Do You Have A Fear Of Ending Up Alone?


My friend Chris, blogging as Moxie, wrote a thought-provoking piece a few weeks back, entitled “You Just Might End Up Alone. And That’s Okay.”

The original question reads, “I am at my wits end. I am in my early 50”²s and I can’t meet a man. I have tried the online thing and it hasn’t worked. I have a guy I’ve been friends with, but he only sees me as a friend. We have even gone away together a few times, but nothing has happened. I don’t know what else to do and I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life. How else are people meeting and connecting?”

Pretty common complaint. Really uncommon answer. You think I’m blunt? Moxie gives this reader a full smackdown.

“Maybe it’s time to consider the possibility that you won’t meet anybody? I know that someone who does what I do isn’t supposed to say that. We’re supposed to spout trite sayings like, “It’ll happen when you least expect it!” or “There’s a lid for every pot!” You know what? Those are placebos. They’re fake bits of wisdom meant to encourage you and keep you on the path to finding love. I’m not saying you should give up completely. But I am saying that it’s time for you to reconcile with this fear you have of ending up alone. Because more than likely, one way or another, you will.”

It’s time to get comfortable with it being just you, because that may be how it turns out.

Now, I wouldn’t have said that because I actually do believe there is a lid for every pot. And if this was the only wisdom espoused (“Give up!”) I wouldn’t be sharing this with you. But Moxie was just getting rolling. She took the words right out of my mouth with this paragraph:

“To be honest, questions like, “Where can I go to meet men?” also tire me. You can meet a man anywhere. You can walk down the street and meet a man. You can go grocery shopping and meet a man. They’re everywhere. If you’ve tried various avenues to find a man and nothing is working, then it’s time for some introspection. Something isn’t working. I can’t tell you what it is because I don’t know you. Having me list out all the ways you can meet men isn’t going to do anything if the problem lies with you. Maybe you’re expectations are out of whack. Maybe you shoot out of your league. I don’t know.”

Finally, she brings it home with a crescendo, reiterating what I’ve said for years on this blog, which is that I’m not going to post your question if I agree with you and think you’re doing a great job. I’m only going to post an answer to you if I think I can see a blind spot and share something that may shift your perspective. Moxie goes even further:

“I would guess that confirmation bias is one of the leading reasons why so many men and women who seek long term commitment end up 40 or older and single. All their lives they’ve heard the same things over and over again. Their belief systems have been reinforced by perpetually listening to or being told the same thing day in and day out. You really want to make a change, OP? Get out of what ever vacuum you exist in and start fresh. This goes for everybody. Cut out all the people and places and ways you hear about how hard dating is and how awful men and women are and how this doesn’t work and that doesn’t work. Tune. It. Out. Because if you truly make finding a relationship a priority and you develop your own belief system based solely on your experiences and your experiences alone, your opportunities will increase ten fold. It’s time to get comfortable with it being just you, because that may be how it turns out. Until you’re okay with that possibility, you will continue to struggle.”

Yeah. That’s about right. It may not be the softest response, but it’s just about the most truthful one.

The full post can be read here. Your comments, as always, are appreciated below.

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  1. 21

    More on media and its propagation of the idea that the married and family life is how we should all live. Not too long ago there was a stink in the news because a Cheerios commercial showed a biracial family – white mom, black dad, mixed race daughter – enjoying Cheerios. Racists wrote in protesting the commercial, which prompted nonracists to write in protesting the protestors. This commercial was supposed to be seen as revolutionary. OK, it was, and good for them. But you know what would be really revolutionary? If there were a commercial showing a single person enjoying her bowl of Cheerios alone and blissfully happy in her studio apartment. Single people eat cereal as much as couples and families, maybe more. Companies need to think who they’re marketing to. They pitch  subtle messages about what kind of life we’re suppose to want, which is why car companies show beautiful women draped on their cars. Married life is shown as ideal. Time for  ads and  commercials that show singles can  lead happy lives  too.

