We approach dating sites and dates themselves with excitement, nerves, and expectations about what will happen and the kind of person we want to meet. We expect positive results from a method that we’ve perhaps unsuccessfully tried in the past. But because the constant quest for a soulmate is the popular route, we assume continuing to date is what’s best for us.
What is best for us, however, is sometimes a different route. It’s pumping the brakes and slowing down. It’s closing the laptop and putting the phone down instead of creating another dating profile. It’s doing what feels right and organic for us.
Dating: Don’t Be Afraid To Pump The Brakes and Unpack
When we forget about our own needs not only do we suffer immeasurably but so do those we become romantically involved with. So many bounce from relationship to relationship without pausing to take a self-imposed hiatus. We’re inundated with messages telling us we can’t be happy unless we’re in a relationship.
We drag our baggage from one relationship to the next and wonder why it isn’t working. We don’t pause to grieve the end of one love before creating a dating profile in search of the next. We replace one dependency with another, ad infinitum.
I was one of those people with the baggage and the built up grief and I ignored both in my quest to find love. I tried online dating a couple of times because that method of quantity over quality was presented as the right and only way so many times I almost believed it could work.
A long-term relationship ended and I kept dating. A traumatic and short relationship ended and I kept dating. I took little time to grieve for either. I didn’t even consider the consequences of not putting my mental health first. I went right back to the dating world and kept searching for love despite that nagging feeling that I needed to avoid doing exactly that.
My (terrible) solution was to replace damaged love with more damaged love. I knew it didn’t make any logical sense, like using a bandaid when you need a tourniquet, but any concerns about that were trumped by my fear of being alone.
I wanted the safe route, the society endorsed method. I knew veering away from that and taking a break made more sense for me personally but I wasn’t ready to accept it. This continued for years until it all fell apart. The baggage handles snapped, the zippers ripped, and the contents spilled everywhere.
It was a fairly simple break-up that did it. A rebound relationship after the end of a fantastically bad relationship. I was devastated. But I wasn’t devastated by the end of the rebound, I was devastated by all of the endings that came before it.
So I went the different route. I took a break. I allowed myself to grieve. I put myself and my mental health first. I stepped away from technology and the pressures of society and focused on my own personal journey. I learned to practice self-care until it became as natural as breathing. Most importantly, I took inventory of my baggage and went through it piece by piece. I turned over each decision, each hurt, each relationship that ended traumatically and examined it all.
When I could no longer examine the baggage I was carrying, I focused on the carrier of it- myself. The role I had played in each failed relationship, why I found myself in abusive relationships time and time again, and how I could learn from each experience to avoid repeating them in the future. This self-reflection was brutal and painful but it was honest and necessary.
I learned to stand on my own two feet without the assistance of a damaged relationship. I faced the fear of being alone and stared it down until it flinched and walked away. I learned that I am so much more capable and deserving than what I allowed those voices disguised as love tell me in the past.
This took a couple of years and I won’t say it was easy because it wasn’t. I was lonely often. But it was a different kind of lonely. It was a lonely that wasn’t the enemy and one I knew would soon be replaced with a quiet content. I discovered who I am without the influence of someone else.
I found that I didn’t need a relationship to be whole and happy.
Be brave in your decision making. If you are in a healthy place and looking for love, by all means keep looking. If you find your baggage straining at the seams give yourself permission to take a different route away from the societal norm. Don’t be afraid to pump the brakes and unpack.
Stephanie March is a writer and self-declared former expert on rebound relationships. After a long self-imposed break she’s back to looking for love with considerable less baggage than before. You can find her on Twitter or read more at her blog.