I have heard the phrase “better to be with someone, anyone, than be alone” several times as of late and it has always broken my heart every time I hear it. The desire for connection and companionship is natural and fully understandable but the lack of self-worth and the fear the phrase speaks of weighs at the heart.
No one wants to be alone. Some of us need more time to ourselves than others but on the whole we humans are a pack species, we don’t do well in isolation. Our need for connection, for belonging, and affection is a natural part of our basic instinctive functioning. And romantic connections are arguably the most potent but culturally we have made couplehood such a perceived requirement it has created a belief that any partner is better than no partner.
There is nothing wrong with wanting, or even craving, a partner. Just as there are those of us who need greater amounts of time to ourselves there are also those who need greater amounts of interaction and contact. Casual or brief relationships can be completely healthy and sustaining, not every relationship needs to be a life-long commitment. The key is to understand what it is you are needing and engage accordingly.
The ideology of ‘better to be with anyone than be alone’ may sound like an acknowledgement and extension of our basic need to connect, and it may resonate with that part of our nature, but the ‘anyone’ part makes it something quite different. It makes it speak of seeing ourselves as incomplete, insufficient, and lesser without a romantic partner placing us as entirely subservient to what is otherwise a natural desire for connection.
A relationship doesn’t even have to be harmful to be harmful. A ‘problem free’ relationship can still be corrosive if we are involved in it simply to avoid being alone. ‘Being with anyone’ erases any requirements or expectations on our behalf stripping us of any meaning or value in the scenario. Seeing ourselves as lesser or meaningless does the damage long before any abuses reach us.
If being alone is more painful or damaging than a dysfunctional or even abusive relationship then there is some serious work needing to be done on ourselves before we bring another person into the mix. We all have needs, which relationships can help meet, but if the overarching need is simply the existence of a relationship period then it is not actually about connecting with another person at all but rather a dependence on external sources for basic validation. If we don’t exist unless as part of a relationship that is not a case of elevating relationships it is an act of invalidating and erasing ourselves.
Preferring not to be alone is not the same thing as prioritizing any relationship rather than none. Desiring companionship is natural and acknowledging we have the right to want things for ourselves and are worthy of attaining them is empowering and self-affirming. Green-lighting any relationship corners us in a state of desperation without any right to wants or criteria of our own.
Incomplete Without A Romantic Partner
Our lives can certainly be improved, enhanced, expanded, and elevated by the addition of a romantic partner with whom we can share it. Romantic partnership can most definitely make our lives more and there is nothing wrong with companionship for its own sake. But declaring our lives to be empty or broken or meaningless without a partner is incredibly dangerous and toxic as it automatically starts out by asserting that we are empty and broken and meaningless as we are on our own.
To truly gain the benefit of any relationship, from the most casual to the most serious, we need to be genuinely present as a part of it. If we are simply grasping at the connection in desperation to avoid being alone we aren’t being present. Quite the opposite, we are hiding from ourselves. And if we are hiding from ourselves we are incapable of sharing ourselves with or truly appreciating others.
None of us are perfect. We have our strengths, our weakness, our fears, and our unsatisfied desires. To see, acknowledge, and embrace ourselves as complete beings worthy of that notice, acknowledgement, and embrace does not require us to be ideal or perfect. We simply need to see ourselves as we truly are, the good and the bad the parts we like and the parts we don’t.
We cannot truly connect with someone else until we can first truly connect with ourselves.
Places Validation Outside Of Us
Relationships can certainly make our lives more but if we require them in order to feel complete or enough then we will be doomed to never truly achieve it. Factors outside of us can add to our lives, even add something we may feel is missing from them, but they cannot make us anything we aren’t without them.
If we are only able to feel happiness as a result of someone else it isn’t our happiness, it is theirs. If we don’t have any identity outside of our relationship to someone else it isn’t our identity, it is theirs. The ideas, feelings, and self-conceptions which are truly ours are those which persist when we are alone.
Other people, and our relationships with them, can most definitely help to shape our ideas and feelings and sense of self but if they are completely defined by or only exist because the other person then they are not truly ours. We need a core identity and ‘self’ of our own before we can ever hope to connect with another person. Otherwise we will simply clutch at them in desperation poisoning any connection with our fears of seeing ourselves as lesser and incomplete.
Opens Door to Abusive Dynamic
The ‘anyone rather than alone’ stance not only erodes us with our own fears it also leaves us extremely vulnerable to becoming trapped in abusive relationships. If we let our fears convince us being alone is far worse than any other scenario we will then permit, accept, and normalize virtually any behavior however harmful or ill intended. And our desperation will attract those whose insecurities crave weaker prey they can dominate.
No genuine connection is formed as both parties are acting from a place of fearful desperation. The less sense of self we feel the more readily we will accept the impressions of someone else. The longer we hide the greater our sense of fear and the less we see ourselves as capable of escaping.
We will accept the love and consideration we believe we deserve. The weaker that belief, the lower we set that bar, the more vulnerable we are to those who would gleefully push the bar even lower in order to hide from their own fears in postures of false dominance.
Targets Primarily Women
The cultural stigma that we are lesser unless we are coupled has been around for a very long time. It manifests in familial pressure, societal images, even songs which lyrically dictate we are nobody until somebody loves us. This pressure grinds at us all but has historically been aimed primarily at women, an extension of the message that women are lesser objects of property only defined by those they belong to.
Girls are supposed to dream of their wedding day as it will be the ultimate and happiest day of their entire lives. This pressure gets garbled up in all the imagery and trappings of the ceremony, the fairy tale images of dresses and rings and first dances, which can distract from the fact the underlying message is one of requiring the role of wife to feel complete. And similar pressures often get brought to bear around the issue of having children.
Wanting to share our lives with someone or wanting to have children are natural impulses and not inherently dangerous. It is when we set them as our only source of personal identity and definition that we weaponize them and turn them against ourselves. Wanting them for what they will add to our lives is healthy and natural. Wanting them because we believe they will make us something we are not and cannot be without them sets us up to be held hostage not only by the very things we want but more devastatingly by our own fears as well.
Being single can be difficult but it isn’t a death sentence or sign of deficiency. Circumstance don’t always work out and for some it is their choice of preference. As we continue to break from the cultural strangle hold of the outdated nuclear family model by opening and expanding our concepts of relationships and identity we need to make sure we aren’t dragging the ball and chain of outdated thinking when it comes to perceptions of self-worth.
We are fully complete beings as we are, strong, weak, flawed, beautiful. Wanting connection and companionship is not weakness and we are all worthy of being seen and appreciated and embraced for who we are. We just need to be able to do as much with ourselves first. Clutching at others in desperation, defining ourselves by them and our relationship to them, is a false hope blocking us from the happiness we are seeking.