Why It's Okay to Take A Break from Dating in Your Twenties
Sometimes society seems to equate making the most of our young adult years with meeting new dating partners – but there’s also a lot to be said for getting to know ourselves better through the non-romantic relationships we already have. Think about it: how much time do you spend on dating apps or at parties where you’re hoping that the night will end with a new, promising number in your phone? Always the hopeless romantic, I used to think, “Today could be the day my fairytale begins.” But who says that the fairytale can only begin once you’ve met your special someone?
Admittedly, I used to be somewhat of a serial monogamist, going from one committed relationship to the next, with only a short amount of time in between. While relationships made me feel like part of a unit, something bigger than myself that grounded me in this world, I realized that I needed to take a step back. Growing up, I watched/read many movies and teen magazines that encouraged their audiences to give every guy a chance because hey, ya never know if they could wind up being Mr. Right. That kind of message both delighted me and frightened me. Never wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I found myself not wanting to turn anyone down. I was always flattered when a guy was interested in me, so I tried to make things work, even if they weren’t meant to work.
I learned the (very) hard way that having standards is actually an act of necessity rather than cruelty. I often found myself fighting the same fights with these guys because of what I felt many of them had in common: too thoughtless, too narrow-minded, too angry all the time. Now, as I have been embarking on this dating hiatus, I’ve thought a lot about what I am looking for in my next (and ideally last! #HopelessRomantic, remember?) relationship. Basically, I would like to meet a golden retriever in male human form, someone who is extremely loyal, cuddly, always excited about food, outwardly loving, likes being in nature, and isn’t afraid to act silly sometimes. I haven’t yet heard of a book-loving intellectual golden retriever, however, that also enjoys writing the occasional love letter, but preferably one of those, yes…
If you’ve also been considering taking a break from the dating scene, here is your sign to go for it! During this time away, I’ve discovered that there are so many other areas of our lives in which love can also be found. Making healthy changes in these areas will positively impact our lives so much, that they will undoubtedly prepare us to become better partners when we do finally decide to get back out there and venture into the world of dating once again. We can use this time to do the following:
Improve relationships with friends.
Unlike major compatibility issues in romantic relationships, friendships can sometimes end over incredibly petty reasons. Maybe one of you would always accidentally sleep through lunch dates in college, or one of you adored partying on weekend nights while the other always demanded board games and pizza instead. Over time, we can look back and reflect on what went wrong: sometimes, all it would have taken was a simple tweak of your mindset to acknowledge that we all have our differences, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Try reaching out to some ex-pals from your past whose friendships you wish hadn’t fizzled out of your life. Who knows, maybe this time around Friendship 2.0 can be stronger than it was the first time! Becoming more tolerant is an essential skill to develop because nobody is “perfect” all the time, and your romantic partner won’t be, either.
Reconnect with your family members.
Not everyone can relate to sayings like “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” We all have those family members who are supposed to share our genes but when we interact with them, we’re thinking, How the heck are we related!? Well, now is the time to figure out how to best interact. It’s not that the love isn’t there; rather, it’s that understanding is missing. Take the time to figure out how to best communicate with one another, and then you can sit back and watch as heartache and stress dissolves from your life. You’ll finally feel a sense of deep comfort and security that is so, so worth it. Practicing communication skills here can later be utilized in a romantic partnership where emotions can certainly run just as high.
Get out of your comfort zone by doing “date” activities solo.
Are you the type of person who is too afraid to go by yourself to eat at a restaurant or hit up a local museum? Well, now’s the time to get over that, friend! Once you start solo-venturing, as I like to call it, you’ll begin wondering how you ever used to feel self-conscious. No one is thinking that you’re a friendless loser for being alone – and you shouldn’t be thinking that about yourself, either (ahem, because it’s just not true!). That being said, if you don’t find yourself very good company for whatever reason, you can take this time to work on that before you enter into your next relationship, where you will be somebody else’s company.
Learn that taking care of yourself is not indulgent.
When it comes to emotional nourishment, great options include journaling, meditation, yoga, making art (whichever form you like best!), and cooking plant-based meals for which no animals were harmed. Taking care of your physical body, whether you do so by using whatever facemask the Internet currently swears by or through sweating it out on the treadmill at the gym, isn’t being narcissistic. It’s kind of hard to be self-loathing when you give yourself a weekly mani-pedi, ya know? I used to feel so indulgent if I would do these things that couldn’t be put onto a resume, written proof of their importance and worth. I would think to myself after hours upon hours of working, plagued with guilt and shame: Shouldn’t I still be getting ahead with work, either grad school homework or my side-hustle as a freelance writer? But if all we do is work, our energy levels will be constantly depleted and then we will be grumpy, which isn’t fun for anyone. I eventually realized (and am now able to appreciate) that the nurturing acts mentioned above are simply ways for us to show love to ourselves, much like how we would show our love to a romantic partner. Through self-care, we can present our best selves to the world, thus making it a better place to live, play, explore, and create! And this naturally attracts the right partners for us into our lives.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Windrose Magazine issue 2 is almost finished!
In issue 2, you’ll find articles like:
- "On Heartbreak and Healing"
- "The Poison of Perfectionism"
- "In Defense of Loneliness"
- "How Corporate Killed My Creativity And How I Got It Back"
- "On What It Means to Matter: An Interview with Author Hannah Brencher"
And so much more—all real life stories to assure you that you’re not alone as you navigate life in your twenties.
We need your help!
In support of Windrose issue 2, we’ve launched a Kickstarter!