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.