  2. 22

    Zina, I’m not sure which fantasy exactly that you are so determined to cling onto. The fanatasy that says that you will eventually find your soul mate – the one and only true love that God or whatever has made for you – the man who is so dashingly handsome, strong, courageous – a true hero in every sense of the word, who loves you more than his own life – who will do anything for you – go to the ends of the earth to search for you and save you from your miserable lonely life. And that you’d live together forever and ever, in great love that will last generations and generations till the end of time itself.
    Or, maybe that fantasy that says No, there is no one who is perfect out there, you need to keep dating to see who, out of the whole lot of less than perfect candidates, you can find some modicum of happiness and security with.   Love and live in a way that there is no tomorrow, because they really may not be a tomorrow. Love changes, love dies, love evolves but you move with the flow, with faith and hope. Even though you don’t know what is around the corner, you enjoy and savour what is making you happy NOW, not what you think you would like to make you happy or what you think will make you happy or what you think the media and your friends say will make you happy orr what you think the media and your freinds will say will make you happy.
    Love, like life itself, is dynamic and ever changing and changes you. Grasp it !

  3. 23

    “I would guess that confirmation bias is one of the leading reasons why so many men and women who seek long term commitment end up 40 or older and single. All their lives they’ve heard the same things over and over again. Their belief systems have been reinforced by perpetually listening to or being told the same thing day in and day out. You really want to make a change, OP? Get out of what ever vacuum you exist in and start fresh. This goes for everybody. Cut out all the people and places and ways you hear about how hard dating is and how awful men and women are and how this doesn’t work and that doesn’t work. Tune. It. Out. Because if you truly make finding a relationship a priority and you develop your own belief system based solely on your experiences and your experiences alone, your opportunities will increase ten fold. It’s time to get comfortable with it being just you, because that may be how it turns out.
    I have to say that this article gave me a shot in my arm. Because instead of reminding me of my status, it reminded me of my  mindset.
    Let me explain….This article made me realize that my station is my problem, and mine alone. No one else can walk this journey for me. No one else can care more about my singleness than me. And moving forward, making changes and deciding what is best for me is my problem and mine alone.
    Expecting anyone else to have empathy, sympathy, FAIL. Don’t get me wrong, finding support and having support while you go through the trials and tribulations is awesome, but expecting anyone to care more than me, or want me to be successful more than me, or have answers to questions that stump me, seems to me to be a recipe for extreme disappointment.
    I didn’t see this article so much as spelling out that not everyone finds a chair when the music stops, so much as I read it as…If I am expecting to find the answers for my problems from some one else than I may never have them answered. Just like Dorothy, some things you have to figure out on your own.

  4. 24

    am i afraid I’ll end up alone? heck yes.   I have a core belief that we are made to partner. and even though, as I write this I am just two weeks out of the repartnered relationship i thought was going to last until the day I died, I still believe in happy ever after.  
    My love is afraid of being alone too – and my guess is that this will lead him into another relationship very quickly – a great pity as he ended this one as unable to maintain it due to a bunch of ”issues” he admits he is not ready to deal with.
    Sure, anyone can be happy single, the unpartnered life is not an unfulfilled one, or anything to be viewed negatively – but I stick by my claim – we are not designed to be alone.

  5. 25
    Karmic Equation

    Adopt a dog or a cat from your local shelter or a local rescue. You’ll never be alone if you have a pet that loves and depends on you and provides the kind of unconditional love that we all need.
    I have three dogs, all rescued. I never go home to an empty house. When I”m happy they’re there to share it with me with their wagging tails. When I’m sad, they cuddle with me and let me cry on their shoulders with uncanny empathy.
    I’ll never be alone again because of my pets.
    Happiness is a choice. Meaning go out and actively choose it and do something about. Not trying to make do with what you have (or have not).
    If you’re happy, being alone is ok.

