The Relationship Diet

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.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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