I haven’t put the “relationship diet” article on my web site because Sam was going to try to market it to a magazine. I don’t think I’ve posted it here. If I have, please forgive me and attribute the repeat to brain fog.
Please don’t circulate this to others without my permission. I definitely don’t want it posted to the web, Usenet, message boards, other LJs, mailing lists, etc.
The Relationship Diet
Hey, I’ve got a nifty new diet for you! No, it won’t make you lose pounds or inches, but it will lead to a healthier you!
It’s The Relationship Diet. That’s right—relationships.
Unlike, say, a grapefruit diet in which you only eat grapefruit, this diet doesn’t involve developing a lot of relationships. Nope—you’re going to stick to one primary relationship for the length of the diet. That relationship is with an incredible person—you.
Don’t turn the page. No, I’m serious. You can have all the dates in the world, you can have lots of sex, you can even get married and have babies together—but if you aren’t intimate with yourself, if you don’t treasure yourself, if you are not content with being with just that one very special person who is you forever if that’s what comes, you aren’t going to have very healthy relationships with anyone else.
I’m telling you that you are the most important person in your life. You are a beautiful, smart, sexy, loving, intelligent being who deserves to be cherished, pampered, and loved. You are the only person who can truly treat yourself as you deserve, and until you give yourself that kind of treatment, it is unlikely that anyone else will—or that you’ll insist on it!
I’m not suggesting that you be selfish or self-centered in the traditional sense. I am telling you that you are, as you know somewhere down deep even if you don’t want to admit it, the only person who will always be with you, who you can always count on, and with whom you must then build the strongest, healthiest relationship of your life.
I know that The Relationship Diet works because I did it. It was really almost accidental—I certainly hadn’t thought everything out yet. I was just tired of going from one relationship to the next, getting to know someone, and having everything crash and burn after a few months or five years.
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 can tell you, though, that it came after divorce number three. I’d made different mistakes each time around, but I’d certainly made mistakes.
I didn’t honestly count on having any more significant others—I just decided that I was done. I swore off relationships for a year.
At the beginning of that period, I felt anxious. I felt lonely. I felt more than a little desperate. 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 boyfriends 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 so funny—you get the picture. There’s nothing like true friends to kick your butt when you need it, and I owe thanks to mine.
To be honest, I’ve never had a problem dealing with most practical things—balancing checkbooks, basic home repairs, simple auto maintenance, building my own computer, even lifting heavy things, opening jars, and killing bugs. I didn’t need a man to take care of any of that. No, I looked to men 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. And I finally faced up to some of the issues I was avoiding when most of my energy was going into interactions with a boyfriend or husband—like why did I need a man around to feel worthwhile? Why did I accept treatment from them 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 realize it was done. I didn’t think about it until a couple of months later when a friend mentioned it—hey, it was over! And 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 a partner because I don’t fear being alone. I can be alone and be happy. Not a problem.
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 a significant other. 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 significant others, 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. Be your own most wonderful lover.
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. We’re all different, and some people will find it better to stay on the diet longer than others.
I promise, though, that if you will do this, if you will spend at least a year just taking care of yourself as the most significant person in your life, you will be healthier for it. You will be a better parent, a better partner, a better employee, you name it. You will be happier and more relaxed.
It is perfectly possible that you’ll find people coming out of the woodwork who want to be involved with you, because being complete in your own skin is far more attractive than the smell of desperation. That isn’t why you try this, though—try it because you deserve at least a year of good loving. I promise.