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Dating Advice #29 - Dating Vacation

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

She's burned out and needs a break. Rather than wallowing in depression, what can she do to make it "productive down-time?"

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I heard about you a long time ago and am glad to finally get the chance to communicate with you. I'm a 23-year-old girl and I've already gone through serious dating, one of which almost led to an engagement. I was young and naive and trusted guys much too quickly. With time, I grew more skeptical and became more negative and pessimistic. This has led to my current state, which I can describe as avoidant/resistant of dates.

In addition, I feel like I need time for myself, to work things out in my mind, and maybe later I would enter the dating scene with a more positive approach. I wanted to ask if you recommend such breaks, if you think that I would naturally feel more positive later on, or if I should actively do something about my feelings. Thanks.


Dear Helene,

We understand how difficult dating can be -- feeling that you're being judged, repeating the same conversation at each first date, building up hope and then feeling let down, or feeling guilty about rejecting someone yourself.

At times, anyone can become fed up with the dating process, and if you experience this, then a break from dating is a good idea. We suggest that you give yourself a break from dating of 2-3 months. Consider this a "working vacation." Use the time you would have spent dating to gain the clarity and positive attitude you'll need when you start dating again.

The first to do on this vacation is to participate in one or more activities you enjoy which can enrich your life. Enroll in a course you always wanted to take, go on a trip, or develop your creativity. Try gourmet or ethnic cooking, flower arranging, designing games, or any talent you may have neglected. It's also good to begin a regular exercise program. If you don't like running or aerobics, try kick-boxing, swimming, Israeli dance, tennis... Exercise has psychological as well as physical benefits. It causes your body to produce endorphins, which elevate your mood.

Your vacation is also a good opportunity to gain understanding about yourself and clarity about future dating choices. Write down what you'd like to accomplish personally over the short-term and long-term. You should include educational and career goals, how you'd like to express yourself creatively, how you envision your family life, the type of spiritual growth you'd like to achieve, and your financial expectations.

Some people find it helpful to imagine themselves a few years in the future, hosting a holiday dinner in their own home. They visualize the layout and decor of the room, the way the table is set and the menu that is served. They picture family members and friends who are present, participation of children, and topics of conversation.

Your vacation is also a good opportunity to write down thoughts about your past serious courtships -- how they developed and how they ended. A day or two later, review what you wrote and see if you can identify a recurring pattern. Did you end these at a similar point -- actively or by passive "sabotage" -- when it was time to reveal more of your inner secrets, or when it was time to talk about marriage, for example? What kind of feelings could have motivated you to drop your date before he dropped you -- the pain of revealing your "secrets," or a fear of abandonment perhaps?

If you are able to identify a pattern and the reason behind it, you can work on changing your future behavior. Try envisioning what would happen if you had let these courtships move forward, and the things you fear most would have come true. How would you handle the situation in a positive way? Play out the scenario in your mind. Many people find that after they have played out several "worst case" scenarios and imagined themselves handling the situation constructively, they are less afraid and can change their future behavior.

We hope that this advice will help you return to dating at the end of your vacation with renewed spirits, better insight into yourself and your needs in a future spouse, and an optimistic outlook toward the future.

Rosie & Sherry

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