How to stop dating
July 12, 2013 2:07 AM   Subscribe

My most recent relationship ended in disaster. After two years of dancing around each other my most recent SO decided to give "us" a try. However they broke up with me less than week later, simply because they changed their mind...I really wanted this, so I am very hurt and angry now. I was telling a close friend, and he said that he's starting to think I don't want to be happy because I really wanted to be in a relationship with someone who couldn't stay with me more than a few days. I don't want to date anymore, at least for a long time. I don't know if I can turn off the desire to date or be with someone else. I don't know how this works honestly. Any advice? (sidenote: My SO really did just change her mind...there wasn't an argument that lead the break up or anything. She has always been scared of relationships but wanted to keep me in her life, so she wanted to try dating me rather than me cut her off altogether because I wanted to move on. Oh well.)
posted by Cybria to Human Relations (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Of the people I know who are single, there are happily single people, and there are miserably single people. There is one major difference between them, and it is this: the happy ones look for happiness in themselves, the sad ones look for it in someone else.

To explain properly - the happy single people I know (and this included me until not so long ago) spend a lot of time with their friends, and put a lot of energy into having great friendships. They further their own learning, they feast on hobbies and interests, they create.

Also, and this is important, they hold the philosophy that if you are looking for "someone" then you'll end up getting together with anyone who is up for a relationship, and "anyone" might not be right for you. Not to mention, people tend to be able to tell when you're looking for a relationship, rather than to be with them specifically.

So concentrate on you, and on having a more fulfilling life all by yourself. Be the best version of you that you can be. Without wanting to fully history-stalk you, I note from your questions that you have a history of depression. Checking up on this should probably be your first stop on the route to a full and happy life - the rest will follow.
posted by greenish at 2:31 AM on July 12, 2013 [23 favorites]

I'm sorry you are hurting. It's hard when things don't work out the way we hoped. Lots of walks and sad music will help with that.
The thing is, there aren't two kinds of breakups: all breakups are because someone changed their mind. I wouldn't listen to your friend- his theory makes no sense to me.
Think about this desire you have. Is it to date or to date one person specifically? Do you only want to date her and need to turn off that specifically desire or to stop desiring women in general?
posted by SyraCarol at 2:32 AM on July 12, 2013

she wanted to try dating me rather than me cut her off altogether because I wanted to move on

Did you really tell one of your friends that they had to start dating you or you'd stop talking to them? That's not healthy at all. Your problem might not be that you need to stop dating people, but that you need to date people that are actually available.

Are you in therapy? It sounds like therapy would help -- you've been through a lot in your life, and you seem to not have a good handle on boundaries (and probably for good reason, again, considering your past). You aren't going to be able to figure that out on your own without a lot more heartache, I don't think.
posted by empath at 2:43 AM on July 12, 2013

Response by poster: @ SyraCarol, I'd like to stop wanting to date in general, greenish was right in distinguishing the desire to be in a relationship and the desire to be with someone specifically. I'll note that I did love her alot, but generally I don't feel whole if I'm single.
posted by Cybria at 2:45 AM on July 12, 2013

Response by poster: @ empath I didn't put it like that. I said that I couldn't be her friend because we were in this awkward "non relationship" where we were hanging out, sleeping together, being all lovey dovey but there was no commitment. it was hurting me emotionally because I was in love, so I told her i wanted to move on. Her response was that we should become a couple.
I've been in therapy for the past couple months which has helped a lot. I want to resume when I can afford to do so. My therapist also said I have trouble with boundaries.
posted by Cybria at 2:47 AM on July 12, 2013

Best answer: Oh sweetie, it sounds as though you are all over the place when it comes to love, intimacy and emotions. And that's OK. It really is OK because somewhere there in the mish-mash is a way forward.

How to stop dating?
Start dating yourself. Start loving yourself and finding compassion and emotional intimacy with yourself.

I don't feel whole if I'm single.

This is the crux. Becoming a whole person is the only way you can find another whole person to become intimate with. Whole people are much more emotionally solid and reliable people to love.

Finding the courage to be whole on our own is so damn hard. So very hard if we didn't have the basics taught to us as a child. But not only is it possible and doable, it is rewarding beyond imagination.

I don't have an answer as to how you can become whole. In my life it is about challenging myself to tell myself the truth, always, as much as I can. To be brutally honest with myself. To identify my human emotional imperfections and either accept them or more a become conscious of them and try to change them.

Being whole is not about being perfect. It is about being self-accepting and continually willing to develop your own personal honest humanity while retaining self-compassion and self-awareness.
posted by Kerasia at 3:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I said that I couldn't be her friend because we were in this awkward "non relationship" where we were hanging out, sleeping together, being all lovey dovey but there was no commitment. it was hurting me emotionally because I was in love, so I told her i wanted to move on. Her response was that we should become a couple.

This is completely the right way to handle this and is exactly what would have told you to do if you'd come to us about the situation.

