Date Yourself

Photo of Leon Fox by Chase Pearson

Dating yourself is about getting to know the person you are outside the context of a relationship.

BY LEON FOX

Whenever somebody asks me if I’m dating anyone these days, I tell them, “I’m dating myself right now.”

After my last relationship I realized I needed to learn how to be a more supportive companion to myself, and develop that deep personal relationship that will follow me through all my future relationships and the rest of my life. Like Mother Ru says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love anybody else?” Can I get a gay-men?!

Dating yourself is about getting to know the person you are outside the context of a relationship. You’re basically taking all the care you would typically give to a partner and giving it to yourself. That surplus of care then allows you to evaluate your current habits, fears and needs with more ease and clarity, which helps you confront your self-destructive tendencies, and remodel your external life for greater inner harmony.  

Shortly after I started dating myself, I became completely enamored with someone and the feeling was mutual. A part of me really wanted to “date” him, but then, one day as we were talking, I suddenly blurted out, “You know what? I’m so madly in love with you that I refuse to date you!”

Living in a heteronormative culture, which positions matrimony as the sole destination for loving relationships, we’re compelled to enter into and maintain relationships even to the detriment of our personal growth and happiness. 

Which is the truth! I didn’t have to date him to love and care for him. I can have a meaningful relationship with this person without being “in a relationship.” It’s that simple. 

To me, being “in a relationship” with someone is but one of the countless gestures of love we can display. But living in a heteronormative culture, which positions matrimony as the sole destination for loving relationships, we’re compelled to enter into and maintain relationships even to the detriment of our personal growth and happiness. 

The phenomena of “relationship hopping” is a perfect example of this. It’s when people move from one relationship to another with little to no single life between, giving themselves no time to learn from the mistakes of their prior relationships. And so they end up repeating those mistakes again and again.

I find that people unwittingly use relationships “as a distraction from the terrors of inner life.” That’s part of a quote from a book by Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. The entire quote reads as follows: “Political fanaticism is often but a distraction from the terrors of inner life.”

We can turn anything in life into a distraction. Like the Buddhist proverb says, “You can be intoxicated on anything.” .And I think we’re often tempted to use relationships as escapes from the truth about ourselves, especially when we see so many people around us succumbing to that temptation, time and time again. It’s almost as if our culture condones escapist forms of relationships, even when they become dangerously toxic and perpetuate resentment between people. 

What is it about our “inner-lives” that terrifies us so? Is it facing the reality of the mistakes we continue to make? Is it the recurrent shame and guilt we use to tear ourselves down instead of using compassion and understanding to build ourselves up? Perhaps it’s our crippling fear to encounter the unknowns of our hearts that inhibits our willingness to change?

These terrors I know all too well, and I endured the miseries they afforded me when I ran from the truths they presented. That’s the core of my motivation behind dating myself: I want to have space to process my emotions clearly and vulnerably; I want to be kind to my soul, and listen my heart, body and mind as they speak their needs to me; I want to change myself courageously, so that I can empower others to do the same from a place of self-love and self-respect. 

“I’m so madly in love with you that I refuse to date you.” 

I fall in love with people everyday, all day long; be they non-binary, woman, man or child—I love eclectically and enthusiastically. Amory, desire, affection, care: these are not one-note impulses urging me into standardized relationships; instead, they are a glow of light, illuminating my love for people and the gratitude I have for the time I get to spend with them. 

Nowadays, I define my relationships with people with this simple blessing, “I’m just so thankful for all the time I get to spend with you.”