Why and How You Should 'Date' Yourself Before Your Next Relationship
"Dating" yourself is one of the most important steps you can take for yourself and for future relationships, too. While you may feel guilty spending time and money on yourself, dating site eharmony's 2022 Happiness Index study indicated 73 percent of singles are more attracted to people working on personal growth. In addition, 51 percent of single daters are spending more time on themselves and 53 percent are prioritizing self-care. Experts say these trends indicate healthy behaviors and mindsets.
3 reasons you should date yourself
1. You'll feel happy on your own
"There are many psychological reasons someone should date themselves," explained Emily Simonian, head of clinical learning at Thriveworks Counseling & Psychiatry and a licensed marriage and family counselor in Washington, D.C. "You'll improve your ability to feel content and satisfied without a partner, be able to self-soothe during tough times and know your values, wants and needs."
Feeling like you need someone to make you happy can lead to unhealthy dependency issues and possibly choosing the wrong partner. Instead, a much more sustainable foundation for future relationships comes from taking care of yourself, learning about yourself and becoming comfortable and happy with yourself, said Robin Buckley, Ph.D., an executive coach and relationship strategist based in Round Rock, Texas.
2. You'll build your self-worth, self-love and self-respect
Relying on a partner to build your self-esteem can lead to unhealthy relationships.
"Dating yourself helps you develop confidence based upon internal beliefs, rather than external beliefs offered by someone else," Buckley explained, adding that if your confidence and self-image are founded on someone else's opinions, they're more likely to fluctuate.
A practical way to build your self-worth is to spend quality time alone getting to know yourself and make a list of the things you love about yourself, Simonian said. Recognizing what you value about yourself increases your self-respect. Next, she suggested making other lists about what you value, your goals and where you want to be in five years.
3. You'll have a better understanding of what you want in a partner
People often get into relationships because they're seeking companionship, sex and friendship. We ignore red flags in our partners because we aren't sure what we want other than being in a romantic relationship.
"Dating yourself gives you time to decide what the negotiables versus the nonnegotiables are when it comes to a future relationship," Buckley said.
For example, some nonnegotiables might include having a partner who shares your religious or spiritual views, has the same level of cleanliness or has a compatible personality.
3 ways to deepen your relationship with yourself
1. Treat yourself
When you're in a relationship with someone else, you have to compromise on aspects like the movies you watch, the music you listen to and how you spend your money. Dating yourself gives you the freedom to splurge on something you really want, watch whatever movies you want and listen to your favorite music, Simonian explained.
Dating yourself is a time to be selfish and indulge. While material gifts might not be everyone's love language, you can spend quality time with yourself by doing what you love. Take yourself on dates to a café, the movies, parks or the beach. Perhaps you'd like to get a massage, go to the salon or exercise at the gym. Rediscover whatever activities nourish your body and mind.
2. Prioritize self-pleasure
Another way to date yourself is to find ways to connect with your sensuality, Buckley explained.
"Light candles for yourself, wear materials that feel good on your skin, create a visually pleasing home environment, play your favorite music when you walk through your door or keep your favorite food in the fridge for yourself," Buckley said.
If self-pleasuring is a way you connect to your sensuality, you can keep your favorite lube and sex toys close to your bed. Just as you would try to meet your partner's sexual needs in a relationship, you should take your own pleasure just as seriously.
3. Do activities you've always wanted to do
May Bugenhagen, a dating coach and professional matchmaker based in Los Angeles, said she coaches her clients to do one activity a quarter that gets them out of their comfort zone.
"Take on a new hobby," she said. "But don't just do it, go to a class to learn it. If you've always wanted to learn how to play golf, sign up for group golf lessons. Whatever it may be, if you are doing something you like, you'll feel better about yourself. You'll meet new people, make friends and build confidence in the process."
If you're not sure what you want, Buckley suggested asking yourself questions like, "What have I stopped myself from doing?" or "What have I always wanted to try?" She advised choosing an activity to focus on for the next few months to a year. This activity could be taking music lessons, language classes or anything requiring a long-term commitment.
What's stopping you?
Dating yourself is a beautiful concept worth embracing. Whether you've always wanted to try scuba diving, taking an ice plunge or attending a spiritual ceremony, dating yourself means you no longer have to consider anyone else's wants and needs. You have total freedom to do everything from unconventional activities to simple indulgences.
Even if you're currently in a relationship, carve out a little time to date yourself. It can help you love yourself, prioritize your needs and really make the most of your "me time." It's a practice that everyone can benefit from indefinitely.