8 Min Read
- Love, Loneliness, And The Fear Of Being Alone
- Why It's So Easy To Confuse Love With Fear Of Loneliness
- What Kind Of Relationship Do You Have?
- A Relationship Isn't A Loneliness Life Preserver
- Being In A Relationship Saves Me From Being Alone
- I'm Not Alone So I'm Happy - Aren't I?
- What To Take Away
Finding the love of your life is something we all hope to do. The prospect of that one true love, that individual who understands you, loves you, and with whom you can plan a life, is both exciting and comforting. Many people find a partner like this and with effort create a happy life together.
For some, however, that partnership never feels quite right. Yet, they tell themselves they’re in love and this is how things are supposed to be. But if you’re in that situation, are you really in love, or are you just afraid of being alone?
Loneliness is a devastating feeling, and feeling lonely is a leading cause of depression in many men and women.
The fear of being alone is powerful and can lead many people to confuse being in love with that fear. Although satisfying relationships can take many forms, trying to make a relationship something it isn’t can lead to many problems and unhappiness for both partners.
Love, Loneliness, And The Fear of Being Alone
Many people who fear being alone will go to great lengths to avoid it. It’s not surprising when you think about it, loneliness and sadness go hand-in-hand, and none of us would choose either feeling.
As human beings, we crave connections to other people and meaningful relationships. Those relationships make us feel valued, important, and part of something. Without them, we can feel isolated and as though we are unworthy of the relationships we see others enjoying.
Many people see love as the ultimate cure for this loneliness.
They romanticize the prospect of discovering a soul mate who inspires a life-changing love and happiness. Because of that, too many of us get swept up in relationships that aren’t a good fit and then stay once in them, not because of real love, but because we’re afraid to leave.
Dr. Kurt works with people struggling in difficult relationships every day. Although many couples can work through their problems, he occasionally sees those trying to hold onto something that isn’t healthy or working.
He had this to say regarding those people,
People tell me that they’re afraid of being alone, but they can have various reasons why. Some just want companionship, such as having someone to come home to or talk to at the end of a long day. Sex is vital to most people, so sometimes not wanting to be alone is about being able to have sex regularly. Daily life is easier when shared with someone else - caring for kids, doing laundry, paying everyday living expenses, etc., are all harder when they fall on just you. Not having to sit alone in a restaurant or being the third wheel in group settings are situations many people want to avoid. Unfortunately, some people prioritize these things more than they do their happiness and settle for a relationship that is less than what they truly want and deserve because they dread being alone. Sadly, one of the biggest mistakes we all can make is to let fear control us.”
This fear of being alone and the desire for companionship means that many will immediately mistake the infatuation and lust common at the start of a relationship with love and try to force things into becoming something they’re not.
The start of any new relationship is typically exciting – you’re getting to know each other, the physical chemistry is likely strong, and the future seems to have unlimited potential. In some circumstances, that potential is fulfilled, and two people build a healthy relationship and happy life together.
But equally as many are a poor match and partners force the relationship.
In this case, the intelligent thing to do is to admit that and move on, but for some, the prospect of being alone is too frightening. Consequently, they push forward, often finding themselves in a problematic relationship or potentially married to the wrong person.
Why It’s So Easy To Confuse Love With Fear Of Loneliness
Intellectually, it’s easy to see the difference between love and fear of loneliness. However, intellect often isn’t enough to overcome emotions.
Distinguishing between genuine love and the fear of being alone is crucial for cultivating a happy life with someone. Many factors can contribute to this confusion and create a deeper fear of ending up alone and lonely.
Recognizing and addressing these factors can lead to less angst with the idea of being alone and a healthier approach to relationships.
The most significant factors are:
One of the significant reasons people confuse feeling in love with the fear of being alone is the societal pressure to be in a relationship. Society places a high value on romantic partnerships, portraying them as the ultimate source of happiness and fulfillment.
This pressure can lead individuals to seek out relationships not because they genuinely love their partner but because they fear the stigma or loneliness associated with being single.
Some become so reliant on their partner for emotional support, validation, and companionship that they mistake this dependency for love.
They fear being alone because they have become accustomed to their partner meeting their emotional needs and don’t know how to meet those needs without them.
Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem
Individuals with low self-esteem or major insecurities may be more prone to confusing love with the fear of being alone.
They might believe they’re unworthy of love or incapable of finding someone else who will care for them, leading them to stay in relationships out of fear that they won’t find anything better.
Unhealthy Relationship Patterns
People who have experienced unhealthy relationships often carry those patterns into new relationships. This can result in a relationship that is toxic, but is accepted because the fear of being alone is greater than the current pain.
What Kind Of Relationship Do You Have?
Because the beginning of a relationship can be so exciting, it can be easy to ignore the warning signs of a bad match and find yourself in a strained or unhappy relationship.
If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your relationship, you need to take time to evaluate why.
- Does your relationship have a strong foundation, but you’ve grown apart?
