Why do women feel like they need a new man to move forward from the man that’s currently in their life? I have heard, seen, and experienced this throughout my life. It seems like there is a huge number of women who don’t think they can leave Man A until they have Man B lined up. I even heard a young woman, who had never dated a man in her life, ask if she should give up on her crush and find another man.
Is it because we feel we need a man to make us feel “complete?” Is it because we don’t have the courage to move out of a bad relationship until we have another one lined up? Or are we that afraid of being alone?
A new study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the fear of being single may drive adults to stay in bad relationships or settle for less-than-desirable partners, all because they’d rather have someone than no one. – Taryn Hillin, Study Says Fear Of Being Alone Keeps People In Bad Relationships, Huffington Post, December 12, 2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/04/fear-of-being-alone-study_n_4387157.html
We all want the connection, we want the fairy tale. I was 19 when I married and I cannot tell you how many fantasy visions I had about what marriage was going to be like. Even at that young age I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, but I certainly allowed myself to indulge in the visualization of a very 60’s version of married life. I saw myself getting up every morning in my beautiful peignoir and fixing breakfast while my husband gazed at me in adoration. Seriously, this was a real picture I had in my head.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for reality to rear its ugly head. My husband had lived by himself in our new apartment for a month (yes, a whole month) before we were married. When I walked into the apartment after our 1 day honeymoon, I found 10 loads of laundry waiting for me. In that very moment, my vision changed to a big, heavy oak door with iron bands slamming shut on me.
I come from a family with an extraordinarily long history of divorce, so I stuck with the marriage for eleven years and three beautiful daughters. I do not trade in regrets, so I don’t regret those decisions, but I can affirm that I spent the vast majority of those years convincing myself that not being miserably unhappy was good enough. I had three children and no obvious means of supporting the four of us, so I muddled through. And then things happened that convinced me that it was time to leave with no looking back. I am thankful for those events even if they were difficult at the time.
The truth is that the only time we actually feel alone is when we abandon ourselves. We may feel lonely when we want to share love with another and there isn’t anyone there, or the other person is closed to connection. But being lonely is a fact of life. It can occur within a relationship or without. Margaret Paul, Phd., What Your Fear of Loneliness Is Really About, Huffington Post, October 13, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-paul-phd/fear-of-being-alone_b_1002364.html
One would think that experience would have wised me up to the fact that there were worse things than being alone. Nope, you’d be wrong. I rushed from that marriage into an 18 year relationship with a man who in many ways treated me wonderfully. He did the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the laundry…pretty much anything a “traditional wife” would do. Because of being treated so well in those areas, I closed my eyes to other things that were intensely wrong with the relationship. I knew that he was lying to me for many of those years, but I closed my eyes to that. It was only after finding out that he’d also stolen a large sum of money from me that I started facing some really ugly truths. Even then, it took me 3 years and many bad decisions to move forward and ask him to leave.
Did I gain wisdom from that experience? Yes. Did I change my pattern? Nope. I again let my fantasies take control over my rational mind. I was involved with a man who was disrespectful and discourteous. However, as part of my journey, I convinced myself this was the person I needed in my life. I moved into an apartment by myself, but I had very clear visions of him coming home from work and coming into the kitchen to talk to me while I fixed our dinner and we talked about our days. He, however, did not share this vision. The relationship failed relatively quickly, as it should have, and we both moved on.
In the years since then, I have had a strong pattern of breaking up with one man only to rush another man into his place as quickly as possible. None of them have been kicking and screaming over being rushed in, but in my hurry to get another man into my life I never took the time to examine what was really right for me. A friend once told me that I kept dating the same man over and over…each one just had a different face and name. And she was right.
Most recently, I spent six years of my life waiting for a particular man to learn to love and appreciate me. I feel shame to confess I worked that long and that hard for something that should’ve been almost instantaneous. The good thing about this particular relationship is that due to his lack of commitment, I’ve had six years to learn to be alone. The even better news is that I like it.
Intellectually, we all understand that the fear of being alone comes from our infancy. A baby is helpless and depends on others to care for them. If an infant is left on their own, they will die. In the majority of cases though, this need is met. Why do we carry this fear of being alone with us into adulthood?
Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a series of studies to show how common this fear of being single is and how it affects your love life. They found that singlehood anxiety is definitely a thing: 40 percent of people feared not having the long-term companionship of a partner, and 18 percent reported an explicit fear of being single. In subsequent studies, researchers found that people with stronger fears had lower relationship standards. – Casey Gueren, Relationship FOMO: When You’re Afraid of Being Single, Women’s Health, Dec. 5, 2013 http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-relationships/fear-of-being-single
After years of work, study and reflection I am moving forward expecting more for myself. I affirm my value every day and work on appreciating that every person I meet has their issues that are as challenging for them as my issues are for me. I don’t know if another man is in my future or not. If he is, I don’t know what the relationship will look like. What I do know is that I will ask more for myself, and for the relationship, than I’ve ever asked for before. And I know that I will take my time and not rush into it. I think a casual stroll will work better for me.