  6. 26

    This is an interesting quandary.   I can sympathize from both sides.   I’ve been alone and dating sporadically most of my life but my heart was never in it.   I was perfectly happy with my profession, family, friends.   I couldn’t understand why my girl friends spent such an inordinate amount of time angsting over men when I spent that time improving my career.   It seemed like a big to do about nothing and why can’t women just be alone rather than sometimes accepting a half assed relationship to be part of a couple?
    Then in my 30’s I decided I should give relationships a try and after a couple false starts I met my fiancé who is a really good guy.   It’s like I have known him all my life and he is the sweetest manly man possible.   Now I get what all the hubbub was about and I get why people spend inordinate amounts of time and effort to get this type of love.   It’s not that I was unhappy alone, I was happy, it’s just that the level of happiness compared to now is like black and white vs color TV.   I shudder to think that had I not chosen to take dating more seriously I could have still been happily alone and missed out on all this.   What I wished was that someone would have kicked me in the head sooner and told me to date because I almost missed the boat.   So I applaud people who are okay with being alone but also would like to encourage those who want to find someone not to give up.   It’s okay to keep trying too.   Some of my single girlfriends have stopped trying and adopted cats, which is fine but they are really upset at me because I have just adopted two cats from a shelter with my fiancé.   They see us all together and they wished they could have that.   But they aren’t getting out there and trying anymore because they’ve given up.

  7. 27

    At 33, I have this fear.   I have a problem attracting the men I like.   Living in NYC it seems like the earth opened up and swallowed eligible  men in their 30’s.    It’s hard to want something, see others easily get it and be told not to give it importance.    Especially knowing what it feels like to be coupled and knowing how much better it is to being alone.   It’s not especially helpful for anyone at any age to resign themselves to that possibility.   Far better to try new things and get out of one’s comfort zone and change one’s approach.   That seems to be more hopeful than resignation because it feels like we have more control over things.   To not feel like we have any control over something that we do actually have  some control over is defeatist, and subsequently depressing.   Taking action to me is far better than lowering a problem in rank of importance.   Action means the possibility things can change.   The letter writer’s angst may be fueled at the moment by  a guy she likes not liking her back.   Maybe taking that out of the equation, her frustrations would be less of a problem.   Rejection tends to cause us to draw attention to our faults and to our sense of lack of.   So it makes sense she’s feeling especially frustrated at the moment.  

  8. 28
    Erika Avila

    This is a very delicate topic, I think we can’t be defending one side only.
    Of course, I know I don’t depend on anyone else to be truly happy, our circumstances don’t make us happy or unhappy, as a matter of fact we need to love and know ourselves   first   so we can be in a relationship with someone. And in the other hand, I dream about being married, having kids, sharing my life with that special person and growing together through our difficulties. And I dont’ blame myself for having that need, it’s a natural feeling, no matter the age, because even when you are 50, 60 or even 80 you are still being the same person you were all your life in many aspects, I know it because I’ve talked to old people who don’t only remember, but recognize the feeling of being with the one you like, and they wish they were be younger so they could get back to those days.
    There’s a huge pressure from society on being in a relationship or at least having a fuck buddy to spend your days alone. even my pets (cats, dogs) find partners,, lol xD  
    In the Bible we can read something related to this; not only people but animals were also made in couples (male, female), let’s go back to school for a while and remember the main characteristics of living things BORN, GROW, REPRODUCE AND last but not least DIE.
    REPRODUCE: we need someone to make it, our family and friends WON’T..  
    Genesis 2:
    18  Then the  Lord  God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a helper fit for[a]  him.”  
    21  So the  Lord  God caused a  deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  
    24  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
    God knows and understands our needs, so am sorry for all the ones who don’t want to be alone for the right reasons, the good news is they can find love and strenght only if they get close to him.  