- Do you and your partner need to focus more on each other?
- Is it possible that you weren’t honest with yourself initially and were trying to use love to avoid loneliness? Or even as a crutch for other aspects of life, like regular sex or help with bills?
If you’re wondering if you’re in love or just scared of being alone, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Would your partner be perfect if you could just “fix” a few things?
In love or not, we would all change a few things about our partner if we could. Maybe she snores, or he’s too obsessed with sports.
But when you’re in love with a person, you take these little things in stride. If you’re constantly trying to “fix” your partner to make them who you want them to be, that’s a different story. Trying to make someone into something they’re not doesn’t work. You can’t take someone and turn them into your perfect match.
2. Does the idea of coming home to an empty house make you uncomfortable?
Sometimes, people would rather have the companionship of anyone rather than be alone. Staying in a relationship for the sole reason of having companionship can work if that’s what both partners want and find satisfying.
But if you’re in a relationship only to avoid an empty house or bed, you aren’t being fair to yourself or your partner.
3. Is the best part of your relationship the fact that someone else does half the work?
When you’ve built a life together and have a family, sometimes the prospect of doing things on your own is overwhelming. It can seem like it’s too much for one person.
But the need for another set of hands isn’t the right foundation for a lasting and healthy relationship. Just because you don’t want to do things alone doesn’t mean you’re incapable.
4. Do you feel you have to hide things or parts of yourself from your partner?
If there are things you need to hide or things you can’t share with your partner, this is a red flag.
When you love someone, you shouldn’t feel afraid to share things, or like there are parts of yourself that they would never understand. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them every little thing, or there won’t be times when they just don’t seem to get it.
What it does mean is that you’re comfortable trying to explain or trying to share things and they’re receptive and respectful.
5. Do you spend time together only when necessary?
If you spend time together only when there is nothing better to do, you probably aren’t as connected as a couple as you should be.
While it’s completely healthy to have friends outside your relationships and interests of your own, there should be a general desire to spend time with your partner on a regular basis.
6. Does the prospect of starting over sound exciting but like more than you could handle?
All relationships go through ups and downs. It’s not unusual to occasionally think about leaving, even in a relationship with a strong love foundation.
However, suppose you find yourself daydreaming about divorce or the possibility of a new relationship all the time. In that case, there are definitely issues that need to be addressed.
And if the only thing keeping you from acting on those daydreams is the hassle of leaving or the fear of being alone, then your relationship has bigger problems.
If any of these sounds familiar, you may have forced a square peg into a round hole and be more focused on avoiding loneliness than creating a strong, loving relationship.
A Relationship Isn’t A Loneliness Life Preserver
Some people think, “I’m in a relationship, and that’s better than being alone, right?”
A relationship isn’t an automatic cure for loneliness or the remedy for other problems in life. Many people in the wrong relationship can actually feel intensely alone, which can be even worse than being alone and on your own.
Relationships that are just filling a void or exist because partners are scared of being alone are destined to have problems.
They are far more prone to,
Despite what some may think, it’s not really better to have something rather than nothing when it comes to relationships. Sometimes, being alone is the better choice.
People also often confuse being lonely with being alone.
This confusion can lead many to stay in unhappy or abusive relationships, feeling like they would rather have someone than live by themselves.
The truth is that being alone can be healthier than being in the wrong relationship. And being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. It can be an opportunity for less stress, introspection, and personal growth. This is a far better circumstance than being in a relationship that’s a constant source of frustration and discomfort.
Loneliness is a subjective emotional state. When people perceive a gap between their desired social state and their actual social state, they may feel lonely. However, this can happen whether you’re in a relationship or not.
In fact, in abusive relationships one partner may create an environment that isolates the other partner from their family and friends, deepening loneliness and likely leading to depression.
I’m Not Alone, So I’m Happy – Aren’t I?
If you’re scared of being alone for whatever reason, being in a relationship and trying to convince yourself that you’re in love isn’t the answer. And pinning your happiness on the idea that happiness only comes with being in love and in a relationship is a mistake.
Being happy has much more to do with your satisfaction with yourself than being in a relationship.
People who swing from relationship to relationship to avoid being alone never get to know themselves and what makes them happy. Because of that, they find it even more challenging to recognize what they appreciate in other people and what real love looks like.
So, being happy gets confused with being in a relationship, and avoiding being alone gets confused with being in love. Altogether, it’s a recipe for dissatisfaction, frustration and problems.
As a rule of thumb, your happiness should not solely depend on your relationship status.
What To Take Away
Before you succumb to your fear of being alone and jump into a relationship, thinking that love will save you, stop and think about what you really want.
Love and relationships don’t solve loneliness. If anything, the wrong relationship can actually make loneliness worse.
If you’re already in a relationship and feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, stop and ask yourself – am I really in love with this person, or am I just afraid of being alone? The honest answer will allow you to determine what you should do next.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published May 09, 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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