Ask Stef: I'm Scared of Being Alone

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By Stefanie Marshall


Dear Stef, 

I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for 5 years. Parts of our relationship, mainly the sex, are great but I have been growing and continue to grow in a direction opposite of them, while they haven’t done much of any growing.

I find myself crying silently when around them because I’ve noticed just how incompatible we have grown. There have even been instances when I had prepared myself to break up with them, but I always ended up backing down. I don’t want to go through the pain of a breakup. They are my best friend - I’m just not in love anymore. And I don’t want to be alone. I’m so used to sleeping in their bed every night - the thought of sleeping by myself in mine is so depressing. Being single again terrifies me.

I feel like I’m torn between two opposites and I'm terrified about making the wrong decision.

Stuck in Familiarity 

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Dear Stuck in Familiarity, 

We, as humans, hold on to a lot of things for much longer than we should. Our emotional attachments to people and things are what make us, well, human. But sometimes, like you said, we grow beyond those attachments. Change is one of the only things we can count on happening, and emotionally, we need someone to evolve with us. It seems that’s where this relationship has fallen short for you.

Recently one of my very closest girl friends went through something similar. Like you, she knew herself well enough to recognize there was an issue. She hadn’t fallen out of love with her partner, but she saw the potential for trouble in the future. She was growing quickly in a much different direction in their time together. Her worries were similar to yours but hadn’t yet come to fruition. “He’s my best friend...I don’t want to be alone….Dating is scary.” However, when I asked her to map out their future if she stayed with him anyway, things seemed a bit scarier. She realized how much of herself and what she wanted would be sacrificed for the relationship and eventually made the extremely hard decision to break up with him.

I’m unsure which is harder: breaking up with someone you are still in love with or breaking up with someone you care about but have fallen out of love with. But both suck beyond the telling of it. We don’t want to hurt the people we love, but in these scenarios I always feel the “band-aid effect” is best. It will hurt a lot at first. For both of you. And it will be hard. Then it will be like letting out the breath you didn’t even realize you were holding. You will feel more like yourself than you have in a long time, and then you will rocket forward into the beautiful unknown.

Let’s talk about before that though. Because I know that’s what you’re worried about. I can’t tell you how to break up with them. Or when. And yes, it will be tumultuous. It will be scary. You’re both going to cry. But one of you has to be strong, and because you realized this first, it’s gotta be you. As I always tell Menders, submerse yourself in other things that are beneficial to you. Spend more time with your family and friends. Take up a new hobby or go on a small adventure - especially anything that makes you feel empowered by yourself. That seems to be your weak spot. You are most worried about losing this partner - this other limb - you’re so used to having. Remember what it was like before them. Remember yourself. You're in there trying to break free. That’s where this sadness and anxiety is coming from.

Lastly, remember this: every moment you hang on for longer because you’re afraid to date again or because you don’t want to sleep alone, you’re being unfair to this person I know you care about immensely. Holding on when you aren’t “in it” with them anymore is an emotional betrayal. There is someone out there for them just as there is for you. Give yourself and them the chance to find it.

“You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard it, and proceed.” - Cameron Crowe, Elizabethtown

Stef

writer photo

Stefanie Marshall

Stefanie is a writer and a hopeless romantic. Probably both because of the other. She likes her whiskey neat and her men bearded. Mostly, she's told she's the good kind of terrifying.

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