If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the latest trend of our generation—a generation plagued by the frustrations and angst of modern dating. The idea is that by quitting the search for love cold turkey, you will finally wean off your addiction to bad guys and develop a taste for the good ones.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Swearing off men isn’t going to get us any closer to the relationship nirvana we seek. It can, however, be the first step—but only if done right.
If you’re going through a dating detox or thinking about starting one, make sure you do these three things to ensure that the time off the dating field is actually productive.
01. Look for patterns in your past relationships, and ask yourself why.
If you choose to take a break, use this time to do an inventory audit of your past relationships. Each past relationship provides valuable information about our past wounds and consequent patterns. As I mentioned in a previous article, we all have dating patterns. And if many of them are negative enough to warrant a break, continue reading.
Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Getting the Love You Want, has a theory that adults with emotional wounds from past relationships tend to seek out the kind of relationships that hurt them in their childhood. While this unconscious attempt is to heal the wound from our past, what we end up doing is creating a pattern of unhealthy relationships.
So, while doing an audit of your past relationships, ask yourself what reoccurring emotions in your dating life are repeatedly triggered—and see if you can discern why. Finding the source is the first step in creating awareness of your patterns so that you can start to break them.
02. Double check your checklist.
When I was in my early twenties, my list was composed of how popular, hot, stylish, and successful a guy was. This was a strategy that worked well to create short-term relationships and adventures that were high on lust and low on commitment. I would disqualify the good guys if they didn’t meet my superficial standards and invest way too much energy, time, and heartache into guys who met my checklist but ultimately objectified me just as much as I was objectifying them. When you create a relationship based on an interaction of superficial traits, you are making an ego-based transaction. This means that your foundation, if you can even call it that, is rooted in fear, not love.
If you keep on finding yourself in these dead-end relationships, chances are your checklist needs to be updated. Better yet, get rid of the checklist completely. Instead, focus on how you want to feel in a relationship, and work back from there. When you create rigid parameters for how your partner should look and act, you’re likely missing out on the good guys who may not meet your height requirement but would love and support you in a way that feeds your soul.
03. Rethink your internal narrative.
Each one of us has a version of an imperfect past relationship. Maybe it was a well-intentioned parent or a devastating teenage heartbreak. Whatever the situation, most of us were hurt, disappointed, and scared at some point—and consequently developed defense mechanisms and story lines that helped us avoid pain and survive.
These conditioned reactions, when repeated through time, cause us to create habitual behavior around intimacy that stems from a place of our wounds. During your dating detox, take the time to examine the story lines and defense mechanisms that have become a part of your subconscious programming. Identify what story lines and limiting beliefs are rooted in fear so that you can start to create a new story line based in love.
Some limiting beliefs may be:
I’m not worthy of love.
I can’t count on anyone.
Relationships threaten my freedom and independence.
I will be hurt if I am vulnerable.
I need to earn love.
Rewiring old story lines does not happen overnight, but the first step is to recognize what those story lines are. That way, when you do jump back into the dating scene and find yourself triggered, defensive, or pushing away or chasing intimacy, you’ll have some perspective on the historical story lines that are in the way of developing a healthy connection with someone worthy of your time and love.