  9. 29

    Please, explain what you mean  by saying that you’ve started taking your love life more seriously?
    On this “I wish I knew earlier” thing that you’ve metioned – the thing is nothing actually happens on a schedule, at least not in love life, unless you set yourself one and then take people as means to achieve it.   We act in the limits of particular understanding in that particular time. I never was the kind of girl who dreams about marriage and kids and a house in suburb, so I didn’t give much meaning for that for the most of my twenties.  Many people told me I will miss the  boat, etc. etc.,  but the thing is that only now I know what I truly want in my life and in my partner. 4y ago a guy I was in relationship with then, asked me to marry him and I said no. I couldn’t actually grasp what it was then (had very little experience with men in general, as I was a total late-bloomer), yet now I know that relationship wasn’t healthy. Had I surrendered to that fearful thinking that people tried to impose on me, I’d definitely  be in a dysfunctional marriage now with a couple of kids and little prospects to sort out things with myself first. So I think theres no point of saying “wish someone told me this earlier” or smth, cause we only learn things at a certain time, when we are actually ready to take the lesson, e.g. last year I finally unlearned to engage in relationships with emotionally unavailable men.  I’m single now and I’m at the point where I can totally accept the idea of living alone for the rest of my life (OK, just turned 30 several months ago,  but still). What disturbs me more is the thought that this alone life might  be mostly sexless, not the fact of living alone in general, actually.  
    So I totally agree that people should still keep dating and etc. – at least they won’t regret on not even trying.  

  10. 30

    Hi Laura – I didn’t mean one should just get married for the heck of it, I meant that I should have been more actively conscious of the learning process and tools to date efficiently and appropriately earlier so that I could consciously evaluate my partners etc.   So I wish someone could have told me earlier things on this blog like when you hit 30 it may start getting harder to date, etc.   I had to cram in a lot of dating in 6 months and a lot of education with EMK and I feel like I got pretty lucky that I managed it now.   Or else when I met my fiancé I don’t think I would have had the tools to handle him the way I did.
    I guess I’m a lot more deliberate than you.   Have you read Evan’s last newsletter? “Inevitability Thinking is about having the confidence to know you can create any given outcome, if you outline a plan and create the conditions to execute the plan.”. I approached finding my husband exactly like what was outlined.   I had a plan, a schedule, of what I needed to learn, when during the week I went out on dates, how many people I emailed, what I needed to do to work on myself.   I got a dating coach. I was positive and optimistic because I felt like even when things weren’t working out I was still moving forward and would do better next time.   Yes there is some element of luck to finding love but you have to have the tools to recognize and make the best of a golden opportunity when it hits you.   You can train yourself for love just like anything else.   I probably missed a lot of opportunities because I was oblivious or unprepared. Yes in fact love can happen on a schedule if you create the right plan to put the pieces in place.   I see a lot of women who bemoan why they are alone yet I don’t see them creating any kind of opportunity for themselves.   I’m not one to believe the right guy would pop out of the sky when I’m ready. You have to go out there with a good plan and find him!  

  11. 31

    Well I wasn’t  assuming that you got married just for the sake of it,no way,  I just wanted to know what you meant exactly by that saying and I get your point.
    I’ve come into this “conscious” phase last year and  I already knew the pool of eligible candidates is way smaller than in my mid-twenties, so its not like I assume that Mr. Right must fall from the sky or  whatever – I do get I have to put effort into the process and I do go out, and date and etc., not just wait for love to happen while sitting at home.

