I’m a sentimental person and I don’t like to break traditions. They’re both grounding and buoying to me. Every year in the first week of January, I write about my sexual goals for the year, and then I go through the rest of the year trying to achieve those goals.
But these past few weeks, my gut has been telling me to back off of sex and dating, and to do less of those things, not more. Here’s a journal entry I wrote about my swirling thoughts on this subject recently; I present it by way of explanation. I only have one “sex goal” this year and it’s more of a resolution, an intention, a self-care-oriented promise.
I have been rejected twice in one week. [Redacted: a detailed explanation of what happened, and how sad I was about it.]
This kind of bullshit is EXACTLY the reason I want to prioritize dating/sex less highly in 2017. I have what sometimes genuinely feels like an unhealthy addiction to romantic stimuli. It lifts my mood and my self-esteem, but at what cost? I just end up feeling like I can’t possibly feel happy or valuable or successful in life if I am not actively flirting with/dating/banging someone. And that leads to dating people who are wrong for me, pining over people who don’t want me like that, having bad sex with people I barely like, and leading people on with false flirtations I have no intention of following through on.
Yes, it is exciting to want and be wanted, but it is not everything; there are plenty other potent and viable dopamine triggers available to me. Spending time with friends, working on creative pursuits, even reading good books. I am SICKENED by how much I’ve relied on men to somehow magically solve my mood troubles this year. I am better than that. I have not spent 9+ years working on my radical self-love only to give away my personal power to other people.
There’s this moment in High Fidelity when, after Rob’s been persistently pursuing his ex Laura to try to get her back for ages, his sister Liz asks him, “WHY do you want Laura back so badly?” You see the confusion spread across his face as he ponders this question. He’s never even considered it before. He’s pursuing Laura because he’s never entertained alternate possibilities, and because Laura has been in his life for years so what else would he do? I feel like that about men. I need a sad-eyed Joan Cusack to shake me by the shoulders and ask me, “WHY do you want men to like you so badly?” And I don’t know how I would answer. “It makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.” But those feelings are temporary. And I can conjure them without men’s assistance.
This week has felt to me a lot like that week in February when [a boy I liked] left town and [another boy I liked] rejected me on Valentine’s Day: a compound whammy of sadness, insecurity, rejection, the fear that no one will ever want me and I’m destined to be alone forever. In February I believed that story, and it led me into one misguided romance after another, because I felt so desperately and fundamentally unlovable that I jumped on any and every opportunity to see that myth disproved. But this time I will not react that way. When the universe sends you versions of the same challenge again and again, it’s because there’s a lesson in there somewhere that you still have not learned. I think the universe is telling me to nix my addiction to love-or-the-idea-of-love. This year has sometimes slammed that lesson over my head like a frying pan, and other times gently slid that lesson in front of my face like a note passed in class. I have not been listening. I have not been paying attention. I want to apologize, to repent, to fix it. I can’t believe I let myself treat myself this way.
It almost feels like I need to go cold-turkey… No sex, dating, flirting, or sexting for maybe the first 3 months of 2017. That feels unreasonable, impossible, but it’s not. In all honesty, I may not need to impose strict rules on myself for them to get followed: I’m not currently seeing anyone, I’ve promised myself no more one-night stands in 2017 because IMO they’re always bad, and I’m currently feeling so wounded that I can’t imagine wanting to flirt with anyone for quite a while. Maybe I’ll read this over in a few weeks and laugh at myself, I don’t know. But for now it feels good and right and manageable and necessary for me to take some time away from the thing I’m addicted to, so that hopefully eventually I can come back to it healthier and better-adjusted. I don’t want to have a toxic relationship to love and sex; I love those things. In 2017 I want to pursue them much more mindfully, less desperately, and LESS overall. That’s hard and good and good and hard.
Have you ever taken a break from dating/sex/etc. for mental health or self-care reasons? How did it go?
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