A woman who took a year off from dating said it healed her 15-year streak of toxic relationships
Tara Schuster is a former Comedy Central executive who took a year off from dating to break a decade's worth of unhealthy patterns.
She said examining her repeated dating mistakes over that year gave her clarity about what she really wanted.
Traveling, spending time with girlfriends, and healing her relationship with her 78-year-old father helped.
It was the start of the pandemic, everyone was hunkered indoors, and Tara Schuster wanted a boyfriend.
So when Schuster's friend connected her with a man who lived a few hours away, she jumped at the opportunity to virtually date him and have a distraction from being alone.
When restrictions loosened, Schuster said she didn't think twice about going camping with the man, who she had yet to meet in person, and his brother. She quickly learned he was like every man she'd dated before, and not in a good way.
"He was one of those people who always walked two feet ahead of you. He was way more interested in taking photographs of nature than spending any time with me," Schuster, who is 37, said.
Then, while setting up camp in Bryce Canyon in California, Schuster found out something that solidified she was dating the wrong man. She said her date's brother cornered her and told her both men had recently escaped the sex cult Nxivm. Schuster froze, not knowing what to say in response, but camped with them all night in the canyon. That trip was the last time she spoke with him.
The former Nxivm member was the latest man in a 15-year string of frustrating and unfulfilling dates, Schuster told Insider. But with that experience, Schuster decided she'd had enough and committed to a year of no dates.
After, she wrote "Glow in the F*cking Dark: Simple Practices to Heal Your Soul, from Someone Who Learned the Hard Way," which was published on February 28, to share the lessons she learned about relationships and love during that time.
Schuster told Insider that decentering romantic love and men in her life allowed her the time and space to see the unhealthy patterns she wanted to stop. She also said that working toward a better relationship with her father, who she had cut off for the two years prior, helped her heal and date in a more grounded way.
She thought she struggled with relationship anxiety until a psychiatrist said she was just angry
Before she took a break from dating, Schuster mostly relied on meeting potential suitors through dating apps and websites. Looking back, she sees how she was addicted to getting matches and receiving validation, Schuster told Insider.
At work, Schuster was proud of herself. At the time, she was Comedy Central's Vice President of Talent and Development and spearheaded production for the Emmy award-winning show "Key & Peele." But in her personal life, Schuster felt lost. She said she constantly downloaded dating apps full of hope and had no trouble finding men to spend time with. But those shiny first dates devolved into uneasiness when the men seemed uninterested in getting to know her. When they broke up with her, she'd lay on her floor sobbing, desperate to know what went wrong.
She almost always had a boyfriend, even thought she often felt like she had to "walk on eggshells" around them. And she said she constantly thought, "Who do I have to be for this person to like me?"
A year into the pandemic, Schuster asked a psychiatrist to help her get her relationship anxiety under control, assuming that was the problem. The psychiatrist told Schuster she was angry, not anxious. She didn't need medication or tips for quieting racing thoughts. She needed to stop dating men who couldn't meet her needs.
After that conversation, Schuster said she faced a hard truth: She was the common denominator in her frustrating relationships, allowing herself to feel uneasy over and over again. Schuster said she wanted to change, but didn't know how, so she decided to stop dating. "I thought, 'I need to stop the bleeding,'" Schuster said.
She gained dating clarity after a year of travel and making friends
During her dating hiatus, Schuster substituted her fixation with finding the right man with friendship and adventure.
She said she visited all five national park in Utah to indulge in her love of nature and wrote a book. She also reached out to women she'd long admired and forged friendships with many of them. Throughout it all, she said she didn't miss her dating life one bit.
That time allowed her to reflect, revealing that she was "replaying" her childhood relationship with her father in many of her adult romantic relationships.
As a child, Schuster said she felt emotionally neglected. Whenever she cried, her father told her to stop and she felt he minimized all of her problems. He often left her physically alone as a child, Schuster said. When he kept talking down to Schuster as an adult, she cut off contact with him.
Two years later, they reconnected when he got sick with Covid-19. He revealed he'd been going to therapy for two years to understand why she refused to speak with him, which made her realize they could maybe have a new relationship.
Schuster began going to therapy with her father and they've kept it up for six months. She's noticed some healthy changes in their connection, and it's helped with her romantic pursuits, too. Schuster said she can now better notice how her childhood experiences, namely her fear of abandonment, affect how she chooses and interacts with potential partners.
"I've decided 5-year-old me had epic taste in glitter, feather boas, and bedtime stories, but she has no business dictating my romantic life," Schuster told Insider.
Schuster has sworn off dating apps and hired a matchmaker
When she was ready to get back into the dating scene, she didn't want to go back to any dating apps, so she hired matchmaker Sophy Love.
She's gone on four dates, set up by Love, and said they were all more fun and fulfilling than any date she's been on before. Schuster said she felt a "real connection" with two of her dates and has continued to get to know one more seriously.
After more than a decade of mostly bad dates and relationships, Schuster said dating intentionally feels refreshing, not scary.
"It sounds so cliché and I wouldn't have believed it then, but waiting, doing the work on yourself, and not settling, it works," Schuster said.
Read the original article on Insider