Lonely? Sad? Dissatisfied? Questioning life? Hungry for intimacy? Read this column.
People always say that it’s hard to spend the holidays alone, whether that be without a romantic partner or without family. No matter what holiday it is, you’ll always see the cutesy posts on social mediums about how couples spent their days — hell, it doesn’t even have to be a holiday for that to happen.
For some, seeing those posts might lead to warm and fuzzy feelings for the healthy and supportive-looking relationship. But, for certain people, like those who are afraid of being single, those posts can make you painfully aware of how single you are. So, this week, let’s delve into what the Fear of Being Single is, because yes, this is a psychological phenomenon.
There are societal expectations for people to get into a serious romantic relationship with someone, eventually get married to that person, and then start a family. It’s perpetuated everywhere: from books and movies to your own family members. This is the way it’s been for decades. Being involved in a romantic relationship seems to be the endgame, and for some reason these relationships are prioritised above other platonic relationships.
Unsurprisingly then, this fosters a fear within people of being single, because there’s this social standard that they feel they should be meeting but might not be able to.
The Fear of Being Single involves feelings of concern, anxiety, or distress over not having a romantic partner. This is a concept that can manifest in both someone’s current singlehood, or even a possibility of being single in the future. What this means then, is that you don’t have to be single to feel this fear—you may still feel this fear while being in a relationship. The mere possibility of your partner breaking up with you is a difficult thought that crosses your mind every now and then.
Why is this problematic? Research has shown that an important consequence of this phenomenon is that people are settling for less, both when trying to get into a romantic relationship and maintaining a current relationship. Psychologists have suggested that this distress over being single may foster in individuals the idea that being in any romantic relationship is better than not being in one at all.
With this mindset, people who fear being single may intentionally or unintentionally compromise the standards that they have when they’re looking for romantic partners, in the hopes of being with someone and avoiding a life of being single. These individuals also depend a lot on their romantic relationships, and dependence is something that has been proven by researchers to enhance relationship commitment levels.
While both relationship dependence and commitment are good for relationship stability, it may not always be so good for relationship satisfaction. Researchers have found that people who are more fearful of being single continue to settle for less because regardless of how satisfying their romantic relationship is, they remain dependent on it and committed to it. In fact, these individuals depend more on relationships that are unsatisfying.
What’s more, researchers have found that people who fear singlehood consistently showed more romantic interest in individuals who were less attractive and less responsive, meaning those individuals cared less about putting in the effort to make things work. However, the issue with this is that if you’re in need of the assurances that your relationship will work out and that you won’t be abandoned, you should ideally be after someone who will be responsive to you in that way.
This fear of singlehood may trap individuals in a cycle of settling for less than what they really want, which leads them to be more likely to feel unsatisfied with the relationship, and ultimately leading to a greater possibility of the relationship ending, anyway.
So, what can we do to combat these feelings? Society makes it sound like being single is somehow a deficit rather than it being sufficient by itself, but you are enough as yourself. It’s really important to keep in mind that romantic relationships aren’t the only source of security. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket—invest in your relationships with your close others and surround yourself with people who will be responsive to your needs.