Twelve months is a long time not to do something.
Especially if romance is the thing you’re not doing.
So, why even give it up?
As my story goes, it couldn’t have been more than 2.375 seconds after I’d ended the toxic relationship that I formulated my 12-month no dating plan. The narcissistic abuse I’d endured had nearly broken me and I knew I needed some serious alone time.
So, I gritted my teeth, friendzoned like mad, and welcomed the healing.
And it was THE best choice I’d ever made. Actually, it made me a better catch because of the inner changes it evoked.
Here’s how a break from dating can make you a better catch to a future mate.
1. Give Up Your Codependent Habits
Many women find themselves in a cruel pattern of dating the same type of abusive men. I found myself trapped in this cycle, as well.
Unsurprisingly, codependency has its roots in low self-esteem. According to Psychology Today, it’s a sort of self-sacrificing behavior where we codependents want to save low-functioning members of society.
Rather than rescuing anyone, we only harm ourselves. Though, giving up this negative habit is not the easiest task to accomplish.
The throes of stopping codependent behavior feel like an unequivocal restlessness. It’s like an itchy virus that, once it has taken hold, you just have to let pass through your system.
Permanently giving up my codependent habits required me to adopt a healthy self-care routine. I also learned to maintain firm personal boundaries during this time.
Needless to say, gaining back my emotional independence was best accomplished when I was single. After all, the single life allowed me to focus on myself unabashedly.
2. Embrace Healing Through Alone Time
While it’s true that introverts and extroverts are rejuvenated in different ways, healing often occurs in the same way – by yourself.
Maybe you pictured a 12-month dating sabbatical like a long, silent walk through the hallway of a monastery. But, it’s much noisier than that – your thoughts are, at least.
The weeks and months following a toxic relationship are basically the opposite of the monastery hallway. Being alone is sort of a loud shock to your system. It’s a “silence is deafening” sort of thing.
In a toxic relationship, your attention is constantly redirected back to what is wrong with you.
Once your toxic ex-partner is silenced by a no-contact (or minimal contact) breakup, your self-disparaging thoughts give way to a new era.
During this era, you’re given the chance to rediscover yourself and pay attention to your previously ignored core values. It’s a sort of “welcome back” party for yourself.
3. Redefine Your Sexuality
The idea of achieving intimacy through sex is largely implied, but it’s not always that way. Sometimes, sex is just sex. Often, it’s empty and missing that special closeness.
Throughout life experiences, especially in an unhealthy relationship, sex can become complicated and even confusing. Even though it’s meant to be a special connection between two people, it can often become more of a tactic.
For many months I actually surrendered to the notion that I might be asexual. There was absolutely no sexual drive or inkling within me. I felt lost.
According to Women’s Health, the less sex you have, the less you want. So, this feeling was normal in my circumstance.
After allowing myself to recover from the negative relationship, I began to awaken to the idea of sexual intimacy once again. Only when I gave myself space to embrace true intimacy could I discover the place sex held in a healthy relationship.
Not only did this make me bolder in my sexual desires as a woman, but it presented a confidence that had long eluded me in that department.
4. Increase Your Value Through Self-Love
I took a picture of myself for a writer’s profile about a month before I ended my toxic relationship. Although I was trying to smile, it looked more like a glamorous grimace.
I absolutely did not recognize the person in the picture. It couldn’t be me.
Except that it was.
Being in a toxic relationship can wreak havoc on your health. An abusive partner creates intense anxiety with their manipulative tactics. You feel this anxiety in your body 24/7.
When a toxic relationship ends, you need a great deal of self-care and self-love. It’s imperative to dedicate time for some overdue TLC for yourself.
Establishing a healthy self-care routine means allowing things in your life that make you feel cared for. This might mean giving yourself 30 minutes for a daily nature walk, time out to read a book, or even expressing yourself through the arts.
After a little bit of showing myself some much-needed attention, I started to recognize the face looking back at me in the mirror.
Mirror, mirror on the wall… thanks for hanging in there with me.
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5. Refocus Your Priorities To Become Financially Secure
The relationship between financial security and a healthy relationship is not always clear. But, the relationship between a toxic relationship and financial ruin is most definitely clear.
Much like the never ending obsession to try and change yourself for your toxic partner, you might also have tried to please them in other ways. Namely, financial ways.
It’s not uncommon to lose control of your own money or even surrender your financial security altogether.
In my case, I was drowning in his insatiable desire to feed an addiction (several actually). The brunt of the breadwinning fell on me while the other half of my relationship was free and clear of any financial responsibility whatsoever.
Once my partner was out of the picture, it became painfully obvious that he was one of the main reasons I was financially hurting so badly. I was once again able to focus on my own stability and mitigate my financial situation.
6. Give Up The Control Freak Attitude
It likely comes as a no surprise that being in a toxic relationship often means being the victim of a narcissist and controlling human. The surprising part about this is that the controlling attitude often overflows into your self-perception.
In other words, your toxic partner wants you to change because of your indefinite amount of “flaws.” The premise is that: if only you would change, the relationship would thrive.
As you probably know by now, the flaw actually lies within the premise and not you.
After the relationship ends, you stop trying to change yourself for them. You give up that obsession to become the perfect partner and flawless human being. You give up the control.
Instead of holding it all in while you walk on eggshells around your partner, you sink down on the floor in your pajamas and just feel your heartbeat for the first time in a long time.
You just exist.
And it feels good to be a little imperfect.
7. Develop A Tight Circle Of Friends
It’s sort of a given that you reconnect with friends after a breakup and especially when you take a break from romance. In fact, it’s normal and it’s healthy.
What I didn’t realize was how much of a spotlight my dating sabbatical would be to my other relationships. Shannon Thomas outlines the need for establishing healthy boundaries in her book Healing from Hidden Abuse.
Armed with this information, I was able to perform a clean sweep inventory of my circle of friends. What I ended up with is a handful of close friends that were undoubtedly in my corner.
Anyone who had crossed or even flirted with my personal boundaries was out. I only kept the best of the best in my inner circle.
The idea behind this clean sweep was to establish a band of brothers/sisters who had my back no matter what life presented me with.
8. Abandon Romance-Related Anxiety
It’s easy to misinterpret drama for passion. After all, they’re both exciting and bring on a rush of adrenaline.
As a mental health writer, I want to shout from the rooftops what the sympathetic nervous system has been telling us all along.
Drama is not passion. Drama produces anxiety. As it turns out, anxiety has no permanent place in a romantic relationship. Far too many toxic relationships trap one partner in a permanent fight-or-flight mode.
This way of living becomes surviving which becomes barely surviving which becomes looking in the mirror and not recognizing your own reflection.
Detoxing and adjusting your autonomic nervous system is the only way to recover from the toxic drama trauma.
Deep breathing exercises, affirmations, and yoga were my anchor to the present. An anchor to which I will cling for dear life.
The Take Home Message
The things I learned during my year-long dating sabbatical were all invaluable life lessons that undeniably made me a better catch for a future mate.
It wasn’t until I’d undergone this transforming time period that I felt emotionally strong and independent. My inner workings now matched my outward drive for life. Plus, these changes were permanent.
I guess you could say that my break from dating proved to be a lifeline that I didn’t know I needed.
But, when life hands you an opportunity, the best thing to do is take on the challenge wholeheartedly.