For some people, being in a relationship is the ultimate goal. For some, it says a lot about them when they are in a relationship. To them, it says, “I’m attractive,” “I’m desired,” “I’m worthy and worthwhile,” “I’m not lonely or alone,” or “I’m not a loser.” For the people who believe that being in a relationship means these kinds of things about them, then the opposite of these things are true if they are not in a relationship. When they are without a partner, they may perceive themselves as, “unattractive,” “unworthy” or “unappealing,” and they fear that they will always be lonely and alone. They often judge themselves to be “losers” if they are not in a relationship or have difficulty finding one.
There are many things wrong with this perception or belief of what it means to be, or to not be, in a relationship. Firstly, one’s worthiness, value and appeal are not dependent upon one’s relationship status. A relationship does not bestow worthiness, attractiveness or value upon the people in it. Likewise, not being in a relationship does not take away those things from people, either. Secondly, being alone or being lonely is not defined by relationship status. Whether dating or married, there are plenty of people who still feel lonely or alone, for various reasons, despite the fact that they have a partner or spouse. Conversely, there are many people who are happy, fulfilled and are doing just fine when they are single and unattached. Not being in a relationship does not diminish them.
A significant danger that is present for people who believe that they must be in a relationship in order to feel secure and good about themselves is that they tend to go to extremes, at times, to get into or to stay involved in a relationship, regardless of the quality of the relationship. This perception that having a relationship is a “must” creates a sense of desperation in them that can make them believe that even being in a bad relationship is somehow better than not being in a relationship at all. The desperation to being in a relationship can blind the person to obvious “red flags,” can numb them to the discomfort that one should feel when problems or dysfunction is present, and it can make them more likely to endure poor treatment from their partners. Even when the person is aware that the relationship isn’t good or that they are not feeling or being treated in the ways that they would like, they are more afraid of being out of the relationship and alone than they are uncomfortable with the problems in the relationship.
There is a temptation on the part of bystanders or observers of people who hold these beliefs about relationships that these people are “weak,” “foolish” of that they just let their partners take advantage of them. I don’t believe that this is necessarily the case. I believe that, if anything, it shows that the people who hold this belied are strongly committed to their belief and that their actions are in line with their commitment to their belief. However, this is a “good news/bad news” scenario. The good news is that these partners can be strongly committed to their beliefs and are willing to act, even when it causes them distress, in accordance with their beliefs. The bad news is that they are committed to a false belief. Because being in a relationship or not being in one does not actually define a person, believing that it does locks them into a perception that is unhealthy, dysfunctional and painful for them.
Back to the good news: When these committed individuals come to understand what a relationship does and does not do for them and when they develop healthier and more rational beliefs about relationships, they will be just as strongly committed to the new, healthier beliefs and their behavior will match their belief and commitment. When committed people are committed to the right things, their options open up, they become happier and they tend to attract more good things to their lives.