You realize you haven't seen your partner in a while. All your plans are solo plans, all your meals are had alone. You feel a pang of disappointment during a raunchy sex scene in GoT and realized you haven't been touched like that in...wait. When was the last time? You're not sure how or when it happened, but suddenly you feel so disconnected from your partner it's almost like you don't have one.

This kind of loneliness can be painful and crushing, and worse than actually being alone. When you're single, you know that you're single. It's a fact about your life. There are things that you don't expect, like a good morning text from that SO you don't have, random flowers for no reason, help carrying the groceries or an intimate kiss on the shoulder as your wake up alarm. Because these aren't expectations, they can't be unmet. Additionally, you can always actively date while you're single. Maybe that person you went out with last week wasn't the one, but hey, you had a nice dinner, a fun conversation, and maybe made a new friend.

But in a monogamous relationship with a distant or disconnected partner, there are, indeed, expectations. You do expect that morning text. Or afternoon...or at least early evening? No? But it isn't about the text exactly, but the assumption that your partner, well...wants to talk to you. Misses you. Wants you. And wants you to know it. No random flowers? That's fine, not everyone likes flowers. Maybe some thoughtful little surprise. A dinner date? A funny keychain referencing some inside joke you share. A funny meme text even. The surprise appearance of your favorite snack at their apartment. Just something, anything, to show that they were thinking of you. No? Hmmmm... Help carrying the groceries is nice. Especially if you've shopped for two. Help with the cooking would be nice too, or with the purchasing of said groceries. What's that, you'll just arrive when dinner is ready? Wait, it isn't ready quite yet so you'll just go have a nap. I see. No help there. I’ve heard from people who say the only cook in couples, because it’s a shared, fun experience. Alone it isn’t the same, so they just order in. It’s a good thing I love to cook. And as for that initiate kiss on the shoulder, how intimate can a kiss be after a while when your SO has turned into a stranger?

And in relationships like that, in addition to the crushing pain of all your unmet expectations, is the fact that despite feeling alone and actually being alone a lot of the time, you ARE in a relationship. So when that nice person approaches you at the bookstore, no thank you, you say. You have someone. When you're eating alone at that restaurant and someone sweet approaches and asks if you'd like company. No thank you, you say. You aren't actually single. When you're out having drinks at your usual watering hole and the couple next to you tells you about the person who's been asking about you all night. You have a partner, you remind them. Oh yeah! they exclaim - they'd forgotten. This increases that lonely feeling by a million. Each time you might pull out your phone in the hopes that there is a cute I miss you text waiting, or a fun meme, or that dinner invitation. Instead all you see are the last few texts you sent to your SO. Five hours ago. That haven't been read. 

Great.

When despite having the title of "in a relationship" you aren't actually in one, it may be necessary to reluctantly accept your reality and call yourself what you are - single. 

And yeah, that can be a hard pill to swallow. All those hopes you had for the future - dashed. All those plans you thought you'd make - scrapped. All those nights in alone thinking of someone...well...now there will definitely be no one. 

And yet, I bet you when the thought first crosses your mind, before it wanders to the cute little jokes you used to share, or to the last picture you snapped, or the last weekend you were happy, you'll feel something else. Just the tiniest twinge of relief. There will still be time alone, but you'll expect it. There still will be no kisses, but there won't be anyone you want them from. Still no sex?  Well, it won't be because your SO is content without it as you fidget away in your office completely flushed because someone made a dirty joke. And you’ve already been missing your little inside couple jokes, and thought longingly about what you’d been doing in the last happy photograph, and pining for the happy weekend in what used to be a happy relationship. The truth is, you’re ready to stop longing for what you supposedly already have. To stop pining away over your own past and start looking toward the future.

And hey there, hot stuff, in between those planned nights in alone - that no longer feel so terrible because it’s JUST you home alone, not you home alone because your SO decided to go for drinks with the coworkers for the second night this week, which has been CRAZY busy and stressful, which is why they can’t make time for you - I bet you won’t be bored, and lonely, and listless. I bet you’ll be looking forward to the trip you planned because you weren’t waiting on someone else to confirm before you booked it, or that dance lesson you’ll take, or that wine tasting you’re going to, or that brunch with the trivia team you joined. Or maybe even that hot date because guess what, now when someone who is interested in you asks you out, you’re free to say YES. 

You’re free to get phone calls and text messages from someone who wants to talk to you. To have fabulous plans with someone who wants to make them with you. To be surprised; to have someone who enjoys thinking of ways to surprise you, and appreciates the surprises you think up for them. You’re free to be happy - whatever that looks like for you. 

And maybe you won’t date right away, either. And that’s okay too. If you really were in love, and you really are sad that your SO either wouldn’t or couldn’t be there person that you needed, it’s okay to take some official alone time to let them go. 

What isn’t okay is being an isolated hostage in a relationship with a disconnected partner who makes you feel neglected, unloved and alone. 

So if you’ve already tried everything else, or it’s hurting too much to try, or the emotional distance has made it so that you no longer wish to try (or all of the above) go on. If you feel alone, take the leap and really BE alone. But fear not, because you will not be lonely. 

Not anymore. 

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