I know that one of the biggest fears of people contemplating divorce, and for people who have just been ‘left’, is the fear of being alone. The fear of being alone keeps a lot of people in unhealthy relationships, and a lot of people from creating a better future for themselves.
As a married woman, I was no stranger to this fear. By the time my kids were teenagers I felt relieved, and a little smug, that I’d managed to hold my marriage together. As I witnessed several marriages around me falling apart, I felt a strange mixture of sadness and relief. Sad for the marriages that had failed; relief that mine hadn’t met the same fate. Ha.
I know now that I was nursing a deep fear of abandonment. I feared being alone and lonely with nobody to love me. I married not long after leaving home and had therefore never really been alone. I subconsciously believed that relationships were the cure for loneliness. Those who were single were lonely; those who were married weren’t. Simple.
Suffice to say that when my husband unexpectedly announced he wanted a divorce I was forced to face my fear – my fears – head on. I will never forget the long nights I spent alone in the marital bed, armed with the knowledge that he was tucked away in his new bed, in his new place, with his new girlfriend.
Surviving those excruciating nights made me into the woman I am today. A woman who has finally learned how to be alone, who has learned that a healthy dose of self-love is infinitely more valuable than any form of external love, and that ultimately one’s relationship status is irrelevant when it comes to dealing with one’s own self-love or abandonment issues.
Truth is, if you were desperately lonely before a relationship, there is every chance that that sense of loneliness will remain with you in the relationship. Maybe not in the early heady days of love and lust, but it will eventually return to you.
In my experience, relationships act as a mirror. They reflect back to us whatever it is we’re feeling inside. My marriage did not cure my fear of abandonment and loneliness – as a naïve and somewhat emotionally needy twenty-two year old I thought that it would. In reality, my neediness probably contributed to the end of my marriage.
I know I’m not the only divorced person in the world who, as a married person, had very little knowledge of how to fill myself up, to be my own chief source of love and fulfilment; we need only to look at divorce rates to know that there are a lot of people out there who didn’t find the fulfilment they assumed they would once married.
If we are struggling with our own self-love issues and don’t know how to self-partner and self-soothe during down periods, we may just find that our loneliness is amplified during these periods. This is because our weaknesses are not only mirrored – they’re often magnified in our relationships or marriages. Loneliness in marriage – the loneliness that comes from lying next to someone who feels like a stranger, not knowing what the hell you are doing with your life – can oftentimes feel a whole lot worse than the loneliness that comes with being single.
This is of course not to say that single people don’t suffer with loneliness. I had many lonely nights after my husband left. I also had a lot of good nights: nights spent laughing with my girlfriends, nights learning how to be a single mother to my children, nights on my own watching my favourite shows and eating my favourite food and delighting in the fact that I was able to do so.
I have lonely nights now that I’m in a relationship. Nights where my partner is in his cave and not communicating. Nights where we’ve had a disagreement and neither of us is communicating. Nights when he wants to cuddle and talk but I feel like crap and there’s nothing that anybody can say or do to make me feel any different.
And I guess this is the nature of romantic relationships. There will always be ups and downs – exhilarating highs and devastating lows – just as there is with all of life. This relationship around, I understand that my partner and I are just two separate imperfect people doing the best we can; learning from each other, supporting each other, spending quality time together, spending quality time apart, knowing when we need space from each other.
I am doing the best I can to fill my own voids. I don’t expect him to do this for me. He is good at exposing my voids to me, just as I expose his to him. Relationships act as our mirrors. The aim should always be to help our partners become the best people they can be. We help them overcome their weaknesses, and they do the same for us. Neither should be the saviour of the other.
It has taken me one failed marriage to realise the truth – relationships are simply NOT a viable cure for loneliness.
Have you ever remained in a relationship just out of fear of being alone? Please, share your story in the comments.
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