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How to reset your love life by taking a dating hiatus

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Dec 15, 2023

How to reset your love life by taking a dating hiatus
  • Are you increasingly overwhelmed by dating? The good news is that you are not alone. 

    In the lightning-fast and app-ified world of modern dating, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re constantly on the brink of burnout. All of the swiping, matching, and messaging only to have a connection fizzle out and leave you feeling emotionally exhausted. 

    We’ve all had a moment or two during dating when we are struggling. You might find yourself at a loss after a series of bad dates or a series of even worse relationships. You’re venting to your friends about why queer women suck and decidedly swear off lesbians for the foreseeable future. Relatable much? Sounds like you need to take a dating hiatus.

    In a society that glorifies relationships and partnership above all else, you might feel like you’re giving up on dating. Like you’ve finally resigned to the life of the lesbian spinstress your mom feared you would become when you came out. “Time to foster another cat,” you mutter as you shuffle around in your house slippers.

    But honestly, dating burnout can happen to anyone at any time. It’s not a personal failing of yours. It seems counterintuitive, but taking a break from dating might actually be the best thing that can happen to your love life. If this feels like something that you could benefit from, here is everything you need to know about how to take a dating hiatus and reconnect with yourself again.

    Dating hiatus meaning

    A dating hiatus is an intentional break from the whirlwind chasing of love and romantic relationships to focus on your own personal growth. And by hiatus I mean no dating, no dating apps, no hookups, booty calls, or meeting up with your ex-girlfriend for “closure.” This could look like taking a break from dating lots of different people, or maybe you’ve recently gotten out of a full-blown relationship and need time and space to heal. 

    If you’ve never taken a break from dating before, you might not know what to expect. It’s easy to feel intimidated by the idea of being alone, especially if it means taking a break from the dating apps. If you’re like me, then intrusive voices in your head might be vying for airspace. What if my future partner is only a few clicks away? What if she’s just waiting to message me back? What am I going to do without the ego boost? 

    This is where the concept of taking a break can actually come in handy. There have been periods of my life where I was so afraid of being alone that my life revolved around finding a partner. I started to unconsciously develop an unhealthy relationship with dating and became semi-addicted to queer dating apps. That’s when I knew it was time to put a pause on my pursuit of romance, at least for a little while. 

    Grant Hilary Brenner, MD, psychoanalyst and author of Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy says that

    “Taking a break from dating can help us to sort through other issues so that when we get back in the saddle, there’s a chance of our relationships going in better directions.”


    It can be hard to break any kind of habit and deciding not to date for a while is no different. However, taking a break from dating, especially when you are struggling, might be the empowering move you need to jump start the most important relationship in your life—the one you have with yourself.

    A close-up photo of a woman kneeling on a white bed with her hands outstretched. Inside them is a small felted red heart.

    How taking a break from dating can improve your life

    While taking a dating hiatus can be scary at first, it can also be a deeply transformational and empowering decision. Here are some of the ways that putting a pause on your love life can help your mental and emotional well-being.

    Ditch the FOMO

    With the rise of the internet and online dating comes the inevitable fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO. If you’ve ever found yourself obsessively checking your messages or refreshing your matches on the apps, you might have had FOMO. It’s that feeling of uneasiness that if you aren’t constantly looking at your phone or messaging someone back, that you miss out on a relationship that was meant for you. 

    But the truth is that the fear of missing out steals us away from the present moment.

    “Focusing on what you may be missing (FOMO) generally leads to disappointment, distraction, and dissatisfaction.”

    A licensed psychologist Cathy Sullivan-Windt, Ph.D. 

    Try replacing that FOMO you might feel during a dating hiatus with JOMO— the joy of missing out. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or what could have been, try to practice gratitude for what you do have in your life. Burn a nice candle. Take a long walk in the park with yourself on a quiet morning. Try your best to cherish the alone time that you have with yourself. 

    “JOMO is the satisfaction one feels in the current moment, with accompanying acceptance of what one doesn’t have in that moment.”


    “Life satisfaction increases with intentionality and actively choosing things one finds fulfilling.”


    Rediscover yourself, again 

    Dating can often be a welcome distraction from spending meaningful time with ourselves. It can be easy to lose yourself in romantic relationships, especially if they are dysfunctional.

    “[Dating] can be all-consuming, occupying not just time, but also tying up cognitive and emotional resources, hijacking and undermining friendships, or creating obsessions and compulsions which interfere with work and other important personal pursuits.”

    Hilary Brenner

    Instead of repeating this cycle, it’s okay to take a break from dating. Try to redirect some of that energy you were using to get to know other people to re-get to know yourself. This is a great time to pick up any passion projects that you’ve been putting on. What is something that you’ve always wanted to do but never have time for? Start writing that novel you abandoned a few years back. Learn how to skateboard or take cooking classes for the first time. Whatever you do, just make sure that you are spending quality time with yourself. 

    “[In a relationship] we can lose sight of our own basic needs, letting self-care fall by the wayside and forgetting what we wanted in the first place.”

    Hilary Brenner

    He recommends using a dating hiatus to really go after the things that you want outside of romantic relationships. Not only will these things make you feel satisfied and fulfilled, but they will also help you learn how to be alone, get to know yourself, and not compromise on what you out of your life.

