Why You Should Take A Dating Sabbatical

The day after my twenty-eighth birthday, I broke up with a lovely man, who still happens to be one of my best friends. The break up was sad, but relatively mutual. We loved each other and, in a sense, still love each other. What we were not, however, was suited to one-another.

I am a fantasy and science-fiction writer; he is a punk-rock musician. I am a hermit, an introvert, a lone wolf; he is a social butterfly in his scene. I value quiet time at home; he values time spent in the ‘jam shack’. There were other things too, but this is the crux of why we were not suited to being partners. For me to be happy, he had to sacrifice his happiness; and for him to be happy, I had to sacrifice my happiness. Even during the highs—and we had plenty of those—the relationship never felt right.

And yet we spent over a year in this relationship, over a year of trying to make it work. In the beginning, we fell hard and fast for one another. Actually, I think out of the people I have fallen in love with, never have I fallen quite as hard and fast as I did for this particular man. The speed at which I was pulled into the gravity of our connection was too fast. My judgment flew out the window. I did not take a moment to ask myself, Hey, Melody, are you sure this relationship is right for you?

Instead I dove in head-first, committing myself to him right out the gate. Fast-forward to the day after my twenty-eighth birthday—and I am sitting across the table from him, hardly able to eat my breakfast because I know something is wrong.

Actually, deep down, I had known something was wrong for a long time. But I had been in sweet denial, trying to get lost in our highs, and ignore our lows—an exhausting way to live.

I had been too afraid to break up with him, petrified of even admitting I wanted to. For one thing, there would be the usual guilt of breaking up with someone. And this would be amplified by the fact that, deep down, I had known something was off for a while, yet I had continued to trudge along anyway. How unfair to him!

Beyond the guilt, was my crippling codependency and my chronic fear of being alone. Shouldn’t I, at this point in my life, have found my life partner? What if I never find love again? And will I even be able to manage by myself? Will I fall into depression? Will I struggle to pay rent? These fears haunted my mind, gatekeeping my path to even considering breaking up.

Up until my twenty-eighth birthday. On that day, something happened—some minuscule thing—not unlike many of the other instances in which me and my boyfriend’s differing values were demonstrated. It was so minuscule, in fact, it would be petty to disclose what the thing actually was. And yet, this was the very thing to wake my higher-self up and send her to battle on my behalf. Not to battle with my boyfriend, but with my toxic codependent thoughts. The thoughts holding, not only myself back from the life and relationship I truly want, but him as well.

My higher-self slayed these thoughts, and then confronted my boyfriend with how I was feeling. He was not surprised, and had been feeling it too. We then went through the smoothest break up I have ever gone through. We continued to live together until the end of the month, dealing with things maturely and carefully.

Come October, and he had moved out. I remember coming home from work that Saturday, to an almost empty apartment. Most of our stuff had been his, what with all his music gear, and how I covet minimalist philosophy. Even though, aesthetically, I prefer an empty apartment, I burst into tears. Being alone was terrifying.

But, because I was so terrified of being alone, I knew it was exactly what I needed to do. So I committed to a dating sabbatical. As much as I craved romance and love and partnership, I knew I had some baggage to work through, and that it was best I work through this baggage on my own.

I was also realizing just how unfocused my codependent self had been in that relationship. My ex never dissuaded me from writing; in fact, he encouraged it. Both being ambitious creatives—my wanting to write fantasy and science-fiction novels, and him wanting to tour the world with his bands—we bonded through our inner artists and our tenacity. That said, I gave up a lot of the time and energy I would have spent writing, reading, and working towards my vision, to partying at his band practices, hanging out with him because he was home and available, and other attempts at making the relationship ‘work’. A lot of energy went into that relationship, instead of my career. As much as it was not my partner’s fault, I felt a lot of anger after the relationship ended, mainly at myself for getting so out of touch with what I truly value.

I vowed for this to never happen again: to never get into a relationship so misaligned with my authentic self, no matter how tempted I may be. From this point forward, I was committed to making myself happy, and only taking a partner if they added something beautiful to my already-blessed life.

