This Common Piece Of Dating Advice Doesn't Work & Here's What You Should Do Instead

by Annie Foskett

I've spent the majority of my 20s single-ish. I've participated in many in-betweenies, and more on-and-off again situationships. There have been starts and stops, moments of pure joy, and moments of Instagram-spiral panics. There have been textbook endings in which my fear of intimacy abetted me in imploding a good thing. Those endings were always followed by the same recommendation from others: "Get over someone by getting under someone else."

Well, to give my sweet friends credit, they never said those exact words. "Get over someone by getting under someone else," is what I imagine an early aughts meme might say. It probably would have been my away message on AIM had I been having sex or getting my heart broken at 14. But as a 29-year-old grown-*ss woman, I find the quote a bit problematic, even in its wording — um, what if I want to be on top?!

Distraction is undeniably appealing, though, especially when grappling with the pain of a broken heart. It makes perfect sense that this sentiment is a popular one. In the past, when I'd be in an "ughhhh, I'll never get over this"-state, my friends would often say something like "Find someone to distract yourself!" or "It's OK, you'll find someone new."

The thing was, I never wanted to "find someone new," or at least, not right away. I wanted my old person! (Or a giant cookie.) I have a terrible habit of falling extraordinarily hard, or not falling at all. I don't need a relationship — I'd rather be alone than forcing it with that dude who just really liked me that one time.

Here are some truths about me: I don't love negotiating my schedule with that of another person's. I enjoy splaying across the entirety of my bed like a Goldendoodle awaiting a stomach rub. I would rather brag to my friends and family about an enormous career move than an enormous ring. Were it more societally acceptable for Lady George Clooneys to jaunt around, I don't think I would sweat my singledom at all. But it's not, and I often feel like a leper.

Not to brag, but I think being long-term single is really important in your 20s, especially after a major breakup. But I have friends who are the polar opposite of me — friends who have been serially in long-term relationships or friends who haven't really been single since seventh grade.

A close friend of mine recently exited a long-term relationship that took up more than half of her 20s. When she did, I noticed something I had never noticed before — she mainly wanted to talk about men, and what her next relationship would be. Prior to her breakup, we had other things to talk about, but now, moving on was prioritized. And that's fair! Being in a relationship is part of her identity, the same way that being single is part of mine.

My friend jumped into a new relationship pretty quickly, and things moved ahead on a fast-track to seriousness. She seemed blissful, and I couldn't have been more happy for her. But I caught up with her recently, and she presented a different story. Her boyfriend is being a bit of a jerk — a huge jerk, I saw the texts — and she's unhappy. She knows this, but she still wants to make it work. Her default is to be in a relationship, even if this new relationship isn't her healthiest one yet.

The trouble with the advice of distracting yourself with the next thing before you've had time to heal on your own is that it becomes very easy to lose sight of yourself outside of a partnership. What are you things you like to do? How are you at a wedding solo? What vitality and life do you bring to the table as just you, yourself, and um, you?

I'm not saying I have it all figured out, because I think the amount of trouble I have giving up my independence when presented with a great man who wants to be serious is as unhealthy as jumping from relationship to relationship. Maybe my friend and I both need to switch up our dating patterns.

You don't need to spend five years on your own (though you'll really get to know yourself and what you want), but maybe just take a little breather before you dive back into the dating pool. If I hadn't spent time by myself in my 20s, I'd be a different person than I am today. I would never have figured out that I need my independence, even in a relationship. And now, I know that's too important to me to ever give up.

But at the end of the day, if you're cruising for some casual D or V to help wash away some of that breakup pain, go for it! Or hey, even jump into that next relationship. I don't know your life! I'd say just remember that you don't have to get into a new relationship to move on from your last one, unless, of course that relationship is with yourself. That's the relationship you should tend to first, bb!