10 signs you stay in unhappy relationships because you’re lonely

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Are you the kind of person who stays in relationships longer than you should?

The real question is why? You know you deserve better. Are you fighting for love or are you just lonely? 

Feelings and emotions are confusing, so it’s hard to tell. But maybe I can help. 

Today, I’m sharing 10 signs that you’re staying in that unhappy relationship because you’re lonely. 

Be honest, how many of these signs do you recognize in yourself? 

1) You wish you had more friends

Do you ever wonder where all your friends have gone? 

A few years ago, you had a really great group of friends that you’d spend every weekend with. It was like you were part of this unbreakable gang. It felt like you’d be friends forever. But you’ve drifted apart. 

And it makes sense: it’s normal to lose friends as we get older. One study suggests after the age of 25, friendships start to fall away rapidly, as noted by The Guardian.

But you still wish you had more friends. 

And even though you’d like to meet new people and have more options for hanging out at the weekend, the thought of trying to make new friends at this age feels pretty daunting. It’s easier to stay put and spend time with your partner. 

Does this sound like you? If so, it might be a sign that you’re lonely and because of it, you’re staying in an unhappy relationship. 

Making friends is hard, but so is being in an unhappy relationship so why not step out of your comfort zone and try to meet some new people

2) You‘re pretending to be happy 

Do you ever find yourself feeling discontent in your relationship?  

Turns out: you’re not alone, only 17% of couples are content in their partnerships according to Dana Adam Shapiro in his book “You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married,”.

Yet, you pretend to be happy, right?  

When anyone asks how it’s going, you exaggerate the truth to make it sound as though you’re the perfect couple.

Deep down, you know it’s not true, but it seems easier than admitting things aren’t great. And it could be worse, you could be single spending every weekend alone, right? 

All couples have off days but if you find yourself constantly pretending to be happy it suggests you might think it’s easier to pretend than to be on your own. 

The thing is: being single doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be lonely and your happiness is worth prioritizing. Give it some thought.  

3) You choose company over enjoyment 

Remember when you and your partner got together first?

You had so much fun. Even normal everyday things like making dinner were enjoyable when they were around. 

But it doesn’t feel like that anymore. You don’t really have a great time together now, but it’s better than the alternative, right? 

You’d prefer to have his company than to be doing life alone. Choosing company over enjoyment is a tell-tale sign of loneliness. 

You deserve to enjoy even the small things in your life. Don’t let loneliness hold you back from finding that fun factor again. 

4) You feel envious of happy couples 

In the last few months of a past relationship, I’d always feel really envious of other couples who seemed happy. 

I’d see random couples holding hands in the park or laughing and joking together over coffee and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of envy. I wished my relationship was like that. 

It wasn’t but I stayed anyway. I felt pretty alone and isolated at the time, with a partner. I couldn’t bear to think of how it’d feel if I was single as well. 

Does this strike a chord with you? 

Envy is a normal human emotion but it can be pretty isolating when you feel it about happy couples because it reminds you of what you want and don’t have. 

The last thing you want is to feel even more isolated and you’re scared you will if you leave the relationship. 

It doesn’t have to be like that! You can find the happiness you see in other couples if you take action.

5) You’ve abandoned your boundaries

Can you recall a time when you knew exactly what you would and wouldn’t take from someone and always stood by it?

The importance of boundaries in relationships is well documented. They allow you to

  • Develop trust and healthy relationships
  • Be assertive without being aggressive
  • Practice and prioritize self-respect

Lately, though, you’ve lost sight of your own boundaries. You often accept behaviors from your partner that you know you don’t deserve. 

You know that you shouldn’t be allowing these things to continue. If they do, the best thing for you might be to leave the relationship

But it feels easier to tolerate these behaviors than to deal with the aftermath of a break-up. 

You’re not sure you could handle being alone like that, so you stay. 

6) You feel like you’re settling

Do you ever feel like you’re settling in your relationship? 

It sounds pretty harsh to put it so bluntly but if you’re feeling that way and you’re staying, it’s a huge red flag. 

