“So, how did it feel taking a break from dating for 3 years?” said this guy I just met one afternoon on a beach somewhere in Bali.
For the past two hours, we have been talking about everything, but when it came to dating, just like every guy I’ve met before, they were quite surprised.
I was 19 when I had my worst issue with my self-esteem. I desperately wanted to be loved and after so many heartbreaks since high school, I was done.
I was done feeling like my life revolves around the guy I was currently dating. I was done with the drama, and I was done seeing myself so low and unworthy.
Being so young and had no clue about having a healthy relationship, I’d just say ‘yes’ to whoever gave me attention. It didn’t take long until the attention and compliments couldn’t cure my insecurity anymore.
So, one day after class, I decided to call the guy I was dating and called it off.
And, for the next 3 years, I stayed single.
It was liberating, free but scary at the same time. There are definitely precious lessons I’ve learned in those 3 years and I’m so glad I took the long break.
If you are still wondering whether you need to just stop dating for a while and take time getting to know yourself, I’d highly recommend doing so.
Here are things I learned during those years, in the hope they can inspire you, too.
1. I don’t need someone to make me feel “complete”
Before I used to think that somehow life will not be complete if we don’t end up in a relationship. I thought it was everything you need.
This old mindset of mine mainly came from the place where I grew up. People in my village think that unless you are getting married and have kids, you aren’t considered as “successful” — no matter how much money you have.
So I had stuck with it for too long until I moved out and explored different parts of the world.
Later I learned that I don’t have to be in a relationship if I don’t want to. There’s always an option and I find it liberating. I no longer had the need to think that my life is dull without a boyfriend because I’m okay with being alone too.
2. Being alone isn’t as bad as it sounds
I used to feel scared by the idea of being alone. It made me feel like my life is boring, lame, and incomplete. And I didn’t want people to see me that way.
But that mindset changed drastically after I took the break. Turned out I happened to do more things I would never do if I was in a relationship. I spent more time working on myself which later on has successfully helped me get into a healthier relationship with my current partner.
3. Working on myself become a priority
Taking a break from dating made me learn that working as yourself is constant work, and to have a healthy relationship I need to make sure I’m mentally emotionally stable and fully know myself first.
As somebody who used to invest too much time in someone else’s life, this is one of the hardest things I needed to do.
If you just started on the self-love journey, don’t worry you aren’t alone. Loving ourselves for who we truly are isn’t easy but after a while, things just get easier.
4. I value my family & my friends even more
Reconnecting with my family and friends became the highlight of my day. It felt nice to find another type of happiness that isn’t solely come from being in a relationship.
Because too many times, when we make ourselves busy with thinking and analyzing our relationship, we tend to neglect the friendships we have, which actually they are just as much important as our relationship.
5. I know what I want for my next relationship
If you asked me 5 years ago what do I want in my relationship? I wouldn’t know the answer. Or maybe I would mumble something like, “guy with attention and constant reassurance.”
Taking the break let me be clear about what I really need when I’m in one, now I know that trust, compassion, and respect are the foundations to have a healthy working relationship.
I no longer need a guy who compliments me 24/7 but doesn’t let me go out with my friends because he doesn’t trust me. Those days are long gone.
While I didn’t think my decision would give me some big impacts on my future relationship at that time, I still thought I had to take it because I was on the edge of losing myself.
And nothing’s worth it if it takes you to lose yourself in the first place.
However, if you are about to pull the trigger, please expect the loneliness feeling and the high temptation to go back to the dating pool especially when all of your peers are doing it too.
Here are the things I recommend you to do when that happens.
Write a letter to yourself and list all of your reasons why you take the break in the first place.
Make yourself busy with on-going projects; writing, photography, or even traveling.
Stay in touch with your family and best friends as they can be your great support systems.
Besides those, try to ask yourself questions about what do you want to have in your next relationship? what’s a healthy relationship for you look like? and what boundaries you’ll have when you are in one later?
These questions will help you prepare better so you are confident that you won’t repeat the same mistake by being in a toxic relationship.
“Love yourself. Enough to take the actions required for your happiness. Enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past. Enough to set a high standard for relationships. Enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner. Enough to forgive yourself. Enough to move on.”
— Steve Maraboli