What abstaining from romantic love taught me about myself.
A while ago, I ended an unhealthy relationship and decided to give dating a wide berth for the foreseeable future. That turned out to be 18 months. I made the decision not out of bitterness or because I didn’t want to love again, and not even because my heart had received a sucker punch. It definitely had (multiple times).
But I realized that after my last relationship, I didn’t recognize myself. I felt so far removed from the person I wanted to be. I knew I needed to get to know myself, not a man.
Women spend so much time learning who we’re supposed to be that we forget to pay attention to who we actually are. The fear of being alone drives us towards men with whom we are ultimately (and sometimes glaringly) incompatible.
And one day it occurred to me that I was unfit to be anyone’s partner until I could stand to be myself.
Step 1: Face down my own emotions
I took some time to feel what I hadn’t let myself feel: all of the pain, abandonment, insecurity, etc. that had accumulated throughout my adult life. It socked me in the jaw. But I faced it down and began dealing with it. At first, I was terrified. I felt the suffocating loneliness of dating withdrawals. I panicked when, with no one else around, I stood face to face with my own demons.
But here’s the incredible thing: it didn’t last forever. After a few months, I learned new, healthier ways to deal with loneliness. The negative voices gradually softened. Like exercising a new muscle, my confidence and sense of self-worth strengthened.
Step 2: Date myself
It started with simply learning to be with myself. I took long walks and I thought. I took time to do exactly what I wanted to do. I wrote a novel. I read my favorite authors and watched my favorite films. I realized that while I love company, I don’t necessarily need it to be happy. Everything I need is already contained within me. Self-soothing is a wonderful skill we somehow acquire as babies and promptly forget once we reach adulthood. I’m proud to say I rediscovered it.
Step 3: Rekindle platonic love
Then I focused on my platonic relationships. I received so much more love than I could ever have anticipated. My friend recently told me I’m much easier to be around now than I was a year and a half ago. Taking this time to clear my own head opened up myriad possibilities — I cultivated friendships and relationships with family that I had neglected, began a new career path that I had dreamed of but never had the courage to pursue, and above all, in committing my love to those dear to me, I learned how to love myself.
Step 4: Set new #relationshipgoals
Affirming my choice not to date was liberating. I know now that if and when I do enter into a new relationship, I will do so as a more capable and compassionate partner. I also learned that I’m fine being alone. I faced my demons and came out alive.
There were times when I miss being kissed. I miss holding a man’s hand or the back-and-forth repartee that accompanies a first date. But I also recognize that it’s worth waiting for. I refuse to accept anything less than exactly what I want.
If it’s not out there, so be it. I’ll be ok. I have friends and family who love and support me. I have a new career that constantly challenges and rewards me. I’m enough.