When you’re deep in the doldrums of a recent breakup, it’s tempting to jump head-first into your next relationship. You might find yourself wanting to replicate the intimacy and comfort of that lost relationship. You might even find yourself trying to spoon a one-night stand!
Here are six reasons why you should allow yourself a period of celibacy before your next relationship. The length of the celibate period depends on the length of time you dated your ex and how hard you took the breakup. But here’s a rough guide: you’re ready to start dating again when you’ve found a way to actually enjoy your own company!
1. You Will Learn to Be Picky
The longer you stay single, the more picky you’re likely to be when you finally do date again. Think of it this way: If you decide to go on a juice cleanse for a week, you’re not going to go to McDonald’s on your first day of eating, are you? No, because that would make you feel gross. You’re going to very carefully select a first meal that is nutritious, satisfying, and enjoyable. You’ll probably make big deal about it the meal, in fact — it will feel kind of like a ritual. The same goes for dating: the longer you stay single, the more likely you are to choose wisely when you do start dating again. Because why break your period of celibacy with some random asshole?
2. You Can Focus On Your Career
There’s a theory, popularized by David Sedaris, that we all have four burners in our life, kind of like a stovetop: family, friends, health, work. In order to be successful, the theory goes, you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be truly successful, you have to cut off two. We happen to think that the burners are slightly different for single people — your romantic life is a major burner! And when you turn that off, you’d be amazed at the energy and focus you can put into your workalike. And if you say, hey, work sucks, why would I want to focus on that? Well, that’s exactly why you should focus on it! You can use the time to figure out what kind of work wouldn’t suck.
3. You Can Read a Great Russian Novel (Or Three)
How many books on your shelves — or in the library — have you been meaning to read for years? How many great novels do you assume that you’ll get around to reading “one of these days”? Well, guess what, life is short, and Russian novels are long! You could waste your time on some meaningless fling so that you won’t have to experience the loneliness of an empty bed — or just so you have someone to watch reality TV with. Or, instead, you could better yourself via classic literature. Trust us, this high horse feels really good! If you want to go one step further, then why not write a novel, too?
4. You Get to Take a Break from Online Dating
Don’t get us wrong, we think online dating is the best thing to happen to romance since the birth control pill! After all, we’re the ones who created the Nerve Personals — and Em even met her husband through the Nerve Personals. That said, however: online dating can be rough. Em had a hundred mediocre first dates before meeting her guy. Online dating presents us all with a tyranny of choice, where we never quite feel happy with our selection. People are always trying to “trade up” or swipe left or right one more time. It can be rough on the ego, and it can be rough on the heart, too. In our experience, online dating is easiest to stomach when you take occasional sabbaticals from it.
5. You Can Figure Out a Retirement Plan
We’re serious! Do you have one? Do you know where you’d like to be in twenty years? Do you know where you’d like to be in forty years? Do you have an I.R.A.? You should! Compound interest, people! We’re not financial advisors, but if you want to know more, start reading here. The benefit of thinking about your financial future while you’re still single is that you will develop a real life plan and you’re much less likely to bend to the whims of a future partner. (Or find yourself swayed by the size of someone’s bank account.) Of course, everyone should be open to compromise — but if you’re all compromise, like a bowl of jello without the bowl, you’ll end up living somebody’s else’s dream life, not your own.
6. This Is a Chance to Learn to Love Your Body
It’s hard to love your own body — or even learn to accept it — when you’re with someone, because the thought, “What do they think of my body?” will always trump the thought, “What do I think of my body?” This goes both ways, by the way: If you’re out of shape and treating your body like crap, and you’re dating someone who treats their body the same way, then it’s easy to let things slide. Or if you’re dating a gym nut and only attending the gym because your partner does, then it’s easy to let this habit go when you break up. The kind of healthy habits that last a lifetime are the ones you develop for yourself, not for anyone else. This is an opportunity to figure out what makes your body feel good — food, exercise, sleep patterns, and, yes, masturbation. And once you’ve figured out how to treat your body well, you can figure out how to love it, too, with all its imperfections. The kind of confidence you will develop from this will impact your future dating habits immeasurably — a confident person doesn’t let anyone feel like they don’t measure up, especially not a romantic partner.