Is it Love or Fear of Being Alone? 6 Signs to Look Out For
Why do we sometimes stay in relationships where we are really unhappy? Is it because of love? Can love make us extend the shelf life of our relationships to the detriment of our happiness? Or, is it that sometimes we are so afraid to be alone that we try the impossible to make our relationships work?Sometimes the boundaries between love and fear of loneliness are not so clear. And, it can be very challenging to pinpoint what is the real reason we are staying in a relationship that is no longer working.
Is it real love or are we actually staying because we are scared of being alone? In this article, we will discuss some common signs that fear of loneliness—not love—is what is keeping us in a relationship.
6 Signs You Are Not In Love, Just Afraid to be Alone
What is the difference between staying in a relationship out of love or out of fear of loneliness? There are some signs that can help you find out whether you do not break up because of fear.
1. You are not very happy
The first sign is when you realize that you are not so happy with this relationship. There is something that does not feel good for you. And at the same time, you feel like you are depending on your partner. You feel like you cannot do anything without them. The thought of being alone—the thought of having to deal with practical issues, financial issues, and daily mundane tasks of life by yourself—is terrifying to you. Oftentimes this is the case when you have grown too dependent in your relationship. When you are not in a relationship because of love or because of understanding and respect, but because you do not trust that you are going to make it through life by yourself.
2. You enjoy your time alone (suspiciously too much)
Another clue that we might be staying in a relationship because of fear of loneliness is when your partner is away and you love it. Your partner could be away for a trip, or at work, or visiting their parents for the weekend. Whatever the reason may be, once you get to have some time by yourself with the knowledge that your partner will be back in the near future, you have a great time. You feel free. You can be yourself. You really enjoy your time when they are not around.
You might spot that there is a little bit of contradiction between this second sign and the first we discussed. In the first scenario, we are visualizing us being all alone, out there in the real world, so it makes sense that our thoughts are scary and blow the negativity out of proportion. Whereas, in the second scenario, we know that our partner is coming back and we get to have some time for ourselves. During this time, we can do whatever we like and enjoy our time, knowing full well that our partner will be back. Basically, in the second scenario, we get to live the life as a single person, without the fear that we will not be able to manage by ourselves.
So, that's another clue: if you are feeling relieved when your partner is away for a little bit.
3. You are not yourself with your partner
Another common sign is when you feel that you are not yourself when you are around your partner. This means that you do not express your opinion very openly, that you second-guess yourself, or have to tiptoe around your partner. Or when you find yourself prioritizing their needs and their feelings above your own. Or, when they enter the room and the first thing you do is scan them to see what would they be looking for, or what are they feeling. It is when you try to preempt any conflict or any disagreement in the relationship.
In a nutshell, when you realize that you are not acting like yourself when you are around your partner. Ultimately, this leads you to keeping a lot of your feelings inside yourself; you repress a lot of your thoughts, feelings, opinions, decisions, concerns, and worries. You keep them to yourself as you believe that your relationship is not a safe space.
4. You excuse their bad behavior
Another clue that you are staying in this relationship because of fear of loneliness, but not because of love, is when you make a lot of excuses when they hurt you. You are basically forcing yourself to see the positive side, even though there might be none in some situations. For example, when you get hurt, disrespected, or invalidated, you try to find excuses for your partner. You might say to yourself: "Well, maybe they are tired today" or "maybe they had a bad day today" or "maybe I am too difficult and I am too pushy sometimes."
Whenever you find yourself making excuses when your partner disrespects you or is not meeting your needs, think whether if it might be an attempt to persuade yourself that you are still in love.
5. There are no boundaries
Having no or weak boundaries in your relationship is another sign that you might be staying because of fear, not love. Weak boundaries in a relationship can look like:
- When you feel that you cannot say no,
- When you cannot say "I'm sorry, but I don't like that. You cannot talk to me like that."
- When you cannot say "I'm sorry, but this is not okay for me. I don't like that".
- When you cannot share what you like or dislike.
- Or, when you cannot say yes, when you really want to.
If you find yourself being unable to say these things, chances are that you are adjusting yourself to your partner's needs and their feelings. It is likely that you see that it takes a lot of effort in keeping the relationship, so you try to neglect your own needs in order to focus on the relationship.
It is common that in these sorts of situations you end up doing more for the relationship than what your partner does. As you have weak boundaries and struggle to assert your wishes, you end up picking the slack in the relationship. And maybe a part of you says, "well, they're trying," or "they are not able to try during this period because they're struggling." Well, it is, of course, okay to help out your partner (especially during times of need). However, do ask yourself how often is it that you are doing that. How often is it that you are carrying the burden of this relationship? If the balance is not actually so balanced and you are the one holding this relationship together most of the time—making excuses and trying to be understanding with your partner while you are not getting the equivalent amount of understanding, respect, love, care and support back—then it is likely that there is another reason other than love that keeps this relationship alive.
6. You look forward to them changing
Last, but not least, one sign that you are staying in your relationship out of fear is: when you realize that you are staying in your relationship with the hope that one day they will be different. That is, when you hold to the hope that one day you are going to change them, that things will be different in the future. In these cases, chances are that you are not staying because your core emotional needs of love, protection, support, acceptance, understanding, and validation are met. You are probably staying for some other reason. And, it is likely that fear is (one of) the main reason; the fear of being alone.
Am I In Love or Just Afraid? How To Find Out
After reading this article and giving it a good thought, we invite you to write down what do you think are the main reasons you are staying in this relationship.
Sometimes we are simply afraid of being lonely, yes, but sometimes there is real love that is holding our relationship. But what is real love?
While love is almost impossible to define, one way to find out if you are experiencing it is to reflect on whether your partner is meeting your core emotional needs. Do you feel that this person understands you and supports you? Are they there when you need them? Do they allow you to express your feelings and needs freely? Are they there to create fun moments together? And, what about moments of connection with you? If your answers are yes, chances are that you are staying because of love.
So, take a sheet of paper and start writing down. What is your case? What are the signs that you are staying because of love? And, what are the signs that you are staying out of fear of loneliness?
The fear of being alone is quite a common and understandable fear. Almost none of us have the guts to say "that's it. I'm out. I will be by myself until I find another partner who respects me more." For most of us, it is incredibly difficult to make such a decision. We all care about being alone and we do not want to be lonely. We are all somewhat afraid of loneliness. After all, we are social beings, we are wired for connection. It makes sense that we are afraid.
However, remember that being alone and being lonely is not the same. You can be alone and single, and feel perfectly satisfied with your life. Or, you can be in a room full of friends, and still feel very lonely. So, being with someone does not guarantee that you will not feel lonely, or even less that you will be fulfilled and satisfied with life. If your relationship is not meeting your emotional needs, we invite you to reflect and think what is keeping you there. There are many wonderful reasons to stay in a relationship, but fear is not one of them.
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