Dear Charlene: “I’m Considering a Dating Hiatus”
Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
After my first big break up, I spent a year exploring sexually and romantically. That year was a success, as I now have a good idea of who I am. I am ready for a stable relationship, but bitches be trippin’. I know what I want, and I haven’t seen it. Yes, what I’m looking for is realistic. But while I’m open to experiencing a healthy, caring relationship, I’m getting worried about the energy it takes to date. I am not as thrilled about playing games or decoding texts and sometimes being disappointed (although who is!). I am considering going on a dating hiatus so I can just be myself and not wait for some guy to come along. But I’m worried that contradicts my intentions to have a fun, romantic relationship. Also, to be honest, I’m very happy in life rn but a teensy bit lonely. What should I do?
I get you completely and have been there! A dating hiatus sounds like a great idea. But what’s cool is that it wouldn’t contradict your intentions to be in a relationship at all—it’s actually a very beneficial step to getting exactly what you want. The more you work on yourself and build yourself up, the better you will attract to the right person. It’ll be worth it. You’re worth it!
Instead of wallowing in loneliness, I was basking in solitude.
I went on the very first hiatus of my life when I was thirty-one. I didn’t think it was even possible for me, since I had jumped from boy to boy since I was twelve. I went through an actual withdrawal, and the amount of pain and suffering I experienced was telling of how dependent I was on romance, sex, and validation. But being with myself allowed me to finally learn how to love and take care of myself and nurture my own needs and creativity. My hiatus lasted for a year and a half, only because for the first time in my life, I loved being single, and I was so comfortable in my happiness, I didn’t want to date. Instead of wallowing in loneliness, I was basking in solitude.
You can take as little or as much time with yourself as you need—in a nurturing way, not a self-destructive way. And when you are ready to date again, a healthy dating plan could be something to try.
After my hiatus, I needed a dating plan to keep me from falling back into my old habits. As resistant as I was before trying it, it ended up being a fulfilling experience, and it totally made sense—my old way of dating never worked before so I surrendered to trying something else.
Here’s how I did it:
Stage One: Dates 1-4, First Month
– Only one date a week
– Day dates only, in public
– Pre-set start time and end time
– No physical contact
– Limited contact in between dates, only necessary texts and phone calls
Stage Two: Dates 5-8, Second Month
– Night dates and private dates are OK
– Kissing and physical affection is OK
– Seeing each other’s homes is OK
Stage Three: Date 9 and on, Third Month
– Discuss becoming mutually exclusive
– Sleepovers OK (no sex)
– Weekend trips OK
Stage 4: Fourth Month
– Discuss sex, STDs, birth control, commitment of exclusivity
I know this plan seems pretty lame, but I swear it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. As a recovering sex and love addict, this plan helped me to experience healthy dating and sex for the very first time in my life. It was important for me to experience setting boundaries and honoring them, because if I can’t honor my own boundaries, why should anyone else?
Questions to ask yourself after each stage: Is this person available to me? Do we communicate well? Do we respect each other? Do we enhance each other’s lives? Am I maintaining my network of support outside of the relationship? Any red flags?
Collect some no’s, so when you find a yes, you will really know it’s a yes.
Make a list of red flags and deal-breakers. If you meet someone who’s flying even one of them, walk away. As someone who used to chase after red flags (Oooh, pretty!) I know this can be difficult, but the truth is, it will not work, and no, you cannot fix this person.
Collect some no’s, so when you find a yes, you will really know it’s a yes. I used to settle and take crumbs and sleep with randoms, so it was very empowering for me to say “no,” to walk away from men who had red flags—or even nice men that I just didn’t really like—without having sex with them.
I’m really glad you know what you want; have it written down and stick to it. You deserve to get exactly what you want and it’s completely possible. Never settle, and trust the process. I never settled, and I magically found someone who was looking for the same thing as me and wanted to try the plan, too. For the first time in my life, I’m in a happy, healthy relationship based on a foundation of honesty, trust, and self-love. (Who knew?)
Healthy dating will not drain your energy; it will enhance it! And healthy dating means that you are authentically yourself—you shouldn’t have to try to be anything other than exactly who you are.
You are worthy of everything you are looking for. Keep believing in this, take care of yourself, and let go of the search. It really does show up as soon as you stop looking.
Read our Breaking feature on Charlene deGuzman.