I was friends with my most recent ex-boyfriend for eight years before we started dating. During that eight years, I was in a relationship for the first year and a half. The other six and a half? I was single and not dating. Well, that’s not totally true. I dated myself.
Dating yourself might sound really weird at first. But it has a lot of benefits that you should consider, not the least of which is that you just might find a better relationship with another person if you date yourself first.
What is dating yourself?
Dating yourself is exactly what it sounds like. You take yourself out: to movies, dinner, mini golf, window shopping — whatever you might do on a date.
During this time, both during the actual dates and outside of them, you get to know yourself the way you’d get to know another person. I’m not recommending you sit at a table in a restaurant and talk to yourself out loud, but that you do ask yourself questions silently that you might ask someone else.
Learn about your hobbies and interests. Try new things — new cuisines, new activities, new book or movie or music genres. Explore new places. Find out who you are. What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? What makes you angry or moves you to take action out of compassion?
Do you like your career, or are you thinking of going back to school? What do you want from a relationship — are you looking for full on marriage-style commitment or just some casual fun?
It doesn’t have to be just you
Don’t feel like having dinner alone? Want to go to karaoke and feel weird doing it by yourself?
Dating yourself doesn’t mean you always have to be alone. Go out with your friends! You can learn from group events, too. Your friends will have new ideas and experiences to try, and the conversations that will occur can inspire you to learn even more new and interesting things about yourself that you might not discover alone.
And your friends can be same sex or opposite sex. Dating yourself isn’t about avoiding people you might date. It’s just about taking time to learn about yourself. If you should happen to meet someone during that time, there’s no rule that says you can’t start dating them — just be sure it’s what you want to do.
Getting to know yourself — and what you want
You’re getting to know yourself during this experiment, and that’s a great start to having a better romantic relationship. Knowing who you are and what you enjoy is a first step to finding someone you’ll enjoy spending time with.
But it’s also important to get to know what kind of things are important in that other person. I’m not talking about hair or eye color or how much money they have. I’m talking about things like do they have or want kids, do they love animals, or are they an introvert or an extrovert?
Sometimes in the process of dating yourself, you discover that part of the reason you’ve struggled with relationships is that you’ve been looking for the wrong person. By getting to know yourself and making some decisions about the kind of person you’re looking for, you start looking at your choices with a more discerning eye.
Just don’t get too stuck on the details you’ve come up with about the other person. If you become too rigid in what you think you want, you could end up overlooking the best person for you because they don’t meet your criteria.
Is it really necessary?
Maybe not. It depends on who you are.
Some people find that when they’ve been in a relationship for a long time, or when they’ve had multiple relationships essentially back-to-back, they forget who they are and what they enjoy. They did things and thought they enjoyed them because their previous partner did, but it might not actually be something they enjoy. They gave up things they enjoyed because their previous partner didn’t enjoy them.
If you’re one of these people, or you just want to take a break from the dating scene, dating yourself can be a good way to take a breather. It gives you the chance to relearn who you are, what matters to you, and what you want. That gives you a more solid foundation the next time you start dating someone.
It can also give you a chance to dig deep into your feelings about your past relationships. You can deal with unresolved feelings, learn the lessons you may have ignored, and heal. This also puts you in a better position when you start dating again.
It doesn’t have to be a big production
If you don’t want to take yourself on dates, that’s fine. But taking some time off from dating to get to know yourself, heal from past relationships, and figure out what you want from a relationship and a partner can still be beneficial.
Write in a journal. Meditate. Talk with friends. Hire a coach. Go to therapy. Dating yourself doesn’t have to literally look like dating yourself. It doesn’t have to be any one way. The point is simply to take a moment to reset and have a new, different perspective the next time you think about going on a date.
The six and a half years that I spent not dating prepared me for my most recent relationship. That time helped me heal from the abuse of past relationships. It gave me the time to do the things I wanted and enjoyed so that I knew what I enjoy — not what I said I enjoyed because my partner did. It gave me time to think about what I really wanted in a man and a relationship, which not only allowed me to be honest about it but also to be able to recognize when my partner and relationship were no longer offering me those things so I could end it.
You might only spend six months. Or six weeks. Or it could be three years. Or a decade. Whatever your time is, in the end, you’ll find that you’re better prepared to dive back in and more confident in both who you are and what you want.