Alone … can you be alone? Clear your mind and take a minute to think about that word and what it means to you. Do you feel a sense of relief or freedom? Are you fantasizing about what you want to do, what book you’ll read or how late you’ll stay in bed? Or does the word make your chest tight, your heart beat faster and your palms sweat?
I talk to many people who are so afraid to be alone that they stay in unfulfilling, unhappy or even abusive relationships. They are mistaking need for want. These are women from all walks of life – those with big careers and great paychecks, those who work 9-5 and barely make ends meet and those who are stay-at-home moms. It doesn’t matter who you are; we all go through times and relationships when the fear of being alone drives us to walk a fine line between want and need.
Wanting someone is the positive side of the relationship – you want him because he makes you feel good in some way, he fulfills some desire you have, and he makes your knees weak.
“Need”, on the other hand, is want gone bad – need is desperate, lonely and often times leaves you feeling empty when you can’t have him. People in general can quickly pick up on your need; it’s instinctual and puts the person needed in a very powerful position. Your partner feels safe knowing that you are willing to tolerate almost anything in order to have him in your life. The balance slips away from the relationship and you find yourself at the bottom of a hole trying to climb out. You will never give enough or be enough to please the person you need.
Once you are in a needs-based relationship, it is a struggle to fix it or to get out. “Love” often becomes an addiction, and addicts often can’t break away from a suffocating hold. However, there is hope as long as the person you need isn’t attempting to control you, and isn’t using your need to their advantage or in a malicious way.
Take the following steps to get back on equal footing:
- Talk with your partner about your wants and needs in the relationship.
- Stick to your guns – establish boundaries about what is acceptable and not acceptable.
- Love in a voluntary and giving way that doesn’t come from desperation.
- Talk to a qualified person who can help you understand and stop the cycle of codependence.
- Find something creative to do with your time that doesn’t involve: a) the person you need, and b) any discussion or thought about the person you need.
If the man in your relationship insists on being needed by constantly trampling on your feelings, hurting you to get even or regularly threatening to leave in order to control you, ya gotta get out sister! He probably thrives in codependent relationships and is prepared to fight any efforts you make to become his equal. Now, you may be laughing to yourself and thinking, “Uh, yeah … I’ll just up and leave.” I know it’s hard, seems impossible and you probably can’t imagine life without him. And that is exactly what he’s hoping – that you won’t imagine your life without him, because guess what? He feels just as desperate about losing you as you feel about losing him.
Again, enlist the help of a supportive professional. If there is abuse involved or you feel like you can’t make it on your own, also reach out to your family or a women’s group (there are lots on the internet), and start making a plan to get out.
You will no longer cringe at the thought of being alone – you will be operating from a place of want – instead of need.