Seesaws and roller coasters abound, romantic relationships can catapult us into glorious euphoria or plunge us into the depths of the abyss. In the latter case — which is when things go terribly wrong — it’s crucial to make choices that support personal growth.
Things started off great, and Sheila fell deeply in love. She thought the feeling was mutual. But a year into the relationship, they couldn’t agree on anything. They’d argue over the most trivial things. Later in the relationship, he reached his limit, deciding to call it quits. Sheila was confounded, devastated, and thrown into a pit of despair. She could not see her life without him. Her pain was so deep she didn’t believe she could go on living, nor did she want to. And she blamed him for everything.
What Sheila failed to admit, however, is her long history of emotional dependency (i.e. she could not see her life without him). She’s never been alone and doesn’t know how to be. The love she feels for another is dependent. Remove the person and she’s lost, because she does not know how to embrace herself. Let’s take a look at Sheila’s behavioral pattern:
- If she’s not in a relationship, she doesn’t feel complete.
- When she falls in love, she gives every inch of her soul, leaving nothing for herself.
- Her partner could call her the worst names ever created or cheat on her, yet there’s no limit to her tolerance level.
- She’s had so many similar relationships, she believes that this is normal.
- She does not self-reflect. When one relationship ends, she hops right into another.
I could create a long analysis on the when, why, and how of this behavior, backed by theories from psychological greats such as Freud and Jung. But I will refrain, because it’s simple: Sheila’s thoughts and behavior comes down to lack of self-love and fear of being alone. The two go hand-in-hand, but let’s tackle them separately, for now:
Self-love is when you can gaze at your reflection and rejoice in what you see, regardless of every wrong you’ve done. If you’ve hurt another, you feel remorse but never hate for yourself. No one—and I mean no one—can upset this rock-solid love within you. You cannot be manipulated into loving another more than yourself nor can you voluntarily love someone more than yourself, because the love you feel within reigns supreme. At this stage, you realize what it truly means to love another because you already feel it for yourself.
If you love yourself, you will automatically gain self-respect. You will not accept shoddy treatment from others. You will still love them, but from a distance. You will let go of everything that threatens the love you feel for yourself, including bad habits that exist only to annihilate your physical and mental health. You will love others enough to let them go instead of clinging to them as possessions. If their desire is to leave but you want the opposite, you will fight for them, within reason. Ultimately, you will release them if that is their wish.
Fear of Being Alone
The tendency to jump in and out of relationships stems from fear of being alone. The thought frightens us because society often teaches us that by the time we reach a certain age we must have a significant other. If not, something is wrong with us. We are also born from a maternal and paternal source, which intrinsically links us to another. We cannot care for ourselves as infants and toddlers, so we rely on someone else to do it – this dependence can follow us into adulthood. When we fear being alone, it clouds our judgment about the partners we choose. We accept abhorrent behavior because the thought of being alone is even more terrifying.
How Self-Love Eradicates Fear of Being Alone
When you cherish yourself, you inevitably eliminate your deep-rooted fear of being alone. The desire for someone special will remain within you. However, you will love yourself and accept solitude, regardless of whether that person becomes a reality.
When faced with disappointment in a relationship, search for the lessons you are meant to learn about yourself. Take your focus off the other person and put it on you. This takes unflinching courage, but it’s the only way to avoid repeating negative patterns.