“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” – RuPaul
Date yourself? What does that mean? You may have heard of people marrying themselves (known as sologamy) recently, so why not try dating yourself? And I do mean more than just some quality time with your genitals and some lubricant.
I originally started recommending this idea to friends who had recently ended a long term relationship (LTR) or were despairing about staying single for a long time. It’s an evolution of the “delete facebook, lawyer up, hit the gym” advice that is often given on internet relationship forums – which essentially means stop focusing on what other people think, protect yourself and start working on self improvement. I went one step further and suggested that my friends start to behave as though they are going to remain single for the foreseeable future. How would they live if they only had themselves to answer to? What dreams had they put on hold for other people? And if they were going to be alone, how were they going to meet their emotional and physical needs?
Modern western society is now more focused on individual identity than ever before, with millennials being dubbed the “me me me” generation. But despite all this apparent narcissism, we still lack the cultural norm of taking care of ourselves when other people can’t see it. True self care is not practiced commonly, perhaps because we fear it verges on “selfishness”, which the Judaeo Christian roots of our culture frowns upon. I’m here to tell you that this kind of selfishness isn’t just okay, it’s absolutely necessary.
“dating yourself is not just for people who are already single”
Cheryl Richardson’s concept of Extreme self care is the type of practice encouraged particularly for those in helping professions who may experience burn out from neglecting their own needs in favour of helping others. I think that we all prioritize the comfort of others above ourselves from time to time and that it can often become out of balance, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. So dating yourself is not just for people who are already single, you can practice self dates while in a romantic relationship – in fact it’s good for the health of relationships in the long tern. I also recognize that for some people a LTR is not what they want or need to be happy, so for them self-dating could be a permanent lifestyle. Dating yourself can also improve non-romantic relationships like family or colleagues; sometimes what’s causing interpersonal friction might be our own stress or anxiety.
Esther Perel suggests in Mating In Captivity that eroticism lives in the tension between our fear of being engulfed and our fear of abandonment. Too close and we feel suffocated, too far and we feel lost. Therefore, it’s important that in our relationships we are can define ourselves as individual sexual identities as well as a shared erotic entity, but it also extends to all aspects of our lives. If we don’t have our own interests and hobbies but instead merge ourselves into the life of our partners, we are not only cheating ourselves of a fully realized life but also depriving our partners of the privilege of sharing your diverse experiences. Perel says the thrill of eroticism exists in crossing the bridge between individuals – if there is no gap to cross, there can be no bridge and no thrill.
“Sweep yourself off your feet”
We are also inundated with cultural messages about how “the right one” will appear one day and you’ll live happily ever after with all your problems solved. Ever heard a couple tell each other “you complete me”? Well why would you want to date half a person? Or worse, offer only half a person to the one you love? If we strive to be complete, whole people when we are alone then we reduce the baggage we bring to a relationship. This means that when things do get rocky we are more capable and prepared to deal with it. Instead of looking for someone to complete you, try thinking about someone who complements the whole person you already are.
I’m not just talking about masturbation (although that is the foundation of all partnered sex) but a broader sense of treating yourself as you would a treasured loved one; nurturing your dreams, pursuing your goals and taking excellent care of your body and mind. You want only the best for your romantic partners, so imagine what a good partner would want for you. Think about how you want to be treated and do it. Be your own prince/ss charming and sweep yourself off your feet.
Being able to meet your own needs will not only make you happier as an individual, but it will mean that you are not dependant on a partner for your happiness. That means when they do give the gift of their attentions you aren’t placing expectations or demands on them unfairly. Our partners cannot always be our everything at all times and it isn’t healthy to expect them to be or to try to be that for them. Instead, if we all learn to date ourselves every now and then maybe we can come to the table of a relationship as whole, healthy individuals ready to give and receive love.
Book yourself in for a date night with yourself
Give it the same amount of serious time, money and effort that you would put into a date with a partner, but focus on what YOU want to do. Still struggling to see what dating yourself would look like? Here some ideas from my own life and friends who have started this practice too:
- Pizza at the beach! – Order whatever you like without worrying about someone elses allergies or what you look like in your swimwear.
