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How the Fear of Losing Independence Impacts Relationships

This could be the key to understanding your relationship patterns.

Key points

  • The fear of losing independence may develop in someone who grew up with overbearing caretakers or whose needs were not met in childhood.
  • A heightened need for independence may manifest in dating as a tendency to fixate on a partner's flaws or claim "something is missing."
  • After a person becomes aware of their fear of losing independence, a therapist can help shift the pattern.
StoryTime Studio/Shutterstock
StoryTime Studio/Shutterstock

If you consciously want a relationship but continue to find that you’re getting a different result, you may be surprised to learn that you could have an underlying fear of losing your independence. What is often perceived as a fear of commitment is typically a fear of losing yourself in a relationship. Those who place a high value on having space in their relationships and fear losing their independence may have an avoidant or fearful-avoidant attachment style.

Your attachment style is the blueprint for the partners you are drawn to and how you relate in your relationships. Research has demonstrated that the relationship you had with your primary caregivers as a child helps shape your attachment style.

The fear of losing your independence may develop as a result of growing up in a family where your independence was stifled and you felt a loss of control due to overbearing caretakers or growing up in a home where your emotional needs weren’t met and you learned early on to rely on yourself.

If you experienced such circumstances growing up, you may have developed the belief that it’s not safe to trust that others will meet your needs. As a result, you may have developed a heightened need for independence as an attempt to protect yourself and cope with an environment you didn’t have control over growing up. This coping strategy may have helped you survive your environment growing up but may be getting in the way of meaningful relationships you desire as an adult.

The fear of losing your independence will often become more apparent once you start to grow closer to someone and have difficulty allowing yourself to trust that they will meet your needs since it didn’t feel safe to do so in the past.

Signs that this fear is affecting your relationships

If you’ve been single for long stretches of time despite a desire to be in a relationship, consider the following signs that this fear could be impacting your dating patterns:

  1. You find superficial reasons to dismiss suitable partners.
  2. You begin to distance yourself as soon as you start to grow closer to someone. As a result, you may find yourself continuously keeping others at arm’s length and remaining single for long periods of time.
  3. You may find that the closer you become with someone, the more you focus on wanting your space and independence.
  4. You may be frequently drawn to partners with whom you know deep down there is no future with. You may also be attracted to partners with an opposing fear (the fear of being alone) and then start to distance yourself once you begin to grow closer to them.
  5. Once the relationship becomes more intimate, the fear of losing your independence may take hold more strongly and you may find yourself fixating on your partner’s perceived flaws in an effort to distance yourself from them and support your argument that they’re not the right match for you.
  6. This fear can show up in thoughts such as, “I don’t feel the chemistry or sparks I’m looking for,” “Something is missing,” or thoughts that consist of idealizing a previous relationship and comparing your current partner to your ex.

The first step to overcoming this fear and learning how to respond to it is being aware of the ways how the fear of losing your independence impacts your relationships. If you are in need of additional support, working with a therapist who can be a helpful guide during this process can assist you in shifting your relationship patterns.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition or well-being.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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