  12. 32

    I have to step in and voice my opinion on this post.
    I am 49 years old and will be 50 in a couple of months. I have more dates now than I ever did in my thirties and early forties. (I didn’t date for six years in my early-to-mid forties.) I’ve joined dating sites, and I love to dance. I go out frequently with my friends.
    This is what I’ve discovered. Once I changed my attitude, my dating life blossomed. For the first time in my life I am dating around, and I’m meeting wonderful men. I’ve stopped focusing on meeting Mr. Right and have switched gears to embracing Mr. Right Now. I live in the moment.
    Now that I’m dating around, I feel no more pressure about relationships. I no longer obsess about when “he” will text, call, or ask me out again. I don’t continuously wonder, “Where is this going?” I’ve learned to relax and just “be” and allow my relationships to develop organically. I wish I would have taken this approach a decade ago.
    I have a friend who struggles with dating. She dates the wrong men. She gets possessive about a man’s time before he gives her a commitment, and she refuses to take my approach, even though it’s working like a charm for me. In fact, she constantly retorts that I don’t have a problem finding dates. I tell her to be the “cool girl.” Don’t get angry if he can’t see you this weekend. Date other men. Have more girls’ nights out. Always be gracious and sweet when he calls. My philosophy is until a man offers a commitment of monogamy, he owes me nothing. She continues to stay miserable in her pursuits.
    I date around but I don’t sleep around. I am, in essence, auditioning men for the role of my next boyfriend. Although I’m seeing wonderful men, I’ve not quite turned the corner into wanting a commitment with any one of them yet. My former self would have committed first and learned about the man second. I’ve switched gears. I don’t plan to date around forever, just for as long as it takes to find someone with whom I want to spend all of my time with.
    Regardless of your age, join dating sites and make your profile shine. Don’t write a cookie-cutter version of the other profiles. Post pictures of yourself having fun. When you go out, don’t go out to meet men. Go out to have fun. I’ve discovered that when I go out to have fun with no other agenda, men tend to gravitate my way. I’ve concluded that you don’t have to be the prettiest woman in the room to shine and to get a man’s attention.
    No dates at 50-something? You can easily change that. I’ve been dating men between the ages of mid-thirties to late fifties. It’s all about letting go and living life. That’s when men will gravitate toward you. I know that the next time I make a commitment to someone, I’ll have a better idea of who I’m waking next to.

  13. 33

    @Laura – sure I get your point.   I wasn’t trying to imply you just sit around.   I was trying to answer your question as to why love can be more on a schedule than most women think.
    @Joli – yes you make my point.   If these women in their 30’s date like you do at 49 I bet they would be happier but as you point out they may not know how to date like this.   I certainly wouldn’t have had I not pushed myself to research dating. And I wanted a family so waiting until I figured this out on my own in my 40’s would have not been a good option for me.

  14. 34

    @Joli bravo.   Wise way to go about dating and I’m glad you are having fun at 49!   I’m finally learning that way of doing things in mid 30s, glad to have figured out sooner than later:).

  15. 35

    It’s too bad that it took 49 years to try this approach. Actually, it was this site that got me on board with this approach (as well as being tired of partners who disappointed me). The last three men I dated did not want monogamy. Now that I am dating several men, I’m finding men who do want to find a monogamous relationship. You’ve got to smile at the irony.
    Here’s the real kicker: The key to dating this way is to change your perception. I keep telling my friend to stop worrying if she is “good enough” for the men she meets. I tell her to ask herself, instead, if the men she meets are compatible with HER needs.
    Dating this way means that I never have to be alone during the weekend unless I really want to be alone. AND, I date during the week now instead of just weekends. I never thought I could see more than one man at a time, but this process has allowed me to exhale and enjoy meeting new people.

