The Man Diet

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

I call it the Man Diet, but that’s a mis­nomer. It should be an SO1Sig­nif­i­cant Oth­er Diet or Rela­tion­ship Diet. Those don’t roll off the tongue quite as well, so take it as giv­en that I’m refer­ring to any­one with whom you would typ­i­cal­ly have romantic/sexual relationships.

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 meet the stan­dards I want­ed in SOs, and often to accept­ing treat­ment that ranged from unpleas­ant to down­right abusive.

Right now, I do not entire­ly remem­ber what trig­gered the real­iza­tion that I’d nev­er have a tru­ly healthy rela­tion­ship if I felt that I had to have a rela­tion­ship with some­one oth­er than myself—that 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 issues come up repeat­ed­ly. I was tired of the mer­ry-go-round. I did­n’t count on hav­ing any more sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers. I decid­ed I was done, and 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 I had nev­er been unpart­nered for any sig­nif­i­cant time. I’d spent my life using rela­tion­ships to avoid deal­ing with my issues in a pro­found 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.

I seemed to meet poten­tial SOs every time I turned around in the next few months. It was rain­ing men, and I was NOT singing “Hal­lelu­jah!” That was­n’t easy. It was tempt­ing to make a minor excep­tion because he was just so nice! Or so smart, or fun­ny, or what­ev­er. But there’s nobody like true friends to kick your butt when needed.

I’ve nev­er had a prob­lem deal­ing with most prac­ti­cal things—balancing check­books, basic home repairs, and 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, keep me occu­pied, and suck up lots of ener­gy. I only felt beau­ti­ful because they said I was and want­ed to be with me.

But I found oth­er ways to use my time and 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. I went alone if nobody else want­ed to see a par­tic­u­lar music event.

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

While I was 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! 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 now because I don’t fear being alone. I can be alone and be happy.

I think spend­ing at least a year alone as a tru­ly inde­pen­dent adult is a good idea for 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, what­ev­er it is, 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. (Note: Being celi­bate does­n’t mean you can’t be sen­su­al as hell and make love with your­self. You just don’t have sex with any­body else.)

Set up an account­abil­i­ty team by telling sev­er­al peo­ple what you’re doing. They need to be peo­ple you can trust to help you con­tin­ue to your goal. If some­one isn’t sup­port­ive, dis­tance your­self from them. 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 sup­port­ive people.

It may take some peo­ple longer than a year to get past the “omigod 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 its peo­ple will still be there when you’re ready.

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