The fear of what comes next often follows the heartache we didn’t ever want to feel. We don’t get back out there without some amount of trepidation. After all, we’ve been out there. It’s not uncharted territory. The territory is thoroughly charted, and it’s filled with nude pictures, painfully boring conversations, and constant red flag sightings.
Dating fatigue is real, and we don’t even have to date for very long to feel it. Sometimes, all it takes is to get out of a relationship and be reminded of what’s out there. It’s exhausting, and for those of us who only barely survived having our hearts broken, it’s tough to want to expend the energy on it.
Here are some of the most exhausting parts of dating, in no particular order:
There are two types of people: the ones who want to stay in near-constant contact all day every day and the ones who are terribly inconsistent at maintaining any contact at all. Staying in constant contact depletes our energy, but so does never knowing when someone will reply. It could be hours or days for all we know. Finding that sweet spot of contact without being over- or underwhelming seems to be a challenge.
We have to be “on” all the time — in all our wit, charm, and amusement. Only we’re people, not robots. Some days, we’re tired or dealing with life stressors. Trying to be engaging when all we want to do is disengage for a bit is exhausting. Everyone wants to be entertained, but being entertaining is work.
We hate rollercoasters. We know we’re supposed to think they’re fun, but we just want to throw up. Face it: we don’t like dating, and it feels like the worst kind of rollercoaster — but we’d really love a relationship. We don’t want to play 20 Questions with every stranger we encounter. We want to fast-forward to when we can cuddle up on a couch and binge our shows without all the pressure. What time’s that happening?
We don’t want to date because we found our person, and yet, we’re single again. Our heart isn’t in dating, but we also want a healthy relationship. But we also can’t quite get over the fact that we aren’t having the one we wanted anymore. What are we supposed to do with all the grief and disappointment? Is there a purse we can stuff it in when we go out on a date?
We keep encountering negative energy. We keep encountering seemingly normal people who veer into red flag territory so fast we’re clutching our necks and considering a lawsuit.
Dating seems boring and uninspired. If dinner and a movie don’t do it for us or drinks seem dull, it’s because it’s boring. Or maybe it’s just our dates that aren’t enlivening the experience. When does the awkward part of dating end and the romance begin?
We’re resistant to dating technology. We’ve been on apps. There’s a reason we quit them. We understand that it gives us more options. It also gives us more anxiety, more overwhelm, and more negative experiences. It can also feel forced as we’re put in the position of trying to be entertaining enough to maintain the attention of someone talking to scores of people at a time.
We have standards. We’re supposed to, right? But having standards also means that the dating pool is limited. While narrowing down the options isn’t a bad thing, it’s often a reminder that too much of the pool is shallow, and we sometimes feel like the only people swimming in it.
We’d rather be single. At least, we’d rather be single if we can’t find the right relationship. We’d prefer a night at home with a book than a night out on a painfully awkward date with someone who mentions sex before we even order a drink. A lifetime of being single doesn’t sound bad after an evening spent with someone who leaves us feeling exhausted and discouraged.
If we’re feeling exhausted by dating, we’re not alone. The fatigue is real. Here are some things we can do about it:
Take a timeout. We don’t have to stay plugged into dating. We can take a break and return to it when we feel like we’re better able to invest our energy into it.
Set better boundaries. We can make sure that we’re clear about how often we’re available to communicate. We can pay attention to red flags and use the block function as needed. We can make sure that our boundaries help protect our energy.
Be honest. Most dating is dishonest. People aren’t upfront about what they want or even who they are. Just because that’s the norm doesn’t mean we have to do it, too. We can be honest even if no one else will be. This way, we know we’re not contributing to unhealthy dating culture. And we don’t have to keep up with our own lies or spend more energy trying to hide what we’re all about.
Give ourselves the romance sadly lacking in dating. Self-care and self-love should just be a part of our normal lives regardless of relationship status, but when we miss romance, we need to remember that we can give that to ourselves, too. Taking ourselves out for a date can be a way to center our thoughts around what we enjoy and not just our single status.
The exhaustion we might be feeling is normal. Dating is depleting, but we can reclaim our power when we decide how we’ll do it. If what we’re doing isn’t working for us, we can change the game. Take that timeout, be better with boundaries, and even raise those standards. Whatever it takes to reconnect with the sense of fun and excitement that’s supposed to be there but is often missing. Feeling that excitement again might be uncharted territory, but if we take good care of ourselves, we just might find that it’s out there after all.