Dating and Mate Selection — 26 January 2009
Fear of being alone may lead to emotional loneliness

Being unselectively available to any new relationship or staying in an unsatisfactory one may be caused by the fear of being alone. People who suffer from this fear are aware of it, but may not fully realize that being in a non-rewarding connection breeds insecurity, loneliness and further exacerbates their misery. They also may be unaware that their fear is treatable and remediable.

Monophobia, (also known as Autophobia or Isolophobia), is a condition of intense fear about being alone. It varies from needing someone’s presence at specific times, such as at night, to needing the company of another all the time. The symptoms one experiences when apart from another are akin to those of an acute anxiety attack. Though they are not uniform, common reactions include: panic, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, nausea, sweating and an overwhelming sense of dread. The reprieve is often sought through frantic phone calls to others, pleading for their companionship on an immediate basis.

These reactions are similar to the ones exhibited by young children’s separation anxiety such as: clinging, begging, crying and desperation when being separated from their parents. These behaviors manifest feeling insecure, helpless, unsafe, unprotected and panic stricken when alone.

Individuals suffering from Monophobia may be highly functional in the rest of their lives with the unique exception of their desperate need for companionship for their emotional stability and security. For some, early childhood experiences of abandonment, abuse or rejection may have contributed to this intense need for protection through another’s presence.

In an overview article “Adult Attachment Theory, Psychodynamics, and Couple Relationships”, Schachner, Shaver and Mikulincer write: “Unlike mother-infant relationships, love relationships between adults involve two fairly equal partners, both of whom are sometimes threatened, or injured and in need of protection or comfort. Both are sometimes sympathetic, supportive caregivers to partners in need; and both are sometimes sexually aroused and seeking sexual gratification.”

The complimentary exchange fails when one partner is afraid and needy and thus not acting as an equal. The other mate becomes a protector rather than a partner and thus loses interest and may become unavailable, unhappy or distant.

Those who stay in an unhappy relationship due to fear of being alone, soon find that even without admitting it, their disempowered position in the union leaves them not alone, but lonely. They may become more disgruntled, critical, unhappy and contribute to further distance between themselves and their mate. Also, though they are physically not alone, they experience emotional loneliness within the relationship. Being alienated and disconnected from a mate is isolating and can be deeply painful. Being in an avoidant relationship where both individuals are not authentically connected to each other may breed anger, hurt, sadness and even depression. As the relationship sours jealousy, insecurity and fears of abandonment may torment the person with Monophobia.

• Realize that Monophobia is an anxiety disorder. Seek cognitive therapy treatment and, if needed, request medications.
• Accept that being non-discriminating in accepting dates or staying in unsatisfactory relationships is a poor way of reducing your anxiety and only accentuates your stress.
• Understand that your fear of being alone may cloud your judgment about mate selection, render you an unequal partner and reduces your chances for security in any relationship.
• Concentrate not on what your partner can provide for you, but on what you can provide for him/her. Consistently needing protection due to fears or scars of old wounds hinders your capacity for authentic partnership.
• Practice becoming a protector and comforter, being a sympathetic caregiver and being sexually interested and responsive to your partner.
• Trading loveless companionship for safety will only make you more fearful and lonely. Instead, offer loving energy, compassion and tenderness, which will secure your partner’s willing presence and a safe and rewarding connection to both of you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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