  16. 36

    Nobody implied nothing. Good then:)
    I do agree with your view towards dating  – thats how I’ve always been doing it, yet it didn’t bring me any solid results so far – no serious relationships  in last 4 years, just short flings  – perpetuum single could be my 2nd name. And I  often hear from men themselves (friends, their acquaintances and etc.), that they see me as someone who is a  totally independant party girl (party girl? me? just cause I like to live an active social life, instead of sitting home and making a pitty party?), who  exudes high level of confidence and has sex-appeal  (though I definitely ain’t the prettiest woman in the crowd) and doesn’t need a man (well of course I don’t need a man, I want a man, which is something way different).
    So I was totally confused for some time, thinking if I do something wrong by not suffocating men with demands or not initiating anything if they don’t show any effort to elaborate communication / relationship.
    Of course, I’m “guilty” of trying to re-make me at some point, to become “good enough”  so that guys would want the comittment. Yet any time I was trying to “fit” the expectations of some man it brought me nothing but heartbreak, and I can tell such decisions were absolutely the most stupid thing I’ve ever done.
    But then I was “enlightened” enough to see that I am just dating wrong men-those who have no interest in developing anything meaningful with me (I was a rebound for them/ they loved their work more than a possibility to live a real life/etc.), so my relaxed strategy only works until the guy starts to feel like the moment of “step up or flight” is approaching. So many times its not the attitude towards dating that “makes a problem”, but the type of people we’re interested in.
    The only thing I do different is that I do sleep with some of guys at times. Maybe some people might think its nothing but slutting around, yet at this point I definitely think like I man – I  don’t want to  stay celibate until the right guy comes along.
    Actually, I think the most difficult aspect of practising this relaxed approach for younger women is that they usually want a family, and possibilities of starting a family get limited with age, so many of them feel a certain amount of pressure to find someone until they’d have to rival with hoards of younger and prettier women.

  17. 37

    I am 32 and have been dating like this for the past year and a half. Yes, I am single, yes I’ve had 2 boyfriends and no, I’m not any closer to getting married than I was before. However, the option of giving up at 30? You gotta be kidding me, that’s not an option at all. You give up and kiss your dreams goodbye because you just haven’t dated the right guy yet? Seems silly. I think you should reevaluate how long you are sticking around with guys who aren’t giving you what you need and keep on trucking. I broke up with my boyfriend of 9 months, 2 months ago and I have a 3rd date with a guy tonight. You just have to keep on trying.

  18. 38

    Where do you see a line that says “I give up”? I said you should not give up and summed up my experiences which proved me that the relaxed way of dating is much  better than paranoid thinking that my  boat is leaving.  

  19. 39

    What is working for me right now is dating men who I would have never even considered before. They have to be “nice,” but otherwise, I’ve been dating against “my type” with  sweet results.
    I have a history of gravitating toward men I find exciting, yet they often tend to be the wrong types of men. By allowing other men in my field of vision, I’m actually discovering that there are a lot of GREAT men out there. I just walked through life with blinders on and wasn’t willing to go out with them.
    I think it’s so easy to get caught up in who we think is our “type.” We all do it. However, I’ve discovered that I don’t need the male version of ME. There are a few qualities I must see in a man to get my attention, but everything else is flexible. How can I possibly know if a man is compatible with me if I don’t look beyond the type of man I’ve always dated?
    I’ve stopped looking for men who can fulfill all of my needs. If I want to go dancing, my gal pals can go with me. If I want to talk about my career, I’ve got work for that. I’ve slowly but surely have learned to appreciate men for their individual qualities as well as how well they treat the women in their lives. That is far more important than finding someone who likes to work out because I like to work out or who likes to read the same books I do.
    You’re right. Many younger women feel pressured to start a family and spend their energies looking for “the one.” There are many years of fertility ahead of most young women. I’d say that this approach is equally as important to them because they can find a life partner more quickly by dating several men at once than they will by dating one man at a time, several months at t time.

  20. 40

    @ Joli, I have a question about your #39
    “I’ve stopped looking for men who can fulfill all of my needs. If I want to go dancing, my gal pals can go with me. If I want to talk about my career, I’ve got work for that.”
    While I agree that no one can (or should be expected to) fulfill all of anyone’s needs, I’d like to know, if you don’t mind me asking – in your dating experience, where do you draw the line? what are the minimum compatibility requirements? I imagine it cannot be zero, because in a serious relationship, you won’t have all that much time to go dancing and pursuing other hobbies with your friends. You’ll be spending most of your free time with your SO, just because your free time is pretty limited to begin with. So considering that, shouldn’t there be something you two like to do together for fun? Even if you say a marriage or LTR is a long shot, but even on a date, what do you do with a man that you have no common interests with? or do you still expect there to be some common interests? Thanks.

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