I have always thought the idea of “dating yourself” was a bit laughable and weird, but sometimes I like to be a walking contradiction so I decided to try it for myself. Contrary to the fantastically liberating stories I had heard from girls who did this and found out just how spectacular they were, my experience was a series of scary and enlightening revelations.
I wasn’t present when I spent time with people.
Before I started dating myself, I’d been going on several dates per week and was socializing several nights a week with friends on top of that. I thought I was being generous with my time because I was spending so much of it with other people and in reality, I’d prefer to be at home on my own with a good book. However, I realized that when I was with friends or on a date, I was thinking about being somewhere else or subconsciously felt like I was doing them a favor by spending my precious time with them. When I took a break from all of this busy-ness, I realized it’s actually more selfish to be half-present than to be honest with my friends and take that alone time I needed during the week. I found that with the right boundaries, I could be completely present and in-the-moment when I did go out.
Being single was a choice.
It’s easy to think that you’re unlucky in love or can’t find the right guy and to start playing the victim. When I decided to take a break from dating and took a good look at my previous relationships, I realized that the ones I thought had ended because the guy wasn’t into me actually had totally different problems. I looked back at my conversations with the last three guys I dated and realized I’d either ghosted or ended things over text with every one of them. I realized that the story in my head about how they all broke up with me was actually the opposite, and in fact, I made the choices that have brought me where I am today.
My heart was set on my career.
I’m an extremely focused person… until I fall in love. It’s easy for me to set and accomplish goals until I get distracted by a crush or a new fling. Then I end up slacking off, which infuriates me to the point where I cut things off with the person I’m seeing even if I still like them. When I took a break from dating, I realized how much my heart was set on accomplishing certain goals in my career and that I was only ever half-invested in my relationships because of it.
I was confusing mystery with honesty.
I’m an INTJ personality type, which means that I have a tendency to keep a lot of personal details to myself and I like to maintain some mystery in relationships. This can be a good thing unless you confuse being mysterious with being honest. When I took a break from dating to work on some things in my life that I didn’t like, I realized that I hadn’t been completely honest in my last relationship. There were times I remember lying to him about how happy I was even though I knew (and he could probably tell) that it was all a cover-up to hide the fact that I was miserable with certain aspects of my life.
I had to find “me” before there could be a “we.”
One of the first “dates” I took myself on was a solo trip to Paris and London. I’d just ended things with a guy, quit a job I didn’t like, and decided to stop being miserable with everything in my life and actually do something about it. I’d never been out of the country and had always wanted to go to Europe, so I bought a one-way ticket and traveled throughout London and Paris for two weeks. There, I wrote, went to bookstores, got my first tattoo, and sat in cafes with a view of the Eiffel Tower. I realized I’d been so dissatisfied with certain parts of my life that I hadn’t been able to give the best of myself to a relationship. I’d stopped being creative, bold, and independent, and I’d let circumstances dictate my life. I knew I had to get good at being myself again before I would have anything of quality to offer in a relationship.
Chemistry is just one ingredient. When I took time to get to know myself again, I remembered what I like about myself. My tastes, preferences, personality, and sense of humor are important to me and are the same rubric I use to determine if I like a guy. Physical attributes are just one component of a vast and radiant display of a person’s uniqueness. Chemistry is necessary and great, but if it’s all we have in common, it’s never going to last.
I had the wrong motives.
I realized that when I dated guys in the past, I’d always tell myself that I was just having fun and didn’t want anything serious but deep down, I knew that what I really wanted was a forever person. My motives in dating were misaligned with what I really wanted in life, which caused me to cut guys off as soon as I realized that they weren’t “The One.”
I wanted quality over quantity.
Right before I started dating myself, I’d gone on the most dates of my life within a three month period of time. I won’t kiss and tell, but let’s just say that Charli XCX song “Boys” was the theme song of my summer. When I took my trip abroad and gained some much-needed perspective, I remembered that what I really want, and what I’ve always wanted, is a relationship that’s much much more exciting and a lot healthier than a short-lived summer fling.
A better friend = a better girlfriend.
Chances are that if you know how to be a great friend, you are (or will make) a great girlfriend. If you’re a good listener, are generous with your time, and know how to speak your mind (with love), you’re probably a great friend. All of the time and energy I invested in myself reminded me that I wanted to work on becoming a better friend and the type of person I would want to date. I worked on my thoughts, my self-talk, and my self-care, and on becoming better in every way I could. While I recognize that self-improvement is a lifelong journey, I always want to be improving. There’s no better way to be a friend than to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
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