If you’re thinking of taking a break from dating “to focus on yourself,” you’re doing yourself a big disservice. You’re also lying.
Why? Because no matter how many reasons or justifications you have for needing a break, at the end of the day, not going out on dates because you “want a break” is little more than fear dressed as empowerment. Sure, it sounds like a well-thought out decision, perhaps even spiritually evolved…which is why it often escapes without scrutiny.
Not that you don’t have excuses to back it up, because we all do: Work is crazy. My cat is sick. I want to renovate. I’m emotionally exhausted. I want to read more.
What you’d really like to do is pretend you’re not looking for a great relationship. You’d like to be off the clock. So that if someone asks you what’s doin’ in the love department, you can say, “Oh, I took a break from that.” Bang. You’re officially unaccountable. Free. Which isn’t that different from: “I’m taking a break from eating healthy, which is why I’m devouring an entire chocolate torte.”
What this is is very clever self-delusion.
(Granted,you may also be suffering from the delusion that fate alone will make love happen. Read here why this is a horrible way to approach love.)
Here’s what you ACTUALLY need a break from when you get to the “Need a break” precipice:
Dating isn’t nearly as hard as the story you tell yourself about it, and the pressure you heap on it. Two people can go on the same date at the same time, and the one who beats herself up more will have a far less satisfying time. The fun of dating comes from the sense of adventure—and a detachment from the outcome.
I know that seems counterintuitive when what you want IS the outcome (i.e., a wonderful relationship with someone who adores you), but it’s that very pressure that sabotages the dater. What you need isn’t a break from dating, but a break from the scary high expectations you have and your own harsh self-judgment.
TRY THIS INSTEAD:
Make connection, not perfection, the goal. Screw finding your soul mate on every date — this is a recipe for disappointment. Go into any and every interaction, whether it’s a formal date or not, with an air of adventure and curiosity. What can you learn about this person, and yourself, in the process? How does it feel to connect with other people, to flirt with them and enjoy their company, regardless of what may follow?
Toggling the on/off switch
Your problem is you believe you’re either “dating” or you’re “not dating.” But that’s not how life works. Or love. And if you want to be open to it, wherever you may find it, there’s no reason to hang up a “Sorry, we’re closed” sign. You can go on a date a week, or a date every few weeks and still be “dating.” No need to make a formal announcement that you’re “not dating right now,” which is little more than your attempt to be excused from risk and effort.
If you believe you can only focus on yourself when dating is switched into OFF mode, then how exactly do you think you’ll keep yourself from abandoning yourself wholly when and if you enter a committed relationship? Which, I’m guessing, is what you want?
If the most noncommittal form of connection—dating–causes you to lose focus on yourself, then your bigger concern should be how you’ll maintain that critical balance when and if things do get more serious. The time to practice that balance is now, not later.
TRY THIS INSTEAD:
Pace yourself. You may feel you need to call off the dogs because you’re just too damn tired. So stop booking 3-4 dates week every week. Maybe one is enough for you, maybe two. I have a rule myself, which is no more than two first dates in a week. Those first ones require a particular brand of energy, and you want to be fresh for those. So space them out. No one said you had to be a weekend warrior. If you don’t make time for yourself while you’re dating, you actually won’t be much fun TO date.
Thinking he’ll show up when you’re not looking
I hate this advice. It’s the romantic equivalent of “Don’t think of a white elephant.” If meeting a partner, lover, boyfriend, etc., is something you really want, you don’t stop looking. This makes no sense.
And yet, this is what women tell each other. Your friends tell you to stop looking, because “that’s exactly how they met their boyfriends.” Unfortunately, what they’re telling you is causally incorrect. It wasn’t the “not looking” that made it happen. It was the not needing, the not obsessing. Closing your eyes to what you really want is the worst idea ever. Quitting dating doesn’t make you better at dating, and certainly doesn’t help you meet people you could really like.
TRY THIS INSTEAD:
Engage, don’t obsess. Let go of your attachment to the idea of how things will or should turn out. That is what’s making you mental. When someone tells you she met the love of her life when she wasn’t even looking, she means she was living her life, not looking to the universe to fill a void. She wasn’t predicting doom or anticipating failure or hating herself for being single. As a result, she was able to be open and engage with other people without a white-knuckled need for This to Be the One.
That’s what you should be doing. When you care for yourself and focus on your life while you stay engaged and open to the people around you, connection becomes an option and a joy. It’s the difference between looking for someone to save you from your life—and looking for someone to share it with.
A WORD ON FOCUS:
You also view dating as the opposite of focusing on yourself. Actually, dating is all about you. What you like, what you want, who appeals to you. You take a break from cleaning the gutters on a 90-degree day. You don’t take a break from meeting people unless you seal yourself off in an ashram. Pretty sure you’re not doing that.
Because it seems to me that if you lose a grip on yourself during the dating process, then you’ll either expect that it gets easier in a relationship (wrong again) or that you won’t mind (again, no). In fact, dating is the best time to practice what it means to connect with others AND maintain a connection with yourself.