If the prospect of singlehood keeps you awake at night, you may suffer from a fear of being alone. Sounds a little far-fetched? It happens to be a very real and common problem, according to research from the University of Toronto.
Basically, a fear of being single means feeling concern, anxiety, or distress about not being in a relationship at the moment or in the future.
Better than no one?
If someone is afraid of being alone, the researchers reasoned, they might settle for less in a relationship. They might be willing to put up with a partner who’s not right for them because they think being with anyone is better than being with no one.
To test out their hypothesis, the researchers first had to come up with a way of measuring fear of being single. So they asked about 150 men and women to share their feelings about being on their own.
Just under 40 per cent said they weren’t in the slightest worried about being single. That means that the rest were afraid of being alone to some extent. Their major fear was not having a companion and intimate partner to go through life with.
Settling for less
The researchers organised and analysed all the answers to come up with a questionnaire. Then they used the questionnaire to measure people’s fear of being single to see how it affects their relationships. So what did they find?
People who fret about being alone are more likely to feel dependent on a relationship that just isn’t that great, the research showed. As a result, they may stick with their partner, refusing to be the one to break up, because they feel they’re better off with him or her than they would be alone.
Those most afraid of singlehood are also willing to settle for less with a potential partner. Take online dating, for example. Fearful participants were more into guys or girls who weren’t especially attractive, as well as those who weren’t responsive – and wouldn’t make very caring or supportive partners, the research showed. It also showed that offline, during a speed-dating event, people afraid of being single are less choosy about who they’ll date.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, hey, but surely nobody wants to be single – isn’t that normal? After all, it’s pretty natural to want to be in a loving relationship, and if you’re in a good one, to want it last. But the research showed that it’s one thing to want romantic companionship, but quite another to feel scared or anxious about being alone – and to seriously worry about your chances of finding a partner.
So if you’re feeling panicky about being single, be careful you don’t saddle yourself with Mr or Mrs Wrong. You could end up living unhappily ever after. Chill out and stay choosy – you’re worth it.
Reference: Settling for Less Out of Fear of Being Single. (2013). J Pers Soc Psych. 105(6):1049-73.