In order to make this happen, my higher self knew I needed some time alone. Time to actualize myself, to live out my values, to make myself happy. Originally, I committed to a year of celibacy. Instead of devoting a huge chunk of my time to a relationship—which, in the past, was my norm—I rededicated myself to my Life Purpose: writing stories and essays that ask big philosophical questions. And I returned to my first manuscript, which I had finished in 2018, revised in 2020, but then had neglected to edit throughout 2021—all for the pursuit of this relationship.

My manuscript had good story, characters and setting—I saw to that in 2020. But the prose needed work. This I had known, but had been finding ways to avoid, by distracting myself. And the biggest distraction of them all was my dysfunctional relationship. The perfect piece of resistance. Like I said, this is no one’s fault but my own.

During my sabbatical, when I was not working on the Mastery of my craft and the development of my manuscript, I was working on myself, doing deep healing work to clear up my codependency for good.

By April 1st, 2022, I finished my manuscript, and since then I have started the daunting and drudgerous process of submitting my book-proposal to publishers and agents. (Wish me luck!) But this past fortnight, I have felt suddenly different, like I have gone through a portal. Six months have passed since I committed to my dating sabbatical, and even though I originally committed to a year, I now feel ready to start putting myself out there again.

I am in no rush to commit to someone, let alone shack-up. And I am not even really craving a relationship anymore. At first, I thought this meant I did not want a relationship at all, that I wanted to stay on my sabbatical, maybe even commit to life-long celibacy!

But then I realized: this is the healing magic at work. I no longer ‘need’ a relationship; my life is complete as it is. This sense of abundance empowers me to make good choices in my love life. Anyone I welcome in will be a candle on top of my already-delicious birthday cake! I do not feel pressured to settle, to stick out a bad relationship, to ‘make it work’, to over-function and exhaust myself.

I truly think everyone should take a dating sabbatical at least once in their life! For—unless you have been exceptionally fortunate, and have somehow managed to avoid the emotional trauma many of us face—you probably have some baggage when it comes to love and relationships, some old patterns of thought and behaviour that are not serving you, some limiting beliefs. Maybe you are even a recovering codependent, like myself!

I am not saying you should break up with a partner who makes you happy, or try to fix something that is not broken. But for those who are in a shitty relationship, or for those who are currently single, there are many benefits to practising celibacy…

I reflected on my karma.

I have always been a ‘hopeless romantic’—and I do like this about myself. But, before my dating sabbatical, I was also a ‘serial monogamist’; I had never spent a long period of time embracing my solitude. In the past, I was either in a relationship, in heartbreak after said relationship, or looking to be in my next relationship; because deep down I felt incomplete without a man.

Committing to not date for an extended period of time, to actively not look for a relationship; this broke my toxic karmic cycle. It was extremely uncomfortable at first. Back in the fall, in the early days of my sabbatical, I spent many nights crying alone. But, by and by, that sadness faded; and, somehow, shifted into a new sense of comfort; which then shifted into a new sense of—I could not believe it!—happiness.

In the past, I have rushed into things—settled.

My old karmic cycle shows how I would settle for relationships that did not really make me happy. In fact, in many of these relationships, I was not even allowed to be myself. Younger me had a thing for controlling men, it’s true. If I did not feel absolutely smothered by another person, I did not feel loved—disgusting! And yet, that is how I spent most of my early twenties: in relationships that swallowed me up, that justified my avoiding self-actualization.

A combination of committing to someone when I was too young, before I had true clarity about what I want out of life, and my old codependent ways. There was much about myself and about life I did not understand. So, in a sense, I needed those relationships that contrasted with my authentic self to learn who I truly am.

In my first year of college, at the age of twenty-one, I got into a relationship. The relationship lasted five years—and about two or three too many! By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had not had any proper time to explore, because I had been so committed to this person, and shaped my life around him. When that relationship ended, I was devastated, but, at the same time, excited. I realized how much I had allowed this person to hold me back. But now I had the chance to be anyone I wanted to be.

Old me was also a master of turning a blind eye to red flags. A lack of boundaries, manipulative and controlling behaviour, dysfunctional living and drug abuse—all things I have ignored!

