What I’ve learned from my dating fast so far

What I've learned from my dating fast so farIn March I felt that I should go on a dating fast.

What is a dating fast? Well, its like when you give up a certain food or Netflix or makeup…except with dating.

Usually a fast is for a designated amount of time and has an underlying reason behind it. For example, you may fast from sweets to lose weight, you might fast from something else for religious reasons, or you may want to challenge yourself to give up something that you feel you have become dependent on/is preventing personal growth. (Like when I tried to give up coffee and then realized I was not interested in personal growth without caffeine).

To anyone who knows me well, a dating fast sounds like something of a joke. This is understandable as my dating life has essentially been nonexistent and the closest I’ve come to having a boyfriend is about as close as Pam Halpert came to dating Michael Scott. Not to say that I haven’t liked anyone, but only a handful of guys and it never worked out long-term. Being 20, this may surprise a lot of you, but the College Prepster didn’t have her first boyfriend until her twenties either, so I feel like I’m in good company.

Knowing my dating history, some people (and sometimes myself), questioned my decision. Isn’t my giving up boys for a year kind of like someone with celiac disease saying they’re giving up gluten? Well, yes. But also, no.

Here’s why: going on a dating fast wasn’t about giving up the (nonexistent) millions of boys that were lining up outside my door, it was about the position of my heart.

I felt that even though I didn’t have a boyfriend, I still let myself get too anxious about the guys I liked and it wasn’t healthy. Whenever I liked someone I felt stressed, insecure and consumed by the uncertainty of their feelings and by an urgency I felt that things had to work out.

I realized it wasn’t healthy and I didn’t want to enter a relationship with someone because I felt lonely or thinking that a boyfriend could solve all my problems. I wanted to be steadfast and confident in who I am before being with someone else.

But I also felt that it would be hard to focus on personal growth if I met someone I liked and became distracted (as I have repeatedly in the past) by the possibility of a relationship. On the other hand, if I knew I couldn’t date anyone, it would be easier for me to focus on things I want to work on. (Even if Zac Efron came knocking at my door).

It also seemed like a really good time to not be thinking about boys since I was in the middle of the super weird/scary/exciting transition from college to the real world. I had (still have) a lot of important decisions to make. The kind of decisions that shouldn’t be influenced by a cute guy.

Looking back over the past six months I feel extremely grateful that I made the decision to swear off guys for a year, I have learned a lot and grown from it. As I go through the second half of my dating fast I want to share some of the things I’ve learned so far.

Being friends with guys (even if you have crush on them) is a good thing.

To most people this is probably a no-brainer, but for me it wasn’t. I never had any interest in having anything to do with a boy unless I like liked him. I felt it would be dishonest and confusing to be friends with someone you wanted to date; and I thought that if you didn’t like them then they probably liked you and things could get awkward. But as I’ve gotten to know more decent guys, the more I’ve realized what I’ve missed out on. My guy friends are some of the funniest people I know and a joy to spend time with. Even more importantly, I’ve learned that its important to love men as brothers and let them respect you as a sister too. To see guys as just potential boyfriends is to sell them short.

They are people and not just a list of pros and cons. Not only that, but getting to know someone you like as a friend first can serve a firm foundation for a relationship or make you realize that an initial attraction doesn’t equal relationship material, avoiding a potentially messy and painful break-up later on. Of course it is never okay to lead someone on, it is important to set boundaries on friendships with guys and do what you can to avoid sending mixed signals. Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your feelings about someone. On the other hand, don’t put yourself in a painful situation either, if you like someone and know they just see you as a friend, take a step back if you need time to get over them or if it is too painful to try being friends.

Maybe you already have a bunch of good guy friends, or maybe you’re like I was and not interested unless they meet your dating standards. In any case I strongly advise you to value friendships with men as the joyful and educating experiences that they are. Of course, as with any relationship/friendship, the guys you spend time with should be the kind that respect, honor and value you as the incredible person that you are.

This is just one of the few things I’ve learned from my dating fast so far, over the next few weeks I will share other lessons I’ve come to understand!

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