In society today, as it has been for decades, single men are often viewed differently than single women. Men who remain single are seen as freewheeling bachelors who don’t want to be tied down too quickly, while all too often women are still stuck with the spinster stigma, and it’s assumed that they’re lonely, depressed, or unhappy if they’re not in a relationship.
This type of pressure isn’t always overt; it can be very subtle. It’s found in advertising, literature, movies and in conversations around the dinner table with family and friends. It also manifests itself in the pressure women, as well as men, feel to stay in emotionally unhealthy or unfulfilling relationships, instead of being single and on their own in a world designed for couples.
In reality, the fear of being single is not only harmful; it’s a very real issue. Fear of being single even has a name—anuptaphobia. In a 2013 study by S.S. Spielmann and others in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that the fear of being single and the subsequent anxiety could be used to predict whether an individual would settle for less in a new relationship or remain in an undesirable and unsatisfying relationship.
Settling for less in a relationship may not seem like a bit deal at first. After all, we all make compromises in relationships and we can’t all wait forever for the perfect partner or Mr. or Mrs. Right. However, choosing to settle for someone vs. being okay with being single can have real consequences.
The Problem With Settling
Settling for less than the partner you deserve and desire is about more than facing reality. It’s often a defense mechanism and a way to appease society while abandoning your own goals and desires.
In my new book, “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession,” I explore how this phenomenon of settling for someone in the mistaken belief that this person can be fixed or improved upon, or that all they need is your love to help them to grow and change in a positive direction, is a potential sign of love addiction.
If you find yourself willing to overlook bad behaviors, emotional distance, or even emotionally damaging and abusive things, you may not be just settling; you may be in a destructive and harmful place. If you find that being in any type of relationship is better than being single, you’re doing more than settling. You may have an addiction to being in a couple, regardless of the deep unhappiness you may experience when the partner never changes, and the behavior simply gets worse over time.
In other words, the more you strive to be happy in a relationship, the more likely you are to enter into a relationship that will rob you of your happiness, your sense of self, and your sense of worth.
The Healthy Way to Be Single
As I talk about in the book, learning to be happy being single is a way to break the cycle. It isn’t easy, but taking small steps to become comfortable being you and being on your own is a deeply rewarding journey.
Learning how to be happy and single starts by finding things to do by yourself. Spend a day doing something you enjoy and do it alone. Don’t take a friend or a family member, just be comfortable with yourself. Try something you’ve always wanted to do such as taking a class, going on a vacation, learning a new hobby, or volunteering in your community. Meeting new people and feeling comfortable as one of a group, and not one of a couple, is another step in growing as a person and realizing the value, worth, and happiness you can find as a healthy, happy single.
Once you’re in this place where you’re comfortable being single, you’re ready to see the opportunities for a healthy, loving relationship. From this place, you’ll choose partners who will give and take, respect boundaries, and see you as an autonomous individual, not simply an extension of themselves.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and the leading Psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and Sex Addiction. She helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re a love addict or sign up for a 30-minute strategy session. She is also the author of “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie:Kicking your Obsession”. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, and is a sought after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com.