I’ll admit: I have a habit of letting relationships consume me. I’m naturally a nurturer (can I blame this on my Cancer venus?) so when I date someone, I give it my absolute all. Whether it’s a casual courtship or a serious relationship, I find myself doing everything in my power to make that person happy. Great news for them, but exhausting for me.
After my last serious relationship, I came to a stark realization: I had no idea who I was anymore. All of my life decisions to this point were influenced by whoever I was dating at the time. The ensuing existential crisis ultimately inspired me to try taking a year off from dating. Here’s what I learned.
How To Be Alone
When you’re in a relationship, you get used to always having companionship, even for the most mundane activities. Dining out, taking trips, even grocery shopping are all things that I would do with a partner. The thought of eating alone or going to a bar by myself just seemed … sad. I had to at least have my friends with me … right? But what happens when your friends are busy? It’s true: time waits for no one. I had to ask myself: am I really going to miss out on life experiences just because there’s no one else to do it with me?
I started taking myself on dates, I planned my own day trips, and I made reservations for myself. You heard that right maître d’: reservation for one please. Soon I realized just how powerful being alone can be. When you are comfortable doing things by yourself, there’s no longer anything holding you back from living your life to the fullest.
“Am I really going to miss out on life experiences just because there’s no one to do it with me?”
How To Appreciate Myself
While I was dating, I felt super confident. When I was single, I became my own worst critic. Alone, I would suddenly notice every “flaw” on my body and decide that I needed to join a gym. I would start comparing myself to others and punish myself for not being more successful or working harder. Imposter syndrome would kick in hard and make me doubt my own skills. I realized that my self-esteem was rooted in my partner’s view of me. My confidence was a direct reflection of how someone else made me feel. But what happens to that confidence when the source of it is no longer around?
While I was taking a year off from dating, I rebuilt that confidence for myself. I practiced positive affirmations and rewarded myself for accomplishments, no matter how big or small. I learned to appreciate and value myself. Now I recognize my worth, without a partner.
How To Be Selfish
In relationships, we make a lot of compromises and sacrifices. Sometimes, we compromise so much that we forget what we originally wanted. During one long-distance relationship, I planned on uprooting my life and moving in with that person in a new city. After we broke up, it was like a blindfold came off. Even though I loved that person, I had no desire to live in that city. It forced me to take a step back and realize that what I want mattered too. It was okay to prioritize my desires.
I reevaluated my life goals and promised myself I would not give them up for anyone. The word selfish usually has a negative connotation. But after my year off from dating, I viewed this word in a new way. Being selfish doesn’t always translate into not caring about others. Selfishness, when practiced in a positive way, can just mean putting yourself first. After all, it is your life.
Do I recommend taking a year off from dating? Absolutely. It gave me the time I needed to date myself. When I was ready to date again, I felt ready to find someone whose life plan aligned with mine, so that I wouldn’t have to sacrifice my dreams and desires. But the best thing I walked away with? Finally learning how to love myself unconditionally.