Fear of being single may drive people to settle, stay in bad relationships

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(Image Credit: MGN Online) Does fear of being alone make people less selective of partners?

(CBS News) – Is loneliness causing you to short-change your love life? A new study finds the fear of being single may be driving men and women to settle in their relationships.

“Loneliness is a painful experience for both men and women, so it’s not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender,” study co-author, Geoff MacDonald, a professor at the University of Toronto’s department of psychology, said in a press release.

Researchers asked a sample of adults of various ages from the U.S. and Canada — including University of Toronto undergraduates — about their thoughts on being single. They were asked to complete different surveys and tasks.

In one online survey, 126 women and 27 men were asked about their fears of being alone. About 39 percent said they didn’t fear living their lives solo, and almost 12 percent said they both enjoyed the positives and negatives of being single.

But, over 18 percent admitted they were scared about “spinsterhood” and being alone when they died. Another 6.6 percent of mostly younger responders said they were afraid of being lonely as they grew older.

In subsequent experiments and surveys, researchers discovered that both men and women were so scared to be single that they were willing to stay in unfulfilling relationships, and people who had fears of being alone were less likely to get out of a bad relationship.

They tested the participants’ romantic interest in subjects who possessed varying levels of responsiveness and physical attractiveness. People who were apprehensive about being single picked less responsive and less attractive potential dates.

The above scenario was replicated in a speed-dating environment. Researchers saw fears about being single drove people to be “less selective” in showing who they were interested in.

However, the fear of being single did not affect people’s self-reported standards of what they looked for in a mate, unless parenting factors were involved.

Note: The above text is excerpted directly from an article appearing at CBSNews.com. Click here to read the full story at CBS News.


  • Karin

    The fear of living your life solo is crippling. We have to get comfortable with ourselves. It’s more boring not to have a companion; but it’s miserable to be in a bad relationship. No excuses for young folks; another love is around the corner and I don’t care how ugly you are. Older folks prefer to stick with an acceptable companion…we don’t have to be thrilled with our companion…but I’ve seen people who hate each other sticking it out. What’s up with that? The older I get the less I need a companion. Get a dog. I can remember feeling sorry for older women or men (when I was younger) who chose to stay in a single state… now I “totally” get it!

  • Cheq

    There is more to it than just being afraid to be alone. Alot of folks in good relationships that turned bad want to be alone afterwards. You must add that the financial hardships of single income living in this unstable economy add to the fear of going solo. I do not know many people that have more income now than they did 5 years ago. Many couples have added expenses that are not easily disolved and the added cost of the divorce, especially if kids are involved, make the choice to stay in a bad relationship easier.

    I know for a fact that I stay because of debt, loss of income, increase in healthcare costs, court forced payments to my “better” half if we do follow through with the divorce. Neither of us will be able to survive solo and provide for our kids without taking from the other and putting a bigger burden on survival. I will stick it out for another couple years until our kids are better able to help provide for themselves. After they are working or in college I am outta here and I cant wait to be solo….I am never going to go through this again!!!

  • Bryan

    Am I in the minority in thinking that there is a difference between an unfulfilling relationship and a bad relationship? After 10 years, my wife and I have had a couple of unfulfilling patches but those have never been harmful to either of us and working through those times has led to greater connection and fulfilment in the other times.

    • George

      Bryan, you are more in the minority than I think you realize. We have become a hateful and selfish nation and compromise and understanding have become an endangered trait. We are now more self-righteous, entitled and narcissistic than I have ever witnessed. Be grateful that you both care and are willing to work through the unfulfilling times. I can count on both hands the number of people that I have known over the last 40 years that are still married to their original spouses.

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