3 Vital Things I Learned From Taking A Dating Hiatus
Halfway through 2017, it was proving to be one of the bleakest dating years of my life. After 4.5 back-to-back disappointments, I finally cracked and decided to do something I had said I was going to time and time again — take a break from dating (AKA a dating hiatus). Back in December, I wrote an entire piece about the hiatus, the details of the disappointments that had led me there, and why, so far, it had been the best decision I could've ever made for myself. And guess what? It really was.
I use past tense because the hiatus lifted in February. It wasn't planned. There wasn't a specific day I was waiting for or a certain moment. Actually, I had wanted to wait to become "woke" to the male population again until after my birthday because, for the past at least three birthdays, there's been some sort of huge damper on the celebration because of whoever I was dating at the time. Alas, your girl was getting antsy after six solid months of no nothing, both good and bad. The good? No shaving (literally, I would go weeks. It was incredibly liberating), no tears/anxiety/worry over fuckboys, no waiting by the phone for a reassuring text or Instagram like. The bad? No dates, texts, calls, Instagram likes, flirting, banter, kissing, touching, cuddling, sex and everything in between. I had spent those six months working on myself, my blog, my outlook on dating as a whole, my friendships, and my independence and, although the original plan was to dive back in post-birthday, February presented some seriously spring-like days that filled me with hope, excitement, and inspiration to look really cute and get back out into the world. So I did. I dipped my unpedicured toe back into the frigid, unforgiving dating waters and gave myself time to adjust to the temperature. And here we are.
Now, the important stuff. You know, what I actually learned from pressing pause on dating for six months of my life and what I'll carry forward with me for any future romantic endeavors. So listen up.
YOU HAD A LIFE BEFORE HIM, SO KEEP LIVING IT
I mentioned this in my original post from December, but it took a while for me to realize just how much my boy craziness ruled my life. When you're younger, the naivety of falling hard and fast for a guy is cute and innocent. We all know you're joking when you make proclamations a few days in like "I love him," "He's my husband now," "Our babies would be so beautiful OMG." But I'll be the first to tell you that as you get older, saying this type of stuff about almost every douche you date isn't cute anymore. Your once adorable boy craziness has turned into desperation and, dare I say, a strong outward perception of instability. I've been there 100 times. Ok, maybe not 100, but I've acted that way about enough dudes to realize just how fatal it is for your psyche and usually for the chance of things working out. At the onslaught of a new guy in my life, I would be that girl who would shift her schedule around JUST IN CASE I ended up seeing him. I wouldn't make plans even though people were asking me to because GOD FORBID Johnny Fuckface texted or called. I was so quick to drop my hobbies, my passions, my friends (unforgiveable, tbh), my everything in order to make sure I was available to him whenever HE decided he wanted to see me. Fuck MY schedule, ya know? It was all about making time for his. It was terrible, shameful, foolish behavior but also extremely common because a lot of girls have zero chill when it comes to the inkling of something new.
What my hiatus taught me, though, is not just how unhealthy and douchey that behavior is but also how absolutely critical it is to keep a life of your own OUTSIDE of any romance you may fall into. Some people are more prone than others to drop everything for a new prospect; to pause their entire life at the OFF-CHANCE he MIGHT want to hang out sometime this week. But not even having the option to be distracted by men from August to February opened my smaller, brown eyes to a world in which I poured all of that energy into ME: MY schedule, MY wants, MY desires. It gave me ample time to figure out exactly what makes me tick from day-to-day and week-to-week. To ground myself in how I like to plan my weeks, where I have room and time to break routine, and what goings-on in my life are truly important to me — ones I won't let fall by the wayside because of some weiner. Of course, it's important to make time for a budding something and to show interest in your potential partner's interests, but not to the point where you forget who you are, what you like, and what you want. So next time you find yourself giving a good friend the "let's play it by ear" answer in hopes of Johnny Fuckface asking you out, go ahead and make those brunch plans and dinner plans and weekend getaway plans because saying "I have plans!" is empowering and let's someone know yeah, bitch. That's right. I've got things to do and people to see BESIDES you. But also I'm free next weekend. 😉
THERE'S SO MUCH ELSE TO CRY ABOUT IN LIFE OTHER THAN MEN!
