Among single people who are pursuing romantic relationships, there are two very different ways to find love—from a position of strength and from a sense of fear. Those who are afraid of being single are running away from single life. But those who come from a position of strength seek romantic relationships as a means to add something valuable to their lives. They're not afraid of being single; they just feel they might get something positive out of a romantic relationship.
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Ever since I wrote Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, I have been trying to convince people that we need to take a stand against all of the stereotyping and stigmatizing of single people—a phenomenon I call singlism. If single life were regarded as just as valid as coupled life, then more people could approach romantic relationships from a position of strength.
Which brings me to a recent study that supports my theory. A team of seven psychologists from the University of Toronto have just published the results of research in which they measured people's fear (or lack thereof) of being single. Then they looked at how that level of fear mattered in their lives. An oh, did it matter!
What Does It Mean To Be Afraid Of Being Single?
In the first study, the authors asked people to think about the extent to which they "fear being alone" (i.e., single, without a romantic partner). Slightly more people (39%) explicitly said that they do not fear being single than those who said they do fear being single (37%).
From the responses they received, the authors created a scale that measures people’s fear of being single. It includes items such as:
• "It scares me to think that there might not be anyone out there for me."
• "If I end up alone in life, I will probably feel that there is something wrong with me."
• "I feel anxious when I think about being single forever."
The authors wondered whether the fearful people think that they will be happier in a bad relationship than in no romantic relationship at all. So they asked people who were and were not in romantic relationships about their loneliness and depression. Turns out the people who were afraid of being single actually were not any less lonely or depressed when they were in unsatisfying romantic relationships than they were when they were single.
Personalities Of People Unafraid To Be Single
The personality profile of people who are unafraid of being single is marked by strength and security. These people are unlikely to be depressed or lonely. They are not overly sensitive to rejection and don’t get their feelings hurt very often. Their self-esteem does not depend on whether they are in romantic relationships or on how well any such relationship is going. People who are unafraid of being single are less neurotic than their peers who are fretting about being single. They also tend to be a bit more open and extraverted. In the University of Toronto study, this group of people said things like, "Regardless of whether I have a significant other or not in the future, I will always have people who love me and who I love," and "Having company is not the same as being fulfilled as a person."
The Advantage Of People Unafraid Of Being Single
Some people who are in romantic relationships feel very dependent on their partners. They believe things like, "If I couldn't be in this relationship, I would lose an important part of myself" and "I feel that I need my partner a great deal." In recent a study of break-ups, conducted with more than 3,600 people in romantic relationships, those people who were unafraid of being single were more likely to initiate break-ups. The people who were afraid of being single stayed in their bad relationships; if they broke up, it was because their partner took the initiative and left.
If you truly have a fabulous, healthy relationship, then feeling that way about your partner makes a certain kind of sense. But suppose you're in a relationship that is not very satisfying. And it's not not just your friends saying that; you've even admitted to yourself that you are not very happy in your relationship. The truth is, you're probably dependent on your partner.
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If you were unafraid of being single, you wouldn't be so needy of your partner. It's mostly only those who are afraid of being single who feel that they need their partner a great deal even when the relationship is not a very satisfying one. Keep reading...
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