After one too many bad dates and way too many hours spent mindlessly swiping, I decided enough was enough. I was burnt out so I decided to take a dating hiatus. It turned out to be the best thing I ever could have done.
- I desperately needed a change. Do you know that old saying about how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? I was guilty of it for way too long until I sniffled my last tear and thought, “You know what? Screw this!” Something had to change. I was the girl who bounced from relationship to relationship since college and I was tired of falling for people and getting heartbroken. Hell, I even got married at one point (but that’s a whole other story). I decided right then and there that I needed a serious break from dating.
- I set some ground rules. First, I decided to swear off dating apps for at least six months. Second, I wanted to limit self-destructive behaviors. The damage had been done with the Ben & Jerry’s but I could at least stave off the more serious ones like binge drinking and risky one-night stands. Next, I wanted to figure out what I liked to do. Maybe that sounds a little obvious, but I was so concerned with what made my partners happy that I completely forgot about my own happiness. Finally, I wanted to get brutally, disgustingly honest about my mental health during this rocky time.
- I started dating myself. I didn’t want to lose the joy of a specially planned evening doing something I love with someone I love, so I didn’t. I instead chose to have date nights with myself and with my friends. I would plan nights out at The Met, wine and cheese nights, movie nights and more. It sounded (and even felt) a little lame at first but it ended up becoming one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I looked forward to the date nights with myself and friends even more than I ever did for my date nights with partners. I felt a sense of real contentment, joy, and community during those nights. It also felt like I was taking care of me and my mental health for the first time in over a decade.
- I learned to love myself again. My life had become so intertwined with my partners’ lives over the years that I forgot how to be my own person. During my dating sabbatical, I took time every day to ask myself, “What can I do to show myself I am enough and deserving of love?” I would write the answers down in a notebook and go back and read them regularly. Even though the first few weeks it sucked and felt super cheesy, it gradually started to get easier and made me feel like I was putting myself and my needs as a priority instead of giving everything away to others and leaving nothing for myself. Now, every so often I catch a little look of myself in the mirror or in a picture and think, “Damn, girl, you are looking better than ever!”
- I learned some surprising things about myself. When I started to put my wants and needs first, I discovered there was so much that I never knew about myself. For example, I crave alone time and need it regularly to balance my mental health. Being alone is no longer my biggest fear and I discovered I really enjoy writing (which I never thought was worth pursuing before). It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself when you’re not investing all of your time and energy into someone else’s hopes and dreams.
- I let myself struggle. You may be thinking this sounds all wonderful and picturesque, but where’s the catch? Well, there’s only one but it’s major: you will still struggle. Why? Because healing and processing difficult situations like an intense breakup with no closure are not linear. You may be thinking, “Hey, I’m really kicking butt at this whole ‘getting over them’ thing!” and then BAM! You’re a sobbing mess because you heard “your song” on Spotify. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself. Healing is like a spiral; you come back to similar themes and feelings, but each time they’re a little different. Each one helps you process the heartbreak in a new and better way.
- I broke some of the rules I’d set for myself. So I know I mentioned above about setting some ground rule, but I’m a firm believer in making the rules work for you and not working for the rules. If a ground rule you set earlier in your sabbatical isn’t working anymore, get rid of it or change it. I set a ground rule of not dating for a year when I started my sabbatical but after six months, that didn’t really feel like it was working for me anymore. I was meeting more new people and feeling good about sustaining my wants and needs while feeling open to letting new people in my life.
- I’ve learned to love dating again. Since then I’ve had a few dates and while they didn’t lead to anything long-term, I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people and have stayed friends with a couple of them as well. I’ve also learned how to be better at communicating when I need alone time or when something isn’t working for me in a dating situation. I don’t think I would have ever taken the time to get to know myself or my wants and needs if I hadn’t gotten tired of jumping from relationship to relationship.