At the beginning of 2016, I put myself on a six month, no-man diet. It was one of my favorite and least favorite things of all time. I touched the darkness of deep loneliness and I realized how much I had (subtly) used the masculine and men to validate my worth. But when I look at the partnership I have created, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it would not have been possible without this process. It facilitated a profound, powerful shift in my life and I am forever changed because of it.
Whether you’re taking space from men or women, there is enormous value in building a container around this process. While there’s undoubtedly deep work that occurs when we don’t ‘happen’ to be dating or having sex, there’s a different level of depth that’s touched when we take on a process with consciousness and intentionality (i.e I’m setting this specific container, for this long, and these are the guidelines).
What compelled me to take this journey in the first place was that after noticing my habits with men and dating, I realized I didn’t actually believe I could have the kind of partnership I longed for. Through the support of some very dear friends, I came to this conclusion I needed to take a really intentional space.
Figure Out Your Big Why:
After coming up with the idea, I talked it through with my coach, and he asked me this really amazing question. He said, “what is being asked of you at a bigger level Kendra?” And what came to me in that moment was I am being asked to get in Right Relationship with The Masculine. My masculine, men’s masculine, that masculine in the world.
Set Your Parameters:
My parameters were simple: no dating, no sex, and no relationships.What this really turned into was an awareness of not using men or The Masculine in any way for my own ‘narcissistic hit’ – not seeking validation from men. I also decided to consciously turn towards myself, so this wasn’t just about depriving myself, but also consciously choosing where I would put my attention. I began to dance more; to go for more walks; I knit about a billion hats.
Set a timeline:
Rather than say “I’ll feel when I’m done,” actually set a conscious timeline. Most of the time, what that means for most of us is that we’ll do it until we don’t want to anymore and that’s not the kind of practice that cultivates depth or pushes us through our old and deep shadow and resistance. Even though I wasn’t dating a lot, simply taking myself off the market for a man was a really edgy experience for me, so I initially set the timeline for three months because that seemed like a long time considering I’d just broken up with a long-term partner and I’d ended a relationship with a lover at the time.
But then I had this experience– I’d just dropped the lover I’d broken up with at the airport and I was driving home and I realised that in three months time when the No-Man Diet finished, I’d be at a training that this lover would also be at, so I began planning for our reuniting at the end of three months and that’s when I realised three months was too short. I was doing the equivalent of buying cookie dough while still on the Whole30 diet.
That’s when I realized it had to be one year and I started sobbing. Because when the date was thrown out to a year, I had let go of every possible hold out–no one was going to wait for me for a year and I needed to hit this point of no return, to really touch my fear of aloneness and not hide from it at all.
Then two weeks later I had a conversation with a friend and I remember sharing this process with her. When I told her about the 12 months and my physical response to it, there was a 45-second silence and then she said quietly but firmly:
“Kendra, it’s not meant to be a punishment.”
And again this wave washed over me and I started weeping because she was right. I hadn’t done anything wrong and this process was supposed to serve me, not punish me. So I landed on six months.
Support is really important:
There were people I asked to support me before I began and then throughout the process I expanded and expanded my circles of support – especially with the women in my life.One of the most profound pieces for me was noticing how often my initial impulse for support was to reach out to a man. When I was experiencing my most vulnerable, tender parts it was terrifying to reach out to my women friends.I’ve always had very good and deep relationships with women, so this was surprising. But through this process, I discovered old parts of me that were still afraid of women. And when I saw that, I intentionally started reaching out to my women friends instead. It was a way of strengthening another muscle and bringing awareness to that as a habit and how tender it was to include my women in those tender places in me.
Determine What You’re Saying ‘Yes’ to:
It’s important to clarify your bigger why, but it’s important to also choose what you are saying ‘yes’ to. I said yes to a weekly yoga class that I’d wanted to attend for years but I’d always found a reason not too. I said yes to a morning practice, and to full and new moon ceremonies, and these things, which I’d longed to do for years, fell into place with a simplicity I never knew existed.
Don’t Fill The Space For The Sake Of It:
An enormous amount of emotional and energetic space opened up, and, as they say ‘nature abhors a vacuum,’ so things just started rushing in to take its place. Even things that seem beneficial on the surface level, like yoga and chanting and coffee with my girlfriends became a way for me to avoid just being alone with myself. So I began to create space – real space – with nothing to distract me from me.
So, what did I get out of it?
It totally re-orientated my relationship with my now partner: We had to find new ways to connect because for years we had used sex as a shortcut to intimacy, and now we had to find that intimacy without using sex. We found was ourselves as a family which has been the most priceless thing for me ever, in my life. We have now been in a deeply committed and profoundly rewarding relationship for almost 2 years. Something I didn’t know was possible with this man.
It re-oriented some of the relationships I had with other men in my life: I had deep and painful and transformative conversations, I shared truths that I hadn’t share in years. Some of these friendships suffered in the short-term, but all of them grew stronger in the long-run.
I have a whole different relationship to the masculine gaze: I learned all the ways in which I was seeking external validation that my existence was worthy through the masculine gaze, and I let go of that. The process burned something away inside me that ultimately has allowed me to have a whole different relationship to the masculine.
I channelled energy into the things I wanted to create in my life: Whatever attention was going out towards men, the masculine, and a desire to be in a relationship–thinking my life will be complete when I’m in a relationship–releasing that there was some other energy that also came through where all those things I wanted to create in my life became much more simple. They fell into place in a way I had been longing for.
I fell in love with myself: I know this sounds cliche and trite, but it’s true. The relationship between Me & Me is so loving, so filled with joy and profoundly rewarding.
I found MY spiritual path (again): I have always had a seeking heart, but I lost touch with that somewhere along the way. Sure, I meditated and did yoga and set up altars in my house, but I had lost touch with the part of me that is in almost constant communion with God (or whatever word works for you). I re-connected to that. And THAT is my bliss.
It sounds odd to say, but I got my life out of this experience.
As hard as that time in my life was, I would choose it again in a heartbeat.
If you’re a single woman and interested in exploring any of these themes in more detail, check out the 12 week online course I created around this process—The No-Man Diet.
Watch the full video below: