Was listening to a song recently with the lyrics “anything is better than being alone.” As someone who was in a very bad relationship for entirely too many years, that line, and variations of it, always makes me cringe (however much I might like the band).
I have been told, and my observations tend to support, that if you aren’t happy alone you won’t be happy in a relationship. On the other hand, loneliness is a thing and it sucks. This would seem to create a contradiction.
So, the question is how to resolve the apparent contradiction. The simplest thing to recognize is that one can be, overall, happy even with things that suck in your life. Just like you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos to be well off, let alone comfortable financially, you life doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy, relatively speaking.
Being happy, relatively speaking, does not however mean that you don’t recognize the suckiness of particular aspects. Consider folk who have lost limbs in war. While some wallow in what they’ve lost and have their misery define what they are, some others go completely the other way. Consider for instance, the case of Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee thanks to an IED in the Middle East:
You think his life wouldn’t be easier/better if he still had arms and legs? Yet, here he is making jokes and giving motivationals to others.
So, clearly the advice to “be happy alone” is not inconsistent with recognizing that being alone is…not great and, yes loneliness sucks.
But the thing to remember is, as Robin Williams said, being alone is not the worst thing. The worst thing is being with people who make you feel alone.
A bad relationship is worse than no relationship at all. And so, you have to be at least comfortable with being alone. If you’re not, you’ll tend to grab onto whatever comes along, anything rather than being alone. This is how you get into relationships with the wrong person, with someone who is outright toxic for you (might be great for someone else, but not for you). Indeed, the person who is afraid of being alone is easily manipulated by the toxic. All they have to do is hold out that lure of your not being alone and they can lead you around however they wish.
And in the end, you realize you are lonelier than you were when you were alone.
So, while loneliness is a thing, and an unpleasant one, the paradox is that you have to become comfortable with it, to make it something you can live with, something that doesn’t render your whole life unhappy, before you have a realistic chance of finding someone to end the loneliness. Without that, you might get lucky. You might stumble into someone who will be a good “fit” and, between you heal the parts of you that need healing.
You might. But the odds aren’t good because if you’re in the “anything is better than being alone” because there are too many “not right” people for every “right” person, and if the “right” person isn’t the first one…well, then it’s too late. You have to be strong enough in yourself to walk away from a relationship as soon as it becomes clear that it’s the wrong one for you.
And that means that you have to understand, way deep down in your gut, that there are worse things than being alone.