Out for dinner with some recently married family members, I passed on my advice of making sex and intimacy between couples a habit. The whole 5 of 7 rule (or whatever amount) which can help ensure the little every day annoyances likely to occur, don’t end up a barrier between a sexual relationship.
We talked about the research on forming habits. Studies show it takes two months for something to become a habit.
I got to thinking, naturally.
My recent experience with Tony where we fell back into a level of contact and intimacy which is not okay for me was an intense reminder of the power of habits. But equally, I now have the habit of creating distance with him. It’s the little things – don’t text, don’t call, don’t fill the space in my life with him.
It’s actually not all that hard, now that I’m used to it.
Sure, I have moments where my heart seizes with the thought that nobody else will love me the way he does – his acceptance of all of my facets – but it hasn’t impacted my ability to create the distance I need.
Forming good dating habits is so important for those of us who were out of practice for a long time. Or especially important when our efforts aren’t yielding the results we want. It’s so easy to just do what we’ve always done. It’s easy to say “that’s just how I am”. It’s convenient to think everyone else is at fault.
But you know what? The common factor in all of my dissatisfying relationships is me.
Same goes for you, my friends.
A harsh truth, but truth nonetheless.
I’ve written many times about my journey to change the behaviors I felt weren’t getting me what I wanted. I still make mistakes, of course. Some of those bad behaviors haven’t yet become habits. I’m working on it. But I have developed good habits too, and of those I’m very proud.
We ultimately become tested with real temptation. It’s easy to say I am staying away from sugar when nobody has put a cupcake in front of my face. I’m a sucker for cream cheese frosting. I do think there is real value in starting to develop habits by avoiding situations that tempt us. For example, my dating rules are all about that – for example, I don’t even engage with a married man or someone not clearly out of their marriage, because I don’t want to be in that position again.
It’s easy for me to say I don’t put up with bad behavior from men, until it’s at the hands of someone I really like. Fortunately, it doesn’t apply to 90% or more of the men I’ve met. I reopened my Bumble profile and mostly my response is “meh”. I’m really good at taking my time between texts and not worrying about whether they like me, when I don’t care all that much.
But it’s still good practice.
I’m starting to reap the benefits of having taken a dating break. I am more focused on work than I was before, and in my new-found free time I have done things like fix my toilets and get around to washing my curtains. And because that focus is becoming a habit, I’m less fussed with the men who show up in my Bumble match list.
This may seem contradictory to my earlier comments about allowing Tony to fill the space and also how I can’t get Kyle out of my head. I’m hoping my point is clear that developing good habits makes them harder to break, but even if I take a step back, they also make it easier to get back on track. I also believe avoiding situation that test us also helps build our change resiliency.
And as we all know, the goal is to keep marching forward.