THE BLOG
06/11/2015 06:36 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2016

'I'm Just Going to Just Focus on Myself' and Other Lies

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If you're thinking of taking a break from dating "to focus on yourself," you're doing yourself a big disservice. You're also lying.

Why? Because this is little more than fear dressed as empowerment. Sure, it sounds like a well-thought-out decision, and all spiritually evolved... which is why it often escapes without scrutiny.

Not that you don't have excuses to back it up, because we all do: Work is crazy. My cat is sick. I want to renovate. I want to read more.

What you'd really like to do is pretend you're not looking. You'd like to be off the clock. So that if someone asks you what's doin' in the love department, you can say, "Oh, I took a break from that." Bang. You're officially unaccountable. Free. How's that different from: "I'm taking a break from eating healthy. That's why I'm devouring an entire chocolate torte."

What this is is very clever self-delusion.

(Of course, it's likely that you also feel that fate will make love happen. Read why this is a bunch of bunk and a horrible way to approach love.)

Here's what you really need a break from: Self-flagellation.

Dating isn't nearly as hard as the standards you hold yourself to, the pressure you put yourself under. Two people can go on the same dates, and the one who beats herself up harder will have a far less satisfying time. The fun of dating comes from the sense of adventure -- and a detachment from the outcome.

I know that seems counterintuitive when what you want IS the outcome (i.e., a partner), but it's that very pressure that sabotages the dater. What you need isn't a break from dating but a break from the scary high expectations you have and your own harsh self judgment.

Try this instead: Make connection, not perfection, the goal. Fuck finding your soul mate on every date. This is a recipe for disappointment. Go into any and every interaction, whether it's a formal date or not, with an air of adventure and curiosity. What can you learn about this person, and yourself, in the process? How does it feel to connect with other people, to flirt with them, and enjoy their company, regardless of what may follow?

Toggling the on/off switch.

Your problem is you believe you're either "dating" or you're "not dating." But that's not how life works. Or love. And if you want to be open to it, wherever you may find it, there's no reason to hang up a "Sorry, we're closed," sign. You can go on a date a week or a date every few weeks and still be "dating." No need to make a formal announcement that you're not, which is little more than your attempt to be excused from risk and effort.

You believe you can only focus on yourself when dating is switched into OFF mode. And yet, dating is the most noncommittal form of connection. If it causes you to lose focus on yourself, then you're at risk of not being able to maintain that critical balance when/if you're in a committed relationship (which, I'm guessing, is what you want). Or is your plan to just let self-care fly entirely out the window because the perfect mate will demand it? The time to practice that balance is now, not later.

Try this instead: Pace yourself. You may feel you need to call off the dogs because you're just too damn tired. So stop booking three-four dates a week every week. Maybe one is enough for you, maybe two. I have a rule myself, which is no more than two first dates in a week. Those first ones require a particular brand of energy, and you want to be fresh for those. So space them out. No one said you had to be a weekend warrior. If you don't make time for yourself while you're dating, you actually won't be much fun TO date.

Remember: Dating is not the opposite of focusing on yourself. Actually, dating is all about you. What you like, what you want, who appeals to you. You take a break from cleaning the gutters on a 90-degree day. You don't take a break from meeting people unless you seal yourself off in an ashram. Pretty sure you're not doing that.

Because it seems to me that if you lose a grip on yourself during the dating process, then you'll either expect that it gets easier in a relationship (wrong again) or that you won't mind (again, no). In fact, dating is the best time to practice what it means to connect with others AND maintain a connection with yourself.

Originally appeared on The Date Report.

Got a serious dating block? Overhaul your dating mindset and your love life with my seven-day online course, Stop Hating, Start Dating. And visit territrespicio.com for more content like this + to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free copy of my e-book "Take the WORK Out of Networking," about how to make better connections in business and in life (it totally works for dating, too).

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