Is it Love or a Need to Be in a Relationship?

In evaluating relationship, have you ever been with someone, and a nagging question kept popping up for you about your motives? Perhaps the question went something like this: ‘am I in this relationship because I love him/her, or because I just don’t want to be alone?’

Such questions are unsettling. They remind us that, as much as we’d like to think we have complete insight about our own minds, there are sometimes hidden motives that may not show themselves to us willingly. A nagging suspicion here or an unsettled feeling there may be our only clues that something is awry.

So how can we tell whether we are simply filling a lonely void with a warm body or if this is actually love?

There is not an exact science to making this determination, but there are some things to consider.

How long have I gone without a relationship?

Sometimes looking honestly at our own patterns of behavior over time can tell us a lot about our underlying motives. Are you a serial monogamist, who jumps from one relationship right into another? If so, this suggests a fear of being alone versus a focus on true connection and love.

when evaluation a relationship ask yourself, is my connection to this person emotional, physical, mental/cognitive or none of the above?

If you were to put a percentage of your feelings about this person into these categories, which would have the greatest ratio? How do the other categories compare?

If you were to lose that one category, would there be enough substance to the relationship to sustain you?

Is my relationship based on want or need?

A relationship borne out of need is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, as there is a dependence on another person for a feeling of completeness.

Relationships that are ‘chosen’ are not desperate in that same way and are less anxiety provoking. That’s not to say that loving relationships are devoid of anxiety, but it isn’t the primary motivator to stay together.

Do I see this relationship lasting?

When you think about your relationship, does it seem like it is durable enough for the long-term? Can you picture yourself being with this person for a long time?

If you were to choose between staying with this person and knowing there is someone else out there that is your “ideal” that you would later meet, would you stay? Could it be that this person is a placeholder for a true connection and real love?

Am I guarded against love?

If you have faced a lot of emotional pain from past relationships, you may be guarded against love and struggle to recognize it when it shows up.

Do you find yourself trying not to have loving or adoring thoughts about your partner at times? Do you find that you are generally distrustful of your own judgment as a result of past relationship pains?

Love is a complex, beautiful emotion.

Sometimes our own minds can provide a false alarm about love, and often we end up second guessing our own thoughts and feelings.

when evaluating a relationship, take time to explore your true intentions and inner feelings.

if you discover that you are in a relationship based on not wanting to be alone, be gentle and compassionate with yourself.

There are lots of reasons people end up in relationships such as this and it doesn’t mean you are defective or weak.

Couples’ counseling can be a helpful way to evaluating a relationship and explore these thoughts and feelings and to help untangle the variety of emotions that relationships inevitably bring.

Most importantly, love yourself. That is where all loving relationships truly begin.


  • Dr. Teyhou Smyth

    Performance Coach, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Keynote Speaker, Licensed Therapist (#115137)

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