Love—isn’t it a concept that many consider priceless?
On the receiving end, that’s certainly true. Love has all of those components that keep us coming back for more—chemistry, romance, attraction, lust, affection, joy, and belonging.
And yet, love absolutely has a price tag. The cost is high. If we love, we’re sure to experience fear, insecurity, heartache, and even loss. When we’ve been in and out of relationships in which we envisioned a future that never actually happened, it can seem like the cost of love is far too high.
Cue the cynicism. When relationships end, swearing off all future relationships seems like a good way to protect our hearts from any further bruising. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t believe that permanently swearing off relationships is healthy for us. I do think that we need to be able to keep our hearts open and vulnerable, so that we can continue to learn and grow as humans. I don’t think we can fully embrace our lives with hearts locked tight against all potential discomfort.
However, I do think there is a point when swearing off relationships can be transformative. About a year ago, I found that dating had lost its shine. I wasn’t enjoying meeting new people, and my encounters with prospective dates seemed increasingly negative. I found that my anxiety was increasing, while my enjoyment of the process had disappeared entirely. I tried a self-imposed dating moratorium so that I could take a break. I deleted all of my online dating profiles and turned down offers offline too. I just needed a break.
What did I do on this break? I focused on myself and my children. I stayed healthy; I ran, lifted weights, attended a weekly yoga class, and meditated each night. I took my children on adventures. I listened to TED talks and learned a little Italian using an app. I shaped my days the way that I wanted, and I didn’t feel lonely or stressed at all. In fact, that dating “time out” was exactly what I needed to reset myself. I felt restored.
I think there are times when swearing off relationships is the thing that we need to do to clear our heads, figure out our priorities, and set some personal goals that have nothing to do with love, sex, or romance. It gives us time to ask ourselves the questions we so often overlook:
What do we really want out of life?
How do we enjoy spending our evenings?
What goals do we have?
Do we have any hobbies or interests we’ve been wanting to pursue?
In what way could we improve our lives?
What are our top three priorities right now?
So much of the time, we enter relationships and allow ourselves to give up our own identity to merge with someone else. We become this couple identity rather than two separate individuals with separate interests, plans, and goals. We find ourselves letting this or that interest slide to accommodate that identity, and before we know it, we begin to lose a sense of who we are as autonomous humans.
Perhaps it’s just our Western culture that focuses so much on our own identity, but I can’t help but believe that the healthiest relationships contain two strong, independent individuals who join their lives without fully merging together and losing themselves completely. I believe that a solid relationship enhances us rather than drains us.
It’s difficult to maintain a relationship in this way if we’ve never given ourselves a break for long enough to figure out who we are and what we want. We should evolve as we get older and not just stay stagnant. It becomes important to take a look inward to check and see if the path we’re on is still what we want all these years later.
Swearing off relationships is a good way to stop focusing so much on the next love interest, and instead, focus on creating the lives we want. Sure, it can’t last forever. Our hearts weren’t ever meant to stay guarded. But, choosing to take a break from the dating world can provide an invaluable opportunity to transform our lives.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Unsplash/Kyle Sterk
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis