Some relationships are forever material, others are great while they last, and still others were never good to begin with. But we can learn from all of them. While I know there are far more than three categorical types making up the romantic realm, the fact is, anything less than forever eventually necessitates an ending.
No one likes a breakup, and many of us do our best to avoid them, delay them, or second-guess them. Let’s face it, in our hyper clickbait era, it’s often onto the next one when things get tough, and many of us (understandably) want to be stronger than that. But still, there are those times when you just know a relationship is not for you, so it’s really important to be able to let go. Otherwise you could find yourself in a relationship for no reason other than the fact that you’re scared of being alone. This kind of paralysis isn’t good for anyone involved
Unsure if this is you? Here are 5 signs that your fear of being without a partner is the only thing keeping you in your relationship:
1. You’ve got double-down doubts
I’m not talking about the normal little doubts that every human being has from time to time—we all get annoyed or angry or fed up or with our partners occasionally. But if the doubt is constant, or constantly in the background; if you consistently feel like you’re ‘settling,’ waiting for someone better, or are fundamentally unsure your partner is someone you want to be with; if you don’t like who you are in the context of your relationship; or if you simply don’t trust your partner, these are surefire red flags that say your doubt is deep and real and worth taking seriously, aloneness be damned.
I’ve more than once watched friends break up and get back together countless times in a short period—another sign that your doubt and your fear of being alone are wrestling one another.
2. You’re clinging to an ‘investment’
I hear a lot of people in the throes of relationship doubt going on about all the time and effort and energy they have put into their romantic relationship over the months or years. The problem is, the simple fact of having put time and effort in does not necessarily mean your relationship is worth maintaining.
But, with any luck, all that “investing” you did has helped you learn, grow, and evolve as a human being, which is a lot. As daunting as the idea of “starting all over again” with someone new may be, life and love are far from linear. When/if it’s time to partner up again, remember that you’re being faced with new beginnings, not repeat episodes. Also remember that jumping into something new is never urgent.
3. You’re making excuses
Whether you’re making excuses about why it’s not the best time to break up right now, justifying the questionable or even abusive behavior patterns of your partner to your bewildered friends, or repeatedly blaming yourself for the problematic dynamics playing out in your relationship, now’s a great time to see things more clearly. Ask yourself what you love about your partner and whether it’s enough.
Ask yourself how they make you feel, generally speaking, and whether it’s enough. Ask yourself whether respect is there, and whether it’s mutual. Ask yourself whether you love your partner as is, or whether you’re holding onto hope that they might someday change to better suit your needs. Your answers to these and other questions are the bedrock of your relationship, for better or worse.
4. You’re worried what others will think
If you’re unhappy but paralyzed at the thought of ending your relationship because of the potential judgements of family and friends, or the desire to not come off as a ‘failure,’ I’ve been there, so I get it. But now’s the time to check your inner narratives and learn how they’re holding you back.
None of the following are reasons to save a relationship: other people think you’re doing well; you’re ‘too old’ to be single/unmarried/without a prospect for having kids; you don’t want to be the only uncoupled person in your friend group; or, you have kids and don’t want them to come from a ‘broken’ home. As someone who grew up with an abusive father and a mother who stayed with him “for the kids,” I can tell you right now that all kids do better with happy parents, even if they need to be apart to be happy.
5. You’re changing yourself to keep your partner around
No one says change is bad. The strongest among us are open to allowing our relationships to change us for the better. That’s how growth happens. But as always, there’s a line. If you’re hiding aspects of your personality, subduing your passions, or avoiding expressing your opinions, what you’re clinging to is not love, and fear of being alone is likely a part of the equation. Life’s too short to spend valuable energy turning yourself into someone you think your partner wants. Best case scenario: you ‘succeed,’ and totally lose yourself in a relationship that doesn’t recognize or appreciate the real you.
The bottom line: nobody, and I mean nobody wants to face the reality that they might only be in a relationship because they’re afraid of being alone. If you feel your fear of being alone has taken over in a way that seems overwhelming or unmanageable, finding the right therapist can be a positive step toward returning to your centre. Being honest with yourself is the best, nay the only way to do away with unwieldy baggage once and for all and maybe even meet someone who is right for you—when the time is right.
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