I'm just coming out of a deliberate dating-hiatus. I've spent the last two months not dating at all. On purpose. I've been licking some compassion-deserving, emotional wounds and listening to the sage advice they had to teach me.
It was a time of healing. I set the intention to curl up in the lap of my sadness and let it speak its wisdom. These wounds held stories. They told me about limiting beliefs I've clung onto about love, about myself and about what I'm still afraid of.
By allowing myself the time to sit with these thoughts and feelings, I am able to see myself more clearly. I knew I needed time to process through them in order to get this clarity.
So there: that's why I took a break from dating. I needed silence and lack of distraction to fully explore the reflection the mirror my last relationship was holding for me so that I can enter my next one without carrying old patterns with me.
When we see our experiences with others, both positive and negative, as a way to learn more about ourselves, we always have new lessons to learn about ourselves and the roots of our behaviors and habits of thinking. I knew that if I jumped from one relationship straight into another, I wouldn't have seen what I needed to in myself in order to attract the kind of person I'm looking for.
When we get clearer about our deeper self, we attract different kinds of people. The shift reflects the inner clarity we've gained because we look for love with openness and awareness. And one of the most powerful ways to get clearer about this part of ourselves is to look at our reactions to our partner in our last relationship. The goal of seeing these is not to fix a part of ourselves or to feel that we have been damaged. The goal is awareness.
But what about the other times when a break from dating feels unintentional, and well, unpleasant? Sometimes, these "breaks" can stretch for years or even decades. And while it's OK to give ourselves however much time we need to heal, sometimes these prolonged bouts of singledom come from avoidance and fear.
In other words, when this "break" from dating comes in the form of a defense mechanism that is not born out of intention, it's often not serving us. If we don't believe that we can find love, then the search for it can feel daunting at best, hopeless at worst. When we feel this way, we defend ourselves from experiencing these struggles by just avoiding dating altogether.
For many, happiness is actually scarier than sadness. On some level, we fear that if we get too happy we might lose the source of that happiness (which we often believe lies outside of ourselves). We fear being devastated, even destroyed, by this loss. We protect ourselves from this disappointment by watching from the sidelines rather than getting in the game.
Other times we don't date because we are afraid of finding our old dating patterns resurfacing. We fear that if it doesn't work out again, we will have confirmation that we just can't get it right. We blame ourselves, and continue the vicious cycle of believing that happiness and fulfillment must be given to us by something external — namely another person.
But hear this: you already have everything you need inside of you. You may not be in touch with it, but that doesn't mean it's not there. When you realize that you are the source of your happiness rather than seeing it as being given to you, conditionally, by another, you can make yourself available to love from a whole and hopeful place.
If you are someone who knows you have taken a long break from dating as a result of fear, rather than an intentional desire for space and healing, take a small step out of your comfort zone this week. Smile at someone you find attractive while you're waiting in line for your morning coffee. Say hi to that man or woman you walk by in your office building but have been too scared to talk to. Go for it. Open yourself up to love. You deserve it.