During Bustle's App-less April, a challenge to date without apps for 30 days, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and hit the delete button on all of my dating apps. I felt so empowered by the challenge that I took it a step further and decided to take a break entirely from dating.
When I first began my dating detox, I felt totally exhausted and burned out from the hookup culture. Years of being ghosted, strung along, and mistreated had left a toll on my emotions. By taking a step back from the dating world, I was able to reflect on the relationships. I realized an emerging theme: all of my relationships had been emotionally abusive and unstable. I dated men who picked apart my appearance and my clothing. I dated men who shamed me for my past. I dated men who compared me to other women. In all of these instances, I stayed silent. I put in every effort to emulate their ideal woman. Still, no matter how much I changed, I was never good enough.
I now understand that my dating habits were driven by my mindset and my inner belief system. I engaged in toxic dating habits because I held distorted views of love and relationships. My negative self talk and inner mantra told me that I was not worthy of love or of acceptance. I felt ashamed for all of the mistakes I have made in my past, and for all of my flaws. I exuded an energy of self-loathing and negativity, and I attracted partners who only reinforced it. I allowed my partners to dictate to me how I dressed, how I acted, how I spoke, because I did not love and accept myself. I wanted so desperately for my partners to love me that I lost myself.
After self-reflection, I now understand that our relationships should nourish our soul. Our partners should arouse us intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. They should foster our growth and find beauty in our imperfections. We should feel free to be our authentic selves with our partners. True love is not conditional on a certain aspect of ourselves.
Gaining perspective on my dating habits has been a long journey. In order to truly grow and change, I have had to cultivate a loving and respectful relationship with myself. I now truly believe that I am worthy of love and I will never again surrender my sense of self to my partner. I will never allow my partner to diminish my sense of self worth and dignity.
Below, I spoke with 17 people about the dating habits they want to drop.
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