Growing up, most of us probably weren’t given good examples of how to be alone. Everything we see in the media promotes how to find the right partner, and make it work. There’s nothing wrong with seeking love, because it’s beautiful and can bring about some of the most treasured moments in our lives. But very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren’t happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go.
Do you have a pattern of staying in relationships too long that are no longer meeting your needs? What you may not realize is that fear of being alone is universal. It’s crucial to realize that fear is just a feeling and you may be giving it too much power. You may feel uncomfortable discussing your fears – even with close friends or family – because you don’t want to be seen as desperate or needy. What you may not realize is that fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships and staying with a partner who is wrong for you, according to Stephanie S. Spielman (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).
The first step in facing your fear of being alone is shrugging off any stigma attached to being single. In her Huffington Post article How to Be Alone (And Not Be Unhappy) Poorna Bell writes, “There is a problem, a serious cultural problem, about solitude. Being alone in our present society raises an important question about identity and well-being.” Bell posits that there is a contradiction in US culture since we value individualism and autonomy, yet we both fear and dread being alone.
Women may be particularly vulnerable to feeling stigma related to being single. Perhaps we need new norms for understanding single women in our culture because in times past they were seen as lonely spinsters, quietly languishing in their studio apartments. For instance, celebrities like Sandra Bullock who appear quite content as she speaks candidly about the advantages of being a single during recent interviews can help dispel negative stereotypes of being single. Sometimes taking the time to sort out what you want from a relationship, developing career goals, and spending quality time with children, need to take priority.
Further, embracing some of the challenges of being single is essential to relationship satisfaction. The reality is that feeling content with being alone is a critical step toward preparing for a bright future – either with a partner or flying solo. Truth be told, people can easily feel lonely in relationships. But our sense of security and happiness needs to come from within ourselves. Emotional dependency is not the same as intimacy and often leads to the demise of a relationship. Some people stay in relationships to avoid loneliness but they would be better up being single and developing their own interests and goals.
In fact, being content with being single can be seen as a sign of emotional maturity. Being a mature, autonomous person before making a commitment to a partner is a worthwhile goal. For instance, Sandra is an articulate twenty-eight-year-old that is attending graduate school to become a speech therapist. She’s happily single and has made a decision to stay unmarried amidst the pressure to be part of a couple. Here’s how Sandra puts it: “I just haven’t met the right guy yet and won’t settle until I do.” She pauses and says, “I’m fine being alone and don’t need a partner to feel good about who I am.”
7 reasons remaining single may be a good idea
1. You worry that the clock is ticking. Often women over thirty start to panic because they get concerned they’ll be too old to have children. But this mindset can make you feel desperate and propel you to marry someone who is wrong for you.
2. You are in a relationship that makes you feel anxious or brings you down. Ask yourself: Does your partner inspire you to do your best? Perhaps he or she is overly critical or too focused on changing you to be supportive of your needs or goals.
3. You feel panicked when your partner doesn’t call or text you (or return your calls) when they say they would. This is a red flag and could signify that you may be feeling insecure and/or mistrustful. Keep in mind that trust is the glue that holds healthy intimate relationships together.
4. You have to change who you are – your values, goals, or dreams – for your partner to accept you. Since your partner is unwilling to compromise – you morph into someone else to accommodate their needs and subsequently lose vital parts of your identity.
5. You simply aren’t ready to make a commitment. You want to take your time to pick a partner who shares similar values and interests – this will enhance your chances of staying together.
6. You have a healthy respect for commitment and just haven’t met someone you want to make a permanent commitment with. Avoiding marriage before your late 20’s and dating a partner for at least two years will reduce your risk of divorce.
7. You’re content being single and can’t think of enough good reasons to tie the knot.
Having the confidence to take the time to understand yourself and choose the right partner is one of the biggest challenges singles face. A good marriage or partnership is a gift if two people are ready to be accountable to each other and to make a commitment. But some people make a life-long commitment out of obligation or because they fear being alone or worry too much about societal expectations.
Congratulate yourself for your decision to withstand the social pressures and expectations to be part of a couple or race down the altar. When you remind yourself of what you like about yourself and what you are good at, your need for other’s approval will fade away and you’ll feel more confident in your lifestyle choice.
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*This article first appeared on HuffingtonPost.com