    An image of a scruffy little white and brown dog and his Black femme mama sitting on the pavement. The dog is wearing a red collar and has his tongue out.

    Heal from a difficult relationship 

    Sometimes a hiatus can be the best thing to ever happen to your relationship. Taking a break from dating new people can help you give yourself the proper time to heal from a long-term relationship and put the focus back on yourself. If you’ve recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, researchers suggest taking a break before getting to know other people immediately. This will give you a chance to work on yourself, grow from your past mistakes and experiences, and find yourself again.

    Rather than jump straight into another relationship, try to use this break in dating other people to reflect on your romantic patterns and pitfalls. Do you get your self-worth from being desired by someone else? Are you the avoidant one in your partnerships? Do you seem to keep falling for the ‘wrong people?’ The more aware you are of your behaviors and tendencies in relationships, the more likely you will be to make different decisions next time. 

    “I intentionally did not date for two years after a pretty tumultuous relationship, and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made!”

    Luca, a 27-year-old queer woman from Chicago

    “Now I’ve been dating someone for a few months who I’m super compatible with. I attribute finding her entirely to the self-reflection I did and the skills I learned while not dating anyone for an extended period of time.” 


    It’s especially important to take a hiatus from dating if you are still caught up in your feelings for your ex. While it can feel easier to compartmentalize these negative emotions and plow headfirst into a new connection, the past always has a way of catching up with us.

    Date your friends 

    Okay, I realized we are talking about a dating hiatus and here I am telling you to date your friends. But by date I mean invest radically in the platonic relationships in your life that can so easily fall by the wayside when you get swept up in the heteronormative, toxic monogamy culture that we are all born and raised in. Say it with me. There is nothing quite like the unconditional, beautiful, and overflowing love that comes from friendships! Taking a break from dating is a great chance to re-invest in and prioritize your friendships.

    Eli, a 23-year-old non-binary femme from North Carolina told me that they decided to stop seeking out sexual or romantic connections last May.

    “I wanted to focus on building friendships because I realized I would sexualize relationships in order to avoid being vulnerable and becoming emotionally intimate. Now I have lots of beautiful, platonic, queer friendships.” 


    When you get into a new relationship, it can be easy to fall head over heels into that codependent cave of new queer love. All of a sudden, it’s a year later, you’re going through the worst breakup of your life, and you realize that none of your friends know what’s going on in your life anymore.

    “I think once I feel solid enough in my friendships that I know I won’t de-prioritize them because of an exciting new sexual connection in my life.”


    “I don’t want to hop right back into old patterns.”


    Learn how to not settle for less 

    While dating burnout can be caused by several things, one of the biggest reasons for dissatisfaction in relationships and dating is incompatibility. Have you ever found yourself in a different version of the same relationship or dynamic over and over again? Are you wondering why you are struggling so much with dating? This might be a sign that it’s time to take a break from dating and figure out what you really want. 

    A great exercise that a friend once showed me is to make a list of the ideal qualities you want in a partner. This could be about their personality, gender expression, ambitions, or things that they bring to a relationship. I used to have a history of dating mean femmes throughout my 20s. I was attracted to powerful women and would often pin my self-worth on the fact that a hot fiery girl who seemed ‘out of my league’ would choose to be with me. 

    When I got burned at the end of a 5-year-long relationship, I had to face the part of myself that was attracted to people who weren’t good for me. I had to learn how to be okay on my own. I could still value qualities in potential partners like independence, autonomy, and self assuredness but without the mean factor. 

    When you are okay just on your own, you are far less likely to date someone out of desperation or settle for a relationship that falls far short of your expectations. When you take a break from dating and romance yourself, you learn exactly how you should be treated by someone else.

    Two women in a cooperative garden working together to harvest tomatoes from the land. Gardening can be a great thing to get into to if you are on a dating hiatus.

    How long should you wait to date after a breakup?

    Some people insist that you should wait at least half the time that you were in any long-term relationship to get over your ex. Others think that the best way to recover after a breakup is to jump straight into the dating pool and meet someone new. 

    “It’s hard to put a number on it, but you’ll probably want to wait at least a month before jumping back into the dating pool again.”

    A psychologist Paulette Kouffman Sherman, Psy.D.

    Usually it takes a few months (or even a few years) to fully process and grieve a serious relationship before starting fresh with a new love interest. But at the end of the day, it’s entirely up to you and when you feel re-centered and ready to open up again. 

    I have also learned to believe that what is meant for you, won’t pass you by. I used to live for the “what-if” and would blame myself if something didn’t work out, racking my head for all the things I could have done or said differently. These days, I try to let things happen naturally and trust the process. You will end up with the right person (or people) for you when the time is right.

    Ultimately, taking a dating hiatus can be an empowering and transformational decision. When you give yourself a chance to take a break, step back, and prioritize self-work, you might be surprised with the newfound confidence and awareness you find. By embracing this time alone and with friends , you can give yourself (and your love life) the chance to improve. So that when you finally are ready to start dating again, you know exactly what you’re looking for.

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    Dusty Brandt Howard is a writer & a fighter. He is a trans masculine cultural narrator who builds worlds with words. You can follow his thirst traps on Instagram, his writing on Substack, or find him at your local queer bar in northeast LA.

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