Staying With Your Partner Out Of Fear Or Out Of Love

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There is an uncomfortable truth that many rarely admit to themselves, let alone anyone else, which is that they continue to stay in their romantic relationships not out of love but out of fear.

We don’t mean fear in the abusive sense, but rather fear of what life would be like without their accustomed anchors. They fear loneliness and being alone, they fear what it will be like to no longer get certain needs and desires met, they fear being solely responsible for their lives and their choices.

What we have here in terms of behavioral psychology are relationships primarily defined by negative reinforcements, meaning the behavior of staying together is prompted by wanting to avoid aversives like loneliness and uncertainty. Motivation, conscious or unconscious, is centered around protection from unwanted stimuli rather than exposure to wanted stimuli.

This is a really unfortunate situation for both partners in the relationship because any scenario dominated by negative reinforcements is bound to be unhappy and anxiety inducing. A lot of resentment will show up, both in the partner being used as a protector against negative reinforcements since recognition of being used will exist at some level of awareness, and in the partner doing the using since expansive needs aren’t getting fulfilled, there aren’t any perceived positive reinforcements in play but only negative reinforcements being kept at bay.