At the start of January, less than three months after breaking up with Pete Davidson, Ariana Grande hopped on Twitter to tell fans that she’s retiring from dating in 2019 — and possibly for the rest of her life.
This tweet reminded me — and clearly, many of those in her replies — of the countless other “I’m-done-with-dating” social media rants that I’ve been subjected to throughout the years. Cosmopolitan even called Grande’s anti-dating strategy “the most relatable thing you’ll hear all day,” which must mean a lot of people are choosing to step away from the (admittedly discouraging) dating world.
But I couldn’t help but wonder: Does quitting the dating scene actually solves anyone’s problems? According to couples therapist Brooke Sprowl, that really depends on the mindset people have when entering into their period of abstinence.
“There’s this approach where people are like, ‘Maybe I really need to look at myself and stop looking for fulfillment in a partner. I want to create richness, beauty and romance in my own life, and I want to cultivate a stronger relationship with myself, so I’m gonna take some time for me,’” Sprowl explains. “That, to me, is authentic and grounded. They’re taking responsibility by saying, ‘This isn’t the world’s fault. Maybe there’s something I’m doing here that I can take responsibility for without calling everybody else a jerk.’”
But on the flip side, Sprowl says that some people pretend they’re taking the time to work on themselves, when they’re really just hoping that Prince/Princess Charming will come along if they stop looking. “They think it’s the formula for finding someone, but it’s not actually real,” she says. “They’re saying all the right words, but it doesn’t feel authentic, so they’re like, ‘Oh, I just need to focus on myself, and I don’t need anyone.’ But in reality, they’re just hoping that, that’s gonna bring them the person, because they think it’s some kinda magic wand.”
All of which means, Sprowl explains, that retiring from dating only really helps if you take the time to actively work on yourself. “Are you just refraining from dating, and then not doing anything to work on yourself, or are you going to therapy and trying to be open-hearted about some of your own issues and what you bring to the table?” she asks. “People like to put the blame on others for their problems — and there are bad people out there, there are bad people that we date and there are bad people in the world, so I’m not suggesting that it’s all on us — but my belief is that whatever we’re going through in life is co-created.”
So, Sprowl isn’t saying that taking a break from dating only works if you spend the time picking yourself and your own problems apart, since you may very well have dated some horrible people that brought you to this point. It’s more about taking the time to check yourself and the people you previously spent your romantic energy on. “It’s not about being broken,” Sprowl explains. “This idea of like, ‘Oh, I’m broken, and there’s something wrong with me for picking the [people] I pick’ — that’s not right, and I think that’s a damaging cultural message. But neither is it helpful to be like, ‘[People] are jerks, and I’m just some perfect [person] that they’re not worthy of.’ That’s just narcissism, and it’s not right either.”
At the end of the day, if you do choose to take some time away from the battleground, the best way to move forward is to take an unbiased look at what went wrong in previous rough relationships and what you can do to put your best self forward next time around. “Find a really good therapist who challenges the way you view the world,” Sprowl suggests.
Or you can just never date anyone ever again — whatever works.