- Over the top bubble bath – with candles, fancy drinks, incense and bath bombs. Rose petals optional. If you don’t have a bath, get yourself a snazzy body wash and take that extra long shower you deserve.
- Masturbation marathon – spend some time finding a new toy, lube, or erotic entertainment to make your alone time more interesting. It’s easy to treat masturbation as routine and get into a habit, so why not periodically spice up your spank bank or toy box the way you would with a partner. As a toy retailer I’ve often found people are more willing to buy toys as a gift than for themselves – there’s that religious fear of selfishness kicking in again. Think of it as an investment in your personal health, happiness and stress relief and prioritize your budget accordingly.
- Join a class – This one might sound less fun, but it’s one of the key principles of personal development. Try learning a skill or joining a sport that you have always wanted to do; pottery, ballet, yoga, languages, cooking, boxing, cycling or even just a social club. Not only will this improve your self esteem as you develop new skills, it will make you a more attractive person in general – people on the path to self-actualization (maslos hierarchy of needs) often appear more confident, more “awake” and more interesting. Plus, you’ll be happier when you do the things you love doing.
- Cook a romantic meal – Don’t skip out on the elaborate candlelit dinners just because you’re by yourself. Music, lighting, atmosphere is all important. Dress up, but by your definition. Buy special ingredients that you love or have wanted to try, and don’t worry about messing it up – you can always order in if you burn dinner and no one has to know except you and the ubereats driver.
- Activities – Paintball, minigolf, movies. It may feel weird doing these traditional couple activities by yourself, but once you embrace the novelty of dating yourself it can be an exercise in personal freedom and empowerment. If anyone questions you, tell them your partner is just struggling with feeling invisible lately, or you didn’t know people normally do this as a date, or better yet just tell them you’re dating yourself and very happy thank you.
- Professional massage – While you may happily book a couples spa day, it’s less common to book yourself a nice massage for no particular reason. If you are single for a length of time without intimate physical contact, you may begin to feel touch starved – especially for the kind of healing touch a masseuse can provide. Prioritize being touched as part of your full body and mind health, because it truly is an essential component. Just like masturbation, massage can also relieve tension, anxiety and stress, as well as dealing with muscle pain that may be affecting our ability to experience pleasure. If you aren’t keen on body touch, getting your hair washed at a hairdresser often includes a delicious scalp massage.
- See a doctor – This isn’t a date per se, but it is a fundamental part of loving yourself. We want our loved ones to stay healthy, so it follows that we should also take care of our own health. Put some serious thought into the little habits that could be taking a toll on your health and seek help for any problems or concerns you have been putting on the back burner. Tackling your health problems now means that you are more capable of taking care of someone else in the future, and your loved ones can rest easy knowing you are doing everything you can to stay healthy too.
- Send nudes – Just got out of the shower and noticed you’re looking cute? Of course you do, you sexy thing. Why not snap some pics just for you? You look good, so why not enjoy the erotic energy in capturing photos of your body? If anyone has the right to enjoy looking at your body it’s you. So gussy up, put on that risqué outfit and grab your camera. If you’re concerned about hackers stealing your stash, try using a traditional camera without internet connection rather than your phone. You can always delete them right after!
- Netflix and chill – grab your go to special treat food (healthy or unhealthy as necessary) and indulge yourself with a hearty binge watch of your favourite guilty pleasure show. For this to be different from your regular day off, it’s important to tell everyone you’re having a date night and cannot be disturbed.
- Window Shopping – So maybe you can’t afford a styling new outfit right now, but everyone can afford the confidence boost from just trying on nice clothes. It’s surprisingly less stressful when you don’t actually have to make a decision or spend any money!
- Personal grooming – break out the fancy razor, give yourself a mani-pedi or go get a haircut. We all have personal grooming rituals that we don’t always get the time to really enjoy, so slow it down and treat yourself to some quality care.
- Give yourself a gift – Get yourself that little thing you’ve been craving but shrugged off as non-essential. Even better if you can get someone else to wrap it for you. Subscription boxes are a great way to give your future self a present too – in a twist of fate a good friend of mine has just launched a self-care package service, so you can get beautiful gifts designed to spark mindfulness delivered to your door! Check out Okurimono for more.