See, in the past, I felt such a need for a relationship that I would allow the person to stifle my growth. I would risk a couple red flags if he gave me enough of a thrill. I was quite literally addicted to love, and an addict will do anything to get their drug.

I do not need a man or a relationship to be happy.

During October, November and December, I craved a relationship so badly. I kept wondering, “When will I find ‘the one’?!”—even though I was on a dating sabbatical. But come 2022, I no longer cared.

For a recovering codependent, not dating was like an alcoholic not having a drink. In the early days, there were many times I almost relapsed and downloaded Tinder. A friend of mine suggested I just needed to get laid, and I considered the possibility. Around New Years, she tried setting me up with a few, uh, candidates. I was starving for validation and assumed I would immediately relapse into neglecting myself to text them all night.

What surprised me was this: I actually gave zero fucks! In fact, when one of the men got angry with me for not texting them back quickly enough, I—novelly—acknowledged this as a red flag. For the first time, I found myself happier on my own, unbothered, than I was seeking validation from men.

My scarcity mindset transformed into an abundance mindset.

Now that I do not ‘need’ a man to be happy (In Truth, I never needed a man!), I do not feel this impending sense of doom in my being single. Actually, I quite like being single—especially after years of toxic codependent relationships. I am happy with myself and my life—therefore anyone I welcome into my life has to add joy, rather than detract joy—a tall order, because most days I am over the Moon!

I, like most humans, do want a relationship. But now, after traveling half-way around the Sun all by myself, I do not want a relationship at the cost of my joy. The idea that we need another human being to ‘complete us’ is a delusion. I have let this delusion dissipate and, instead, tuned myself to the vibration of my inherent wholeness.

I have stopped asking, “Do you like me?” and started thinking, Do I like you?

At one point, validation from men was my drug of choice; I needed it to feel confident and alive. Now that I have this new-found sense of abundance—now that I am not labouring under the delusion that I ‘need’ a man—I have stopped worrying about whether or not men like me. The question has transformed from “Do you like me?” to Do I like you?

Back when singleness felt like solitary confinement, of course, I worried about whether or not I passed the standards of potential suitors. But now I love being with myself, so rejection is no longer a threat. And after all, other people are allowed to have their standards, just as I am allowed to have mine.

What is a threat however, is an incompatible mate—or worse, someone who holds me back from self-actualization—or worst, an abuser! There are degrees to how misaligned someone can be. Now that I have gone through the recovery process, I have a very clear idea of what I want my partner to be like, and furthermore, what I want my life to be like—and I will not settle for something that is just okay and available—because, honestly, I am happier on my own.

I learned who I am, what I value and how to make myself happy.

How can we know who we authentically are if we are always with other people? Despite my introversion and how much I enjoy spending time alone, up until last Autumn, I had not dedicated a season of my life solely to myself.

I spent these last six months writing, mainly—finishing my first manuscript—getting it ready for publication. In focusing on this one very specific goal, I found a deep sense of fulfillment.

For years, I have known writing is my Life Purpose. Many times since this discovery, I have found myself in situations in which I have to make a choice. The Universe tests me: How badly do you want this? During my sabbatical I faced another one of these tests: Did I want to jump into another codependent relationship and live out that karma some more? Or did I want to, for once, focus on myself and my vision for my life?

I chose the latter, and I put all my resources into my self-actualization. Of course, I have not fully actualized myself—and will I ever have, truly? That said, what I value, what I want out of life, this is now crystal clear. And I would not have found that clarity, if I had not faced my fear of being alone.

Nor would I have finished my manuscript. Nor would I have levelled-up as a writer. Nor would I have read an average of two books a week. I would not have committed myself to practising meditation everyday, to practising yoga thrice a week, and to drawing Tarot cards at Morningtide and Eventide. I would not have committed myself to going for a hike or a long walk once a week. I would not have committed myself to becoming more conscious of my health.

While, initially, being alone was scary, depressing and triggering, eventually I saw the void as a blank canvas, upon which I could create anything. And that is exactly what I have been doing.


MD Luna