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The ManDiet

I have referred to The Man Diet sev­eral times as some­thing I have done and rec­om­mend. After explain­ing it sev­eral times, I’ve decided to write it up here and just refer peo­ple to the arti­cle.

I call it the Man Diet, but that’s really a mis­nomer. It should be an SO Diet or Rela­tion­ship Diet or some­thing like that. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well, so just take it as given that I’m refer­ring to women, men or who­ever you would nor­mally have romantic/​sexual rela­tion­ships with. 

There was a time when I went from one rela­tion­ship to the next. If I didn’t have one or more SOs, I felt incom­plete. I didn’t have incred­i­bly healthy rela­tion­ships, but I was sel­dom alone! I derived much of my self-esteem from being in rela­tion­ships with oth­ers.

Unfor­tu­nately, that led to “set­tling” for peo­ple who didn’t really meet the stan­dards I thought I wanted in sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, and often to accept­ing treat­ment that ranged from unpleas­ant to down­right abu­sive.

Right now, I do not truly remem­ber what trig­gered the real­iza­tion that I’d never have a truly healthy rela­tion­ship if I felt that I absolutely had to have a rela­tion­ship with some­one other than myself — that, in fact, cul­ti­vat­ing a healthy rela­tion­ship with myself, being com­plete in myself, was vital. 

I didn’t think all that out so clearly at the begin­ning. I was just tired of the crap. I was tired of going from one rela­tion­ship to the next and hav­ing the same crap come up over and over again. I was tired of the merry-go-round. I didn’t hon­estly count on hav­ing any more sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers. I just decided that I was done. I swore off men for a year. 

At the begin­ning of that period, I felt anx­ious. I felt lonely. I felt more than a lit­tle des­per­ate, because hon­estly, I have never been alone unless I chose to be that way. I’d spent my life using rela­tion­ships to avoid hav­ing to deal with my own issues in a deep way. If I hadn’t told sev­eral friends what I was doing and asked them to help keep me hon­est, I don’t think I would have stuck with it. 

In the next few months, I seemed to meet poten­tial SOs every time I turned around. It was truly rain­ing men! That was dif­fi­cult. It was really tempt­ing to just make a lit­tle excep­tion, because hey, he was just so nice! Or so smart, or funny, or what­ever. But there’s noth­ing like true friends to kick your butt when you need it. 

To be hon­est, I’ve never had a prob­lem deal­ing with most prac­ti­cal things — bal­anc­ing check­books, basic home repairs, even sim­ple auto main­te­nance. I didn’t need a man to take care of any of that. No, I looked to SOs to keep me com­pany, to keep me occu­pied, to suck up lots of energy. I felt beau­ti­ful because they said I was, because they wanted to be with me. 

So I found other ways to use my time and my energy. I went out with friends as friends. I devel­oped new friend­ships that were much bet­ter because I wasn’t putting any­thing into won­der­ing whether or not the rela­tion­ship would move into other areas. If nobody else wanted to go see a par­tic­u­lar music event, I went alone. 

I finally faced up to some of the issues I was avoid­ing when most of my energy was going into inter­ac­tions with an SO — like why did I need a man around to feel worth­while? Why did I accept treat­ment that I wouldn’t want any of my friends to accept — that I had, in fact, told other peo­ple to walk away from? Why wasn’t I hold­ing out for the kind of per­son I wanted? Hell, why hadn’t I sim­ply become the per­son I wanted? 

While I was really count­ing the days at first, by the end of that year I didn’t even real­ized it was done. I didn’t think about it until a cou­ple of months later when a friend men­tioned it. Hey, it was over! I real­ized that I didn’t feel an urge to run out and start any­thing new. I was just fine with being me, with­out a man. 

I won’t pre­tend that I’m all past all of that stuff. It comes back at times, but not nearly as strongly. It’s much eas­ier to insist on the kind of treat­ment I deserve from an SO, because I don’t fear being alone. I can be alone, and be happy. Not a prob­lem.

I think spend­ing at least a year alone as a truly inde­pen­dent adult is a good idea for absolutely any­one. If pos­si­ble, live alone. Be solely respon­si­ble for your­self finan­cially. Develop a healthy social life that has noth­ing to do with whether or not you have an SO. Do any­thing you’ve been putting off. Were you wait­ing to take a vaca­tion until you had some­one to go with? Go now. Go back to school. Change jobs. Vol­un­teer. Learn to dance. Just do it, and enjoy it. 

Dur­ing that year, prac­tice celibacy. That means not only do you not have SOs, but you don’t have “friends with ben­e­fits” or one-night stands. Just be with your­self. Honor your­self. Love your­self. Treat your­self as you would some­one you truly trea­sure.

Tell some­body what you’re doing. Tell peo­ple you can trust to help you con­tinue on to your goal. If some­one isn’t sup­port­ive, dis­tance your­self from that per­son. I don’t care if that per­son is an imme­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber. You need to main­tain bound­aries, and you don’t need any­one tear­ing you down. Seek out new friend­ships with peo­ple who are sup­port­ive.

It may take some peo­ple longer than a year to get past the “ohmigod I’m gonna get old and be ALONE!” panic. That’s fine. Take what­ever time you need. I promise that you will be health­ier and hap­pier for it. The world, and all the men and women in it, will still be there when you’re ready.