To The Person Afraid To Leave A Mediocre Relationship

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woman outside flipping her hair

You've been together for two years. For five. For as long as you can remember. And most days, you convince yourself that this is how things are supposed to be.

Your relationship isn't bad, after all. Or, at least, not terrible. He takes out the trash once a week. She makes sure the dogs are fed. Together you sit in front of the television nearly every night, never fighting over what to watch.

So things are good, right? Who cares if you can't remember the last time he actually saw you or the last time she let you make your own decisions without guilt? It's better than giving in to the fear of being alone.

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But what if that's a lie? What if being alone isn't quite as terrifying as you've been telling yourself all these years? What if, by being alone, you could actually have a chance to find yourself — maybe for the first time in your entire life? What if being alone opened a door for you, gave you a chance, or even created the possibility of one-day finding real love?

Because in the back of your mind, you know that's not what this is. In the deepest recesses of your brain, you know that what you have is complacency, not love.

I've never been a person who's lived in fear of being alone, though I've known plenty of people in my life who were. People who stayed when so many others would've left because they falsely assumed that what they had was better than the alternative: being alone.

For the record, I'm the last person who should be giving relationship advice to anyone. I'm pretty terrible at relationships, so set in my ways that nothing short of everything will ever seem like enough to me. And we all know that everything likely doesn't exist.

Relationships take compromise. They require a give and take. They demand being willing to let go of certain ideals in order to embrace others. And I've never been great at that.

But I do know how to be alone, and I know that there's nothing in that to fear. So when I see people staying in mediocre relationships, never really happy or fulfilled simply because they're terrified of starting over, it breaks my heart a little.

Now, I'm not talking about relationships that have simply hit a rough spot. I'm not talking about the marriages that involve 10 years and two kids, where husband and wife just aren't connecting the way they once were. I know relationships take work, and that every couple who's ever been together for extended periods of time has seasons of disconnect.

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I know those relationships are worth fighting for, and I would encourage anyone I cared about in the midst of one of those rough spots to do just that: to fight for the love they know was once there.

But I also know there are some relationships born more out of desperation and fear than love. Relationships that came about because of timing, two people meeting at a point when they were both being swallowed up by a fear of loneliness or a ticking clock. Or, relationships where a couple may have been happy in the very beginning, only to have spent every day since (for years and years) trying to recapture something that was over in months, something built on lust instead of love.

And to you, I say: being alone really isn't so bad.

I get the fear. I get the ticking clocks and the growing desperation as everyone around you is coupling up. I get how it happens. But I promise: being with the wrong person can be so much lonelier than being alone.

And I truly believe there's a lot to be gained by embracing your singledom fully until when — or if — that right person comes along.

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When I sit in silence, it's because I choose to do so. And when I want company, there's a long list of people I genuinely enjoy spending time with who I can call. When I make choices, I have only myself to consult with and when I have dreams I want to pursue them. there's no one to stand in my way.

I travel when I want to travel. I eat where I want to eat. I do what I want to do. And honestly, from the very bottom of my heart, I almost never feel lonely. Certainly not to the extent of those I know who are in relationships where they're no longer heard.

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So if you're someone who's spent your entire life hopping from one relationship to the next — always terrified of what it might mean to spend too much time by yourself or you're in a relationship that holds you back, or doesn't fulfill you, or leaves you so often feeling like less than — let me be the one to tell you that the fate you've chosen for yourself is so much scarier than the one you've given up so much to fight against.

Because life is short, love (real love) is rare, and you never know what you might be missing out on as you waste your years on the couch beside someone you don't remember ever really connecting with.

You deserve more than convenience or complacency. You deserve to have a relationship that lights your world on fire, in all the best ways possible. One that makes you better, stronger, happier, and more fulfilled in the end.

Absent that, you deserve to be alone. Because at least in being alone, there's still hope.

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Leah Campbell is a freelance writer, editor, and author of Single Infertile Female.