How Fear of Loneliness Affects What We Do for Love

By Ariel C. Williams

Why do Black women feel pressured to go against what they want in order to please their men? In a recent interview with People, actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd admitted that she’d done this exact thing regarding her decision to birth a child through surrogacy with ex-husband Lamar Sally. Shepherd and Sally are currently in a custody battle over a one-year-old child whom she’s legally responsible for. However, she says she only followed through with the process to prevent her then husband from leaving her.

She told People, “My situation was a sense of, I didn’t state what I needed and what I wanted and what I didn’t want for being scared of somebody leaving the relationship.” As a result of not expressing her desires, Shepherd is now responsible for monthly child support payments for a child that she doesn’t seem to (or want to) have a relationship with. She continued with, “There are consequences to everything, but I was scared to say, ‘That’s not going to work for me. I don’t want that.’”

I went to Facebook and asked the aforementioned question: Why do [Black] women go against what they want and/or need in relationships in order to please their men? The overwhelming response was that these women settle for reasons such as financial instability, emotional instability, insecurity, lack of spiritual foundation, desperation, and because of a woman’s intrinsic aptness to care. Some women are groomed in girlhood to remain loyal amid unhappiness when dealing with men while others lack self-worth. The most pressing response, however, was that women neglect their needs for their partner’s due to a fear of loneliness.

Shepherd’s settling stemmed from not wanting to be alone. University of Toronto post-doctoral researcher Stephanie Spielmann conducted seven different studies that focused on the fear of loneliness and how it affects relationships. Spielmann found several results:

“The researchers first set out to establish whether fear of loneliness was a common occurrence. Of 153 participants in one study, 40 percent said they feared not having a long term companion, 18 percent said they feared ‘spinsterhood,’ 12 percent feared losing a current partner, 11 percent feared growing old alone, 7 percent feared never having children and a family, 7 percent said they'd feel worthless if alone, 4 percent feared negative judgements from others and 0.7 percent said any relationship (even if horrible) was better than none. 
“The researchers then wanted to know how this fear affects behavior in romantic relationships. Again using online surveys (some which included thousands of participants), they discovered that, due to a fear of being alone, people tended to either stay in unhealthy relationships or settle for partners who were not ideal.”
Black women often feel pressure to suppress their desires in order to be seen as viable partners for men. It seems that regardless of a woman’s affluence, education or desire to coexist in a safe, loving relationship, most will illogically compromise in a near dead relationship for the sake of being in one. A sense of “paying dues” in hopes that things will get better is what seems to keep the possibility of being alone at bay. In trying to keep her marriage together, Shepherd ignored her needs, only to have the consequence of that action manifest into her greatest fear: being alone or divorce. To add, an innocent child, now a year old, has been injected into a public, “nasty custody battle” they didn’t ask to be a part of.

Despite her painful year, Shepherd remains positive. In fact, she wants to share her experience with women just like her – those who constantly compromise their self-worth to keep a man around. “I do want to do a book for women about stepping past fear,” she said. “I think it would help a lot of women who are in this place of being scared to walk away, but right now I am just laying low and letting time do its work.”

The release date of her book is yet to be determined. While I’m sure it will be informative and allow women to heal from the guilt of compromising their non-negotiable desires, the lesson here is simple: never allow someone’s presence to dominate your actions.

Photo: Getty Images

Ariel C. Williams is an entrepreneur, freelance writer and author of The Girl Talk Chronicles: Advice on How to Manage Love, Lust & Situations (Amazon). Talk about life, love and goals with her on Twitter @ArielSaysNow or her blog.

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