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One night, I found my college roommate—let’s call her Chelsea—sitting on the kitchen floor with a gallon of ice cream, utterly tear-stricken. It was hours after midnight, and I was just coming in from writing the world’s longest paper. She had been out on a date with a stunningly handsome grad student. Despite a lot of hope and hype about the outing, it didn’t look like it went all that well.

“I’m so confused!” she explained between inebriated sobs. “He was so kind. And sooo . . . interesting. But then he just disappears and acts like nothing happened. Like I’m nothing!” I cringed as I watched her take another big scoop from the ice cream tub. “I mean, I don’t even know if it was a date! If he doesn’t care, I shouldn’t care. Right—right?”

More sobs, more ice cream. More . . . Oh, boy.

I understood her pain. It was only a year before that I was that girl sobbing uncontrollably, stealing my friend’s cookies between disjointed emotional accusations. He told me this. And he made me feel like that! The injustice! The confusion! The nerve! Oh, how he shall feel my wrath!

Yet during my time recovering from a messy breakup and involving myself with other guys, I realized that allowing the guys I date to dictate how I feel about myself was a recipe for disaster. The truth is, we can analyze the reasons “why” it’s not working all day. But if his actions, or lack thereof, result in us feeling insecure, frazzled, confused, or simply not worthy, it doesn’t bode well for any sort of future. Sure, we might not be able to pinpoint exactly how he makes us feel awful about ourselves, but our emotions are there for a reason. They’re telling us what our brain can’t exactly determine yet.

And that was the game-changing truth in how I think about dating. I can’t remember how I discovered it—if I had read it online, in an obscure book, or if it magically came to me in a dream, but one day I realized that the majority of my dating woes could be solved with one statement: If a guy is making you feel absolutely insane, you should step away.

That was it. Simple but poignant, it became my way to weed out the immature, the manipulative, the cocky, the close-minded—and, most importantly, the emotionally unavailable. By quietly applying this little phrase to my dating life, I realized a world of difference. I held myself differently when I was around guys. I was more relaxed, more composed, and more myself—and far more willing to let bygones be bygones.

It was my internal rule, but it never occurred to me to share it with anyone else, until this precise moment, with Chelsea sitting on the floor eating all of our ice cream. So, I shared my mantra with her.

She swallowed and looked at me. In a defeated voice, she slowly said, “You know, I think you’re right.” Her mood shifted, and she really seemed to consider what I was saying. While she wasn’t instantly happy, she calmed down, composed herself, and starting chitchatting.

The next morning, I awoke to Chelsea making a bountiful breakfast. Smells of sausage, sautéed veggies, melted cheese, eggs, coffee, biscuits—and even cinnamon—permeated the apartment. She beamed at me as I walked in and joined our other roommates at the table. This was no heartbroken, sugar-hungover girl. This was an elated, joyous woman—who was somehow miraculously energized.

We were all a little confused about the early Saturday morning celebration, but we went with it because, hey, breakfast is delicious. As she handed us our coffees, she said, “So, I just wanted to announce something.” Oh?

“I realized last night that—that sometimes a situation isn’t worth an emotional reaction,” she began. “And I realized that if a guy is making you feel like you’re insane, he’s probably not the one,” she smiled again, relieved. “So, I think from now on—any time a guy makes us feel like we’re inadequate, or utterly bewildered, we should just let him go his own way.”

I didn’t think she’d remember what I said, let alone make a caffeinated toast to it. She then sat down, revealed more coherent details of the night before—and explained that for so much of her life, she had gotten confidence from how men found her attractive. And, instead of letting a relationship naturally unfold, she would work for it. Change for it. And the guys, whether consciously or not, took advantage of it—or ran from it.

That was when I realized this wasn’t just my own little mantra. Like I experienced a year prior, I could tell that Chelsea felt a veil was lifted—like suddenly it all made sense. If he doesn’t make me feel good, he isn’t for me. Period.

I have since been inspired to spread my little secret to my other friends, too. And it resonated strongly with many of them. It is a simple way to acknowledge what we already know; it’s a gut check that encourages us to stop analyzing, to stop worrying about what’s wrong with ourselves, and, instead, let our instincts lead.

So, if you ever find yourself dating someone who makes you feel like you’ve taken a crazy pill, take a step back. You don’t have to dissect every detail; you can just let yourself accept that he’s not for you. And sometimes, that’s all we need to know.

Photo Credit: Manchik Photography