Whoda thunk there is SO much else to lose your cool over outside of men being shitheads! EXPERT TIP: Start weaning off your anti-depressant the same day you decide to take a dating hiatus and buckle your mother fucking seat belt, BITCH! Just kidding. If you can avoid combining the two, definitely do. But also? Not such a bad idea to go through something so difficult and tough on your mental health when you're NOT dating. Actually, scratch what I originally wrote (because I'm too lazy to go back and delete it) — if there's ANY "good" time to deal with something really difficult in your life, aim for when you're on a dating hiatus. That way, you don't even have the threat of some idiot making things 100x worse than they already are.
Anyway, my point with this takeaway is that I thought men were the main source of my crying episodes throughout the years until I took this hiatus and realized there are PLENTY of other things in life that can make you cry as much as guys can! In a twisted way, being able to shift my upset from dating to my actual life was what I needed. I needed to envelope myself in my own, day-to-day situations, dreams, goals, disappointments, failures to fully react to them without using a guy not treating me well as the reason for everything going wrong. I learned that all the energy I usually poured into developing romantic feelings for someone could be just as useful when transferred to my blog, the thoughtfulness of my responses to readers, spending even more QT with my dog by going on longer walks, listening intently to how my friends and family were doing and figuring out how I could help them with their problems instead of focusing on my own that more often than not stemmed from some idiot I shouldn't have been dating in the first place! ::Gasps for breath::
TLDR: My dating hiatus showed me that, while love and lust and like are exciting, they're dangerously easy to succumb to and expend your energy on when there's PLENTY of other shit that deserves your attention, tears, and worry. Life (yours and your friends' and family's) goes on outside of your bubble of frustration, anxiety, and upset. The biggest sign of maturity? Being able to evenly distribute that energy and attention and stay present. Basically, you know how they say men/women will come and go but your family and friends will always be around? YEAH. THAT.
A LIFE FREE OF ROMANTIC DRAMA IS ACTUAL BLISS
Speaking of wasting all your energy on stupid guys and stupid situations, probably my biggest takeaway from this hiatus was that all the minutes and hours I've spent during my adulthood beating myself up about something with a dude, worrying about it, texting all my friends about it, calling my mom about it, not being able to eat/sleep/breathe about it?
NONE OF THEM EVEN DESERVED IT.
Ahem. Sorry for yelling but I just need to be sure you guys hear me. For years, I tried so hard with the wrong guys. Then, when things didn't work out, I'd turn on myself asking what I did or didn't do/say or didn't say that OBVIOUSLY ruined what we had going. Being on a dating break forced me to step back and view my dating history with a vengeance, which ultimately led me to realize
I'VE BEEN DATING MASSIVE ASSHOLES WHO AREN'T RIGHT FOR ME, DUH.
But, more than that, it was the most freeing feeling to know I wasn't in something I shouldn't be. That I wasn't forcing things with a bad guy or even a nice guy who I just didn't like that much. That I wasn't just in something to be in something. I was single and not looking because I made it so, and that felt so fucking great. I didn't have to deal with myself, day-in and day-out, questioning someone's every move, text, facial expression. I didn't have to drive myself crazy wondering why I hadn't heard from them or what that wink meant (was it sarcastic or flirtatious?). I could just be until I was ready not to be.
Of course I had bad days (I'm human and also me). Weaning off anti-depressants during this time didn't help at all. There were times I'd find myself in a sunken place, unable to climb back out for days or even weeks at a time. I'd think about eventually having to "put myself out there" and actively choose to be on the prowl again and, maybe inevitably, choose to be hurt again. I'd think about how hard it was gonna be because I had made a vow with myself that I will meet someone the old fashioned way: No apps. No websites. Just out and about, in the real world, naturally. But I realized there was no time limit. This dating hiatus had no expiration or due date. I could let it go on as long as I wanted or end it whenever I wanted. For the first time probably ever, I felt in total control of my romantic life and it was bliss.
The last nugget I'll leave you guys with is a mantra my therapist actually gave me when I had decided to dive back into the dating scene. As someone who over analyzes everything I or others do and say, she knew I would need a powerful phrase to slap me back when I started spiraling during my renewed adventure into romance, and this is what she gave me:
If it's meant to be mine,
nothing I do or say will spoil it.
It has worked wonders. It's a relinquishing of control which, although terrifying for a control freak like myself, has been ironically calming. It has helped me to stop myself in particularly anxious, analytical moments and remind myself that if it's supposed to work out, no text, emoji, glance, movement, touch, reaction, nothing will ruin it. That all I can do is be myself, act naturally, and let the chips fall where they may because I can't control it anyway. And that's a powerful fucking feeling, y'all.