Fear Of Being Single Makes People Settle
December 4, 2013

Is Your Fear Of Being Single Making You Settle For Less?

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Researchers writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology say the fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships among both men and women.

A team from the University of Toronto surveyed several samples of North American adults, including university undergraduates and community members from Canada and the US. The samples varied across a wide range of ages.

The researchers performed seven studies to determine whether or not people settled out of fear of being alone. During the first study, the team explored the content of people’s thoughts about being single, while the second study included the development and validation of a" fear of being single" scale.

The second study also provided preliminary support for the hypothesis that fear of being single predicts settling for less in ongoing relationships, as evidence by greater dependence in unsatisfying relationships.

For the third study in the project the team replicated the effect of the second study in a longitudinal experiment demonstrating that fear of being single predicts lower likelihood of initiating the dissolution of a less satisfying relationship. The fourth study explored the predictive ability of fear of being single as a self-reported dating standard.

Studies five and six asked the participants about their romantic interest in targets that were manipulated to vary in responsiveness and physical attractiveness. “These studies found that fear of being single consistently predicted romantic interest in less responsive and less attractive dating targets,” the researchers wrote in the journal.

The team said that study seven explored the fear of being single during a speed-dating event.

“We found that fear of being single predicted being less selective in expressing romantic interest but did not predict less fearful daters’ romantic interest. Taken together, the present research suggests that fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships,” the team wrote.

Stephanie Spielmann, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, said that those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships.

“Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren’t happy in, and sometimes they want to date people who aren’t very good for them,” she said. “Now we understand that people’s anxieties about being single seem to play a key role in these types of unhealthy relationship behaviors.”

Co-author Professor Geoff MacDonald of the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology, said that the team found that men and women have similar concerns about being single, which leads to similar coping behaviors. He added that this contradicts the idea that only women struggle with a fear of being single.

“Loneliness is a painful experience for both men and women, so it’s not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender,” MacDonald said.