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Not Meant to be in a Relationship?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Growing up, I never thought I would be in a long term relationship. I thought maybe I’d have some boyfriends, but nothing serious, I never wanted to get married, have kids, etc. I think part of it was how I was raised- my parents never wanted me to depend on a man, and my mom was a pretty staunch feminist who discouraged me getting involved with boys. Even as I got older, she frequently disapproved of my relationships. But more than that they stressed that I should take care of myself and put me first. It’s helped me be independent and goal-oriented, but sometimes I wonder if it’s also made me a bit selfish and unsuitable for relationships.

In spite of this, I see the benefit in having someone and making a commitment. Rationally, I think ‘that’s a good idea, I should do that’. I’ve gotten emotionally attached as well and tried to make it work. I’ve had one long term relationship of about three years, which ended on sad but friendly terms. I’ve also spent time on my own. Some of it was lonely, particularly when I was freshly out of the relationship, but I’m generally fine doing things by myself too.

I’ve now been with a great guy for about a year. He is very relationship and commitment-oriented, and I feel I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been with him. I enjoy spending time with him, I think we work well together and can make each other happy. But whenever I get upset with him or we have a fight, I immediately think, well the hell with it. I’m fine being by myself, I should just cut this off.

I try to remind myself about the give and take of a relationship, that I need to be more patient and work hard at it, and that there are real benefits to having someone important in my life. But sometimes I just feel like maybe I’m not meant for relationships. I’m a really rational person, and while I can understand that one might argue this just isn’t the right person for me, I get the feeling it’s not that. My problem is more that I need to rationally believe that this is what I should be doing.

I guess my question is, professionally, is there a category of people who are not suited for relationships? And I don’t mean serial killers or something. Are relationships recommended by psych professionals? Or is it just a matter of preference?

I’d also be interested to know if you think it’s likely my views will change. I’m 27 now and I can see that being in a place in life where I have surviving family, an active social life, single friends, etc. it’s easy for me to look lovingly at my solo life.

Thanks for your time and help. This is my first time on the site but I think it’s a very valuable resource for people, especially in the current health care climate.

Generally speaking, it is healthy to be in a relationship although it is not necessary. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist thought that men and woman complement each other.

With regard to your specific situation, it is not healthy to want to end a relationship each time the two of you have an argument. It is healthy to not need the other person in the relationship; it is much healthier to be in a relationship because you want to be in it but to consider ending it every time there is a fight is abnormal.

Part of the reason you want to flee the relationship each time there is a fight may be because of how you were raised. It seems as though your mother raised you to believe that males were not desired or needed. She may have instilled in you the idea that men have little value and thus when they cause even the simplest “problem” they are “easily dispensable.” You don’t “need” them so why bother with them. It is good that you are able to exist in the world without having to depend on others but you may have taken this idea to the extreme, in a way that may be harmful to you.

Another reason to explain why you desire to end the relationship so abruptly may be because the individual you are dating is not “right” for you. I suspect though it has more to do with the first reason I mentioned, that because of how you were raised, you have little tolerance for “males” and their “problems.”

Relationships are difficult by nature. They are a melding together of two people’s interests, goals, desires, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and so forth. Relationships also require selflessness. If you are committed to the individual you are with, then the relationship may be worth “fighting” for. By “fighting” I mean that in a healthy relationship, you will have to compromise and things probably will not always go your way. But if you admire, respect, desire or love the person you are with you would be willing to make these and other sacrifices.

You also asked about whether you will change your thoughts and ideas in the future. The answer is that it depends. If you think back to the time when you were 17, then there is a good chance that what you thought then or found important is quite different than what you think or find important at 27. At 17, you probably had different, less informed ideas about the world than at 27.

If you are open to changing, to exploring new ideas and are not close-minded, then there is a great likelihood that your goals may change in the future. With regard to having children, for instance, there are many women like you who grew up believing they would never want to have children. Then they get a little older, get married, find that they have a “biological clock” (real or imagined) and suddenly they are parents claiming how unconscionable it was that they ever declared or thought about not having children. This is a fairly common scenario. The bottom line is that you can and probably will change your mind about certain aspects of your life in the future.

I am also curious about how much of what your mother believes to be true about men and relationships has dominated your thinking? How much of what you believe about relationships is your mother’s thinking or an extension thereof? You need to be clear about what your ideas about relationships are as well as what is the correct and healthy way to behave in a relationship. It would be smart to further explore your questions and ideas either by self-analysis or with the help of a therapist. You do not want to be in a situation where you sabotage a good and healthy relationship with ideas or behaviors that are not yours and are incorrect and unhealthy. I hope this helps. Thanks for your interesting question.

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