Last year, I quit dating.
I stopped having sex.
I deleted all my apps.
Now, a year later, I can hardly put to words the ways my life has been transformed.
But alas, I’ll try.
Let’s start with a story.
The Perfect Case Study for a Dating Addict
One night at an upscale food court in Dallas, I got together with a friend for dinner and drinks.
At the bar, my friend saw a couple of guys she knew, so we joined them and started chatting.
One of the guys was fun to get to know. He cracked jokes with us and the bartender, telling stories and chatting with us.
The other guy seemed distracted, looking at his phone for long periods of time and tuning out the conversation.
The only time he would look up was to nudge the other guy, breaking his friend out of the flow of his conversation.
“Check out how hot this girl is,” he’d say, showing a picture of a girl he had just matched with.
Then he’d go back to swiping on his phone.
To be honest, I kind of wanted to flirt with him.
Physically, he was pretty attractive, with light brown eyes and clear skin.
However, after nearly a year of quitting dating, I was a much wiser woman.
Instead of jumping vagina-first like I used to, I was watching him with eyes wide open.
At this point, I had a pretty good idea of who he was:
This was a guy that compulsively dated, taking pride in how hot his matches were. He used people like objects to avoid confronting himself and the magnitude of life. He embraced cheap encounters as quick fixes to forget that he didn’t have real, lasting connections in his life.
He talked about women from different cities that “he really liked”, but he has no idea what he means when he says that.
He seemed like someone who followed his dick around, reacting passively to the environment around him.
Despite his loneliness, he was completely blind to the opportunities for connection that already existed in the world around him.
I might be making some harsh assumptions.
But watching him, I just knew.
I thought back to a time when I looked like that: distracted, unsatisfied, bored, numb, jaded, wanting.
I felt sad for him.
Instead of calling him out, though, I simply smiled to myself and turned towards the others in the group.
(Note: Guy, I do hope you’re reading this post.)
Is This You?
You may read the story above and think, “ Wow, that sounds a lot like me.” (Note: Unless you’re him. In that case, guy, it actually is you.)
Or maybe it immediately reminds you of a friend.
You’re probably not thinking either of those things, though, because there’s one teensy little problem:
This kind of behavior is normal in our society.
“Should I Quit Dating?”
Ask yourself honestly.
If you’re thinking, “Hell, no. A dating ban sounds terrible…” you need to ask yourself why you think that.
Because if the thought of not dating for a year scares you, there’s a reason.
Maybe you don’t know what you’d do with all your free time.
Maybe you don’t know how to have fun outside of getting drunk and trying to hit on people.
Maybe you‘re not sure if you can cope with the eventual loneliness that will come your way.
The truth is, you can’t get better until you choose to face it.
I’m telling you, life is more than you think it is. If you push through all of the initial discomforts, you can find what you’re looking for, and much more.
Do You Know What You’re Looking For?
In order to address something, you kind of need to admit it exists.
For instance, you might have to admit that you don’t know anything about what real, healthy love actually looks like.
Like C.S. Lewis observes in his poem, As the Ruin Falls:
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love — a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek —
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
If you’re feeling dissatisfied and numb, compulsively swiping on dating apps every day until you max out your quota… you may need to quit dating.
Maybe you don’t identify with any of those things, but you’re curious to see what would happen.
To give you an idea of how this year transformed my life, I want to share with you the 12 surprising lessons I learned.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to experience those lessons for yourself.
(Note: Yes, guy, I’m talking to you.)
12 Surprising Lessons I Learned When I Quit Dating For An Entire Year
1. I know who I am, not who I think I am.
For a long time, I hid behind a mask, one that made me feel like I was good enough.
Because I grew up as a pastor’s kid, I found that sometimes being a bad kid could reflect on my dad and his career. I practiced hiding, believing that “being me” was something to be ashamed of.
By the time I wanted to figure out who I was and what I wanted, I was too used to pretending. I had forgotten who I really was, and it was a lengthy process to find her again.
It started with complete honesty with where I was at.
The reality is, I didn’t want my shame to prevent me from taking responsibility anymore.
By carefully observing the entirety of my identity and life, I finally came to know and accept myself.
This time, it was the real me, warts and all, not just someone I was pretending to be.
2. I seek out genuine connections.
When I used to go out with my friends, we would walk around the bar to “scope” for talent. When I saw someone cute, I’d go talk to them with the intention of getting something out of them, whether it was flirtation, sex, or the satisfaction of “achieving” something.
Nowadays, when I go out I still “scope” the place out, but my eye is different. I talk to people I think look interesting — maybe they’re dancing with a smile on the dance floor by themselves, or wearing an unusual outfit.
Instead of immediately losing interest if someone isn’t attractive, I seek out genuine experiences and conversations that create genuine connection. The difference in the quality of my life has been night and day. The depth of my interactions is unimaginable and I’ve found meaningful connections with everyone from strangers at the gym, neighbors I hadn’t noticed, and coworkers I once felt distant from.
The more I opened up, the more I realized how much I had to learn from the people around me.
3. I enjoy all the little things.
In nature, rewards usually come only with time and effort. Addictive drugs and behaviors provide a shortcut, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Our brains do not have an easy way to withstand the onslaught. — How addiction hijacks the brain (Harvard)
Relationships are like any other addictive drug that floods your brain with chemicals. The more you do it, the higher your tolerance, especially if it’s repeated exposure to the “honeymoon stage”. I had gotten to a point in my dating life where I would have a honeymoon stage that lasted only two weeks. I was left floundering, wondering why I wasn’t in love anymore.
By breaking the cycle of addictive behavior, I also healed my brain’s dependency.
That means my brain is a lot more sensitive to normal stimuli.
In other words, I don’t have to do as much to feel things.
It means I wake up and feel grateful. My dog’s frantic and goofy behavior makes me giggle and bubble up with childlike joy. I feel content just sitting and reading a book, and I feel sparks of warmth when I spend time with loved ones.
I’m not numb anymore.