06/04/2013 10:28 am ET Updated Aug 04, 2013

The Dating Detox


My friend "E" has never had a shortage of dates. Her outgoing personality, love for life, and sense of fun has helped her meet men anywhere she goes. Some of her dates turn into short-term relationships, but she is really looking for a real relationship that will last with someone she can build a future with. For the first time in the 15 years that I've known her, she is participating in a 30-day dating detox -- meaning she is taking a month-long break from dating. She is not engaging in conversation with men at the bar, she has deleted her online profile, and she is just focusing on herself and reflecting on her past dating experience.

The key elements of the dating detox are great: let go of negative energy from past relationships, increase your endorphins through exercise, make a list of things that make you happy, learn something new by taking a class or a workshop, and focus on you and what you want. I didn't realize until "E" had mentioned it that I have been participating in a dating detox off and on for the past two years. My dating life definitely has ebbs and flows where I will go out on three or four dates a month for a few months and then retreat back into a self-imposed hibernation where I focus on myself and my goals. Has the dating detox helped me? Most definitely. Am I still attracted to the wrong type of man? Most definitely. But the difference is now, I realize that you can still be attracted to someone and not act on it.

After my divorce, I kept dating men who were similar to my ex-husband, although I did not realize it at first. I was continuing to use the same outdated dating skills that I had used in my early twenties (the last time I had been single). It wasn't until I went into my first dating hibernation that I realized that I was repeating the same pattern over and over. For me the first step in breaking the pattern was understanding my role in the relationship. What is it about me and my past that is attracted to a certain kind of man? One that is controlling, emotionally unavailable, and unsupportive. I used to feel that if I created a relationship where I was loving and supportive of my partner, that they would model this and change their behavior. But it has taken me almost 11 years to realize that you can't change someone's behavior, you can only change your own. I believe the people that we attract are a mirror of ourselves. If you are not in a place in your life where you are happy and healthy with yourself and your life then you will attract someone who is equally unhappy.

My recommendation for you if you are just at the beginning stages of your divorce is to take the time to reflect on the relationship, and understand your role in it. Learn a new language, take guitar lessons, or go to a horticulture workshop. Do whatever it takes to reenergize your mind. Want to work out your feelings of hurt or anger? Running is one of the best things you can do. Not only do you feel great afterwards but it is an amazing stress reliever. There is light at the end of the long dark tunnel of divorce, I promise. As for "E" and her dating detox, she is seven days in and loving it.