But two years of ambivalence is a pretty good indicator that she was, well, ambivalent about the whole thing. She didn't change her mind, she just wasn't that into it from the start. Hanging around being in an ambiguous almost-relationship for two years is not a good way to get a girlfriend and kind of not fair to either of you in the end. A better way to deal with it would be to get to that decision point much sooner, like after a couple of months instead of a couple of years. It might mean initiating hard conversations and being alone much quicker, and I get how scary that is, but it will still be better in the long run.

Next time you need to be a lot more clear about what you want and deserve. For example, you deserve to be in love with someone who actively loves you back. This will be a lot easier when you're feeling more secure in yourself in general and aren't out looking for someone to complete you as a person (which, by the way, never happens). You're getting good advice about this so far and I'm sure you'll get more. Being single for a while is probably a good move but don't get too hung up on it. You're not irrevocably broken or unlovable or anything. Relationships are hard. Move forward with your life, love and look after yourself, and try to feel at least a little bit glad that the uncertainty of this situation is over if nothing else.
posted by shelleycat at 3:21 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: That is rough. You deserve a lot of credit and kudos for handling this the correct way. Shellycat is right, her two years of ambivalence was saying something, but had I been in your shoes I probably would have kept going in the hopes that she would reciprocate. You loved her, she was doing all the lovey stuff with you, but she didn't love you back. It would have been confusing for anyone. You were SO RIGHT to tell her this wasn't working for you, that you either needed commitment or you needed to back away. It may not have had the ending you hopes for but it was still the best thing to do.

Regarding turning off the desire to date - kinda doesn't work that way. Right now you don't want to date, and that is fair game. Right now your situation and emotional state is making it so that you don't want to date, so that is done for you. However, as you heal and move on you will almost definitely return to feeling like you'd like to be in a relationship. It won't be a deliberate choice. You'll just be ready. Don't set time limits or restrictions, like "I am not dating for two years" or something like that. Just let things happen organically. If someone comes along in 5 months that you really click with and who is interested in you.. well, decide then. Don't decide now how you have to feel for the next two years.

For now, you don't want to date and don't need to date, so focus your attention on yourself. At the end of any relationship I think the best thing to do is be selfish (in a good way). Do those things that you really love doing that you haven't done for a while. Take up a new hobby that really interests you, get out and meet new people. Whatever you do, don't isolate yourself. Spend time with other people.

You can get through this, I promise.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:23 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I was in a similar place, I decided that I was not going to date for a full calendar year. I literally marked on my calendar when I could date again.

Many people thought I was nuts. They couldn't understand why I would do such a thing, but I needed that time to just be. Without the constant temptation of going places I didn't really want to be because maybe I'll Meet Someone I just did what I wanted to do--and many times that was sitting on the couch watching documentaries. I also ran my first 10k because hey, time to kill, and I paid attention to and nourished the friendships in my life.

I'm someone who does not do well with ambiguity and I needed those strict parameters to reset. The year has since passed and my soulmate did not fall out of the sky on day 366, but I have proven to myself that I alone hold the power to make myself happy.
posted by thank you silence at 5:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You should stop dating for a while. You've been through a tough time and it has the exact same impact as a breakup.

You sound like the kind of person that doesn't do will in a FWB situation. I think you should stand your ground on this. Friends are friends, lovers are lovers. It's too easy for friends to be fuck-buddies, one person just likes to fuck the other is in love. It's awful all the way around.

Now you know this about yourself. It's okay, we all learn the hard way when it comes to love.

You need to go no-contact with this person for awhile. So what, it's not what she wants? She's kind of selfish if you ask me.

I have some rituals I do for a breakup and I think you should do them. It's good for the soul and it officially marks the end of a chapter in your book of love:

1. Get new bedding. You don't want to look at that comforter with a sense of nostalgia.

2. If there's anything that has significance in your prior relationship, get rid of it. A jar of sand from that beach, an outfit you bought at that street fair, a book, whatever it is, dump it.

3. Block this person from social media, texting, your phone number. She's not the kind of person who is above trying to get you back, under her circumstances. No one is strong enough, so build your fortress.

4. Rally your friends. Have people over for movies and Whine. And wine. Watch action movies where shit blows up. Explain that you're licking your wounds, bitch about how badly you were used.

5. If you can, take a road trip with your BFFs. The idea is to blow the cobwebs out. Blast "Radar Love" on your stereo with the windows down as you speed through the desert, or Montana or wherever. Go to a motel with a pool. Hang out and read fluffy books and magazines.

6. Change your perfume.

7. Make a mix of songs that empower you. Mine has the song, "Too Many Fish in the Sea" on it. Don't want nobody who don't want me, 'cause there's too many fish in the sea...

Hang in there kiddo, it gets better, I promise.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:27 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You said:

generally I don't feel whole if I'm single.

That's your problem right there. You have to be whole to be a successful partner, in my opinion. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be partnered, but your partner needs a whole version of you. When two whole people partner up, there's no stopping them. They're not seeking emotional validation from the other to complete themselves - they are complete, and the emotional validation of being partnered is just the cherry on top.

Go out and be the best version of yourself that you can be - figure out what you want out of your life. Anyone who's partnered with you in the future deserves a whole version of you, the best version you want to give them. And put a grin on your face while you do it. When you follow your own goals and desires and interests, you just naturally meet the right people.
posted by Unangenehm at 5:51 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want to date anymore, at least for a long time. I don't know if I can turn off the desire to date or be with someone else. I don't know how this works honestly.

This is going to be hard. You can't just turn off that desire; and what's worse, is that for you being in a relationship is your comfort zone - you say 'generally I don't feel whole if I'm single'. So you are talking about trying to spend a significant amount of time in a tough mental and emotional place. And I commend you for that, because it sounds like it's exactly what you need to do for now.

There is no magic to it. It's going to be a lot like you are breaking up with 'dating' itself. Just like you may miss your ex in the wake of a breakup, or have an impulse to call her that you have to suppress because you know no good can come of it, you will miss the feeling of having that sort of person in your life, and so you will still have the strong impulse to start looking again -- and you'll have to suppress that; because, right now, no good can come of it.

So you treat it the same way: the 'no contact' rule is in strict effect, not just for your specific ex, but for dating, period. It's off the table. Non-negotioable. (If it helps you to establish a specific timeline, do so; if not, don't -- the thing here is to figure out what strategy works better for motivating you to stick with the plan.)

You will have bad days; moments of weakness; maybe you'll check out OKCupid 'just to see' what's up and who's out there. That's OK. Don't beat yourself up about it, and then just re-commit: it's off the table. Time will be your friend. People here have recommended lots of ideas about how to cope with the break-up (friends, creative pursuits, etc.), so I won't repeat any of that. I am just saying: all those things apply as well to your break-up with dating itself.

And then here is the thing that maybe you are not realizing in your current state. When you truly get to that place of being OK on your own, it is so, so liberating. That is something truly to cherish. I highly recommend it. And the only way you can get there is not to date for a good while. Maybe this notion can provide some added motivation -- what you seek is not just an avoidance of pain and heartbreak; it is the pursuit of something very real and valuable: yourself.
posted by fikri at 6:04 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your friend said something victim-blaming when he accused you of not wanting to be happy. Remember that you cannot control your partner's behavior.

Being in therapy is great, and learning to become whole without a partner is awesome. I commend you for taking a dating break to work on yourself.
posted by xenophile at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That was me at one time. Much to my surprise, I have been alone a long time. It hasn't been horrible like I thought it would be. Some thoughts:

1) Get your intellectual needs met.

I knew a guy who was sleeping with a lady he knew a couple of times a week and picking women up at club about 4x/week. I met him, told him sincerely that he was a smart guy and he began going to college. He soon stopped sleeping around. Last I heard, he had gotten married.

So get a hobby or take a class or take on a challenging project at work. Boredom can be easily mistaken for loneliness. Don't go there.

2) Find accepting, non-judgemental friends.

I think a lot of people feel that "love" means real acceptance. You can have that without romance. Ditch or de-emphasize your judgemental friends and find some who are more laissez-faire and accepting but who have good boundaries -- folks who will say "you are currently being a jerk, quit it" instead of acting like you are completely broken for being human and having shortcomings.

3) Find an emotional outlet.

Do volunteer work someplace that will make you cry or watch tear jerk movies or read Craig's list or whatever works for you, but get the emotional catharsis you need. Don't assume that not dating means not feeling strong feelings.

4) Keep busy.

Idle hands are the devil's workshop. If the above stuff still doesn't fill your time, then play videogames or garden or something but just make sure your time is filled.
posted by Michele in California at 2:17 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want to date anymore, at least for a long time. I don't know if I can turn off the desire to date or be with someone else.

People above have suggested things you can do when you aren't dating, or instead of dating.

You might still have the desire to date.

You can choose not to date even though you have that desire. Your desires don't have to control your actions.
posted by yohko at 5:22 PM on July 12, 2013

Best answer: When someone cannot stand alone, the only people that want to date them are people who want to feel needed. That's not a healthy relationship foundation. It is time to learn how to be a fully functional independent and happy person who likes being in a good relationship, but would rather be alone than be in a bad relationship. Some people learn it early, some learn it late, some (like me) learn it early, forget it, then have to go through the struggle of relearning it. It sucks, but you'll get there if you just allow yourself to do things that make you happy, and spend time with people you like, and put the idea of relationships out of your head completely for a while.
posted by davejay at 6:28 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh yeah, and your latest relationship totally didn't end in disaster. It ended before it could become one, because she realized very quickly that it wouldn't work for her, and moved on rather than drag it out. That's actually pretty awesome.
posted by davejay at 8:19 PM on July 12, 2013

Response by poster: You guys are really awesome....thank you. :')
posted by Cybria at 9:15 AM on July 17, 2013

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