The other day I was talking to a girlfriend who is in a situation similar to the one I found myself in with M for a year. They haven’t established any kind of exclusivity, he hasn’t been treating her well, he does shady things like block her from his Facebook (yet he recently friended me on Facebook…), and the list goes on.
She texted me earlier today that it made her sad he treats her this way, but even more so that she allows him to do it. She wonders if, perhaps, she lets him continue to hurt her so that she wouldn’t feel so alone.
Of course, an outsider looking in on our conversation would have thought she has some kind of lingering self-esteem issues and was incredibly self-destructive. Why stay in something that you know is so toxic? That actually makes you feel crappy more often than it makes you feel good? Probably for one of the same reasons women often stay in abusive relationships they know they need to get out of: a fear of being alone again.
I truly believe being in your early to mid-twenties (my friend is 24) can be an inherently lonely time. There’s a lot of change and uncertainty, your friends are constantly moving and may not live nearby anymore, you no longer live on a campus filled with people to whom you naturally relate, and you’re in the process of figuring out your life.
Oh, and the 3 new engagement notifications on Facebook per day isn’t quite helping. (Seriously, why is everyone getting married?)
I think it’s natural to want to hold on to a relationship that you know isn’t right because then at least you have someone to share all of the confusion that comes with being in your twenties.
But the thing about bad relationships and loneliness is that being with the wrong person can actually make you feel more alone than being single. It’s hard to realize when you’re in it, but in hindsight it’s obvious. For me, being with M caused a vicious cycle of perpetual feelings of loneliness. I move to a new city in which I knew very few people –> I live alone for a year –> I start dating a guy I really like/am attracted to –> I realize he is emotionally unavailable and makes me feel lonely/empty –> I crave his attention more to fill the emptiness he causes, yet is incapable of filling. A catch-22.
Of course, like any vicious cycle, it’s incredibly hard to get out of. If it were easy, we wouldn’t engage in such self-destructive behavior to begin with. To know what the right thing to do is and to actually do it are two different things. I’m hoping she will take action quicker than I did (and I hope it doesn’t take her discovering he actually has a girlfriend to cut him out for good).
What are your thoughts on your twenties and loneliness?