Everyone deserves to feel like the ‘cat who got the cream’ with their partner.  But that’s not you. You’ve got this nagging feeling that you deserve better. But you doubt whether you could do better and can’t stand the thought of being on your own, so you stay. 

This is a sure sign that you’re lonely and it’s the reason that you stay in unhappy relationships. 

The thing is: this is not fair on you or your partner. Be brave enough to know you can overcome this lonely feeling and find someone who’s absolutely amazing in your eyes. 

7) You’re not being yourself 

Are you showing up as your true self in your relationship or are you trying to be the person you think your partner wants you to be? 

Presenting an altered version of yourself is a tell-tale sign you’ll do anything to keep this relationship alive, rather than face the prospect of feeling even more lonely without it. 

But here’s the kicker: pretending to be someone else in an attempt to maintain the relationship might actually be making it more likely to fail.  

People who stay true to who they are, “have a stronger sense of themselves so they are capable of more intimacy, love, and passion in their relationship” as noted by Psychology Today.  

So if you’re hiding your true self and modifying your opinions just to fit into the mold of what you think your partner wants, it’s time to stop it immediately. 

Embrace who you are and you might find that you don’t feel so lonely and they love you even more. Or you’ll realize it’s time to leave and find someone who loves the real you. 

8) You don’t argue with your partner

Not arguing with your partner is a good thing, right? 

Wrong. 

When two people with different views and opinions come together there’s bound to be disagreements from time to time. Conflict in relationships is healthy and normal.  

On the other hand: a relationship with no conflict isn’t natural and it suggests that you’ve both checked out and don’t care enough to fight anymore. Or one of you is biting your tongue to keep the peace. 

Which one is it for you? 

Both scenarios indicate an unhappy relationship that you should get out of. But the fact that you stay despite these issues is a clear indicator you’re staying because you’re lonely. 

You don’t want to feel even more lonely than you already do so you’d rather endure an unhappy relationship with no honest communication than leave. 

9) You long for the past 

Remember a few years ago, when life was so carefree? You’d spend most of your time laughing and creating memories with your friends. Sometimes you wish you could just go back to that time. 

Do you find yourself reminiscing like this a lot?

You think back to a time when you didn’t feel lonely, you were full of the joys of life and didn’t realize how good you had it. Longing for the past like this every once in a while is normal. 

But if you’re always wishing you could go back to a time with more fun, more friends, more laughs, and more joy, it’s a clear sign that you’re lonely and you’re clinging to an unhappy relationship

The good news is that nostalgia like this can actually help you to escape the trap of loneliness by strengthing feelings of belongingness and providing a sense of meaning. 

The next step is to focus on yourself and create a fun-filled future. 

10) You and your partner are living parallel lives

A few years ago my friend Emma described her relationship with her fiancé as “two ships passing in the night”. They were living parallel lives under the same roof.

They rarely saw each other due to opposite work schedules. And where they were both home, their time ‘together’ was often spent on individual activities like scrolling through phones or watching TV. It was more about co-existing in the same space than enjoying shared experiences.

It wasn’t until they broke up 3 years later that she admitted she only stayed in that unhappy relationship because she thought she’d feel more lonely if she didn’t have him in her life. 

And it makes sense: living a parallel life can be incredibly isolating because although you’re not physically alone, you are essentially doing life alone. It’s confusing, you think you shouldn’t feel lonely but you do. 

Emma eventually realized that the loneliness was (partly) because of the relationship. When she finally left, she immediately started to feel less alone. 

Does this resonate with you? 

If you’re living separate lives, it’s time to consider that you might be staying in an attempt to ward off more loneliness. 

In reality, leaving might be the path to feeling better.

The bottom line

If you recognize these 10 signs in yourself, you’re probably staying in an unhappy relationship because you’re lonely.

And it might feel like leaving the relationship will add to that lonely feeling, so you stay. 

The truth is: being alone (a.k.a single) and being lonely are not the same thing. And leaving an unhappy relationship can help you to feel less lonely, not more. 

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

People with low self-esteem display these 9 behaviors (without realizing it)

16 signs you have a fiercely independent personality that some find intimidating