OPINION: 10 Better Things to Do Than Date

Crystal Jackson

Photo byBrooke Cagle on Unsplash

Here’s the thing: I absolutely love dating at its best.

I love connection and romance. I love the possibilities inherent in meeting someone new and getting to know them. While I often feel nervous before a date, I have found most of them to be enjoyable, with a few exceptions. But I just got out of a relationship a few months back, and the idea of dating — particularly online dating — seems exhausting.

The thing is, most dating is not dating “at its best.” Most dating is a series of awful encounters, a veritable smorgasbord of horrors that range from comedic to downright scary. I am not alone in feeling this way. Social media is filled with those of us who can’t understand how the dating world has become a horror show. From poor etiquette to outright stalker-like behavior, single people can become very familiar with loneliness and discouragement.

While I don’t think abstaining from dating forever is the answer, I do think we all need to take the occasional break. I began to brainstorm what we could be doing that would be so much better than dating. What started out as a small list for my personal amusement, grew. I could have done this all day. But let’s just start with 10 things, in no particular order, that are better uses of our time than dating.

1. Volunteer

All that time we spend trying to find our perfect match might be better invested in helping someone else. We can think of the causes we’re passionate about and find a way to volunteer our time to help others. Sure, we could be screening out unsolicited nude photos, or we could solve real problems instead.

2. Plant a Garden

I love the World War II era victory gardens. I really admire people who try to grow at least a little of their family’s food. Even planting flowers can be a huge help in sustaining and supporting bee populations, which contribute greatly to our ecosystem. In the words of poet Veronica A. Shoffstall, Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

3. Take a Class

If there’s something we’ve always wanted to learn, now is the time to do it. My list of things I want to do is incredibly long! I’m always thinking up something new that interests me. I’ve gone scuba diving once, but I’d love to be certified. Actually, I’m not a strong swimmer, and swimming classes could help. Whatever our interests, there’s likely an online class available for it. The time we spend on dating apps could be better spent taking a class and learning something new.

4. Embrace Self-Learning

Our schedules don’t always allow time to take a class. We can borrow books from the library, look for YouTube videos, or even download apps to expand our knowledge base. I enjoy Duolingo for a little language learning, and there are also apps where we can learn about art, culture, or stay in the know on current research. We can dive into our interests without signing up and committing to a class.

5. Invest in Friendships

It’s so easy to get distracted when we’re in a relationship and spend all our time with a significant other. Having strong friendships is important no matter our relationship status. While we’re on our own, it’s a great time to truly invest in our friends. We can call them up for a chat, meet for coffee, or make plans that have nothing to do with trying to meet someone and have everything to do with spending time with the people we care about.

6. Face a Fear

What are the things that scare the hell out of us? For me, a fear of heights tops the list. I’ve been thinking that a tandem skydiving session might be in my future. While we’re footloose and fancy free, we can devote a little time to personal growth and facing the things we fear.

7. Conduct a Relationship Moratorium

Instead of looking for our next partner, it might be helpful to look back on all our former relationships. Perhaps we haven’t been choosing well and tend to ignore red flags. Or maybe we’re skilled at relationship sabotage, engaging in behaviors that lead to the same conclusion each time. Until we’re willing to take an honest look at ourselves and our history, we’re not going to be able to move forward with any success.

8. Get Organized

I’m a major procrastinator when it comes to home projects. Instead of spending our time downloading yet another dating app, we could be organizing that closet we never get to or find time to donate unused items. We can get our homes, workspaces, and vehicles in a little better order while we have a little extra time on our hands.

9. Go on an Adventure

We don’t need a partner to take that road trip, day trip, or vacation we’ve been dreaming about. Solo traveling can be a wonderful experience! It allows us to see the world from a new perspective with our interests and desires taking precedence. If our budgets won’t extend to a big trip, we can always see our towns and communities from the vantage point of a tourist and enjoy local sights.

10. Work on Creating a More Balanced Life

Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about work, love, and our social lives, but other areas get neglected. Are we as fit as we’d like to be? Oftentimes, we can do a little better with exercise and eating well. Are we as spiritual as we’d like? For those of us with a spiritual orientation of some kind, we might want to participate in religious functions, meditate, or spend time at a retreat to reconnect. Are we always learning new things? Do we challenge ourselves? Are we the parents we want to be?

There are so many aspects of our lives that need attention, and it’s important that we find a way to balance them so that we don’t feel insufficient and overwhelmed all the time. We are absolutely enough. We are capable of handling our many roles. We just need to take time to refocus, prioritize, and make sure that we have balance in our lives.

Dating will be there when we’re ready for it, but it doesn’t have to be our main focus. In fact, it’s better if it’s not our primary focus. If we’re active, involved, and interested in our own lives, we’re more likely to meet like-minded people who are active, involved, and interested in theirs, too. We’re less likely to attract codependent partners who are looking for us to complete them and less likely to send out a vibe of desperately needing a partner.

Dating can be a disappointing waste of our time — one that makes us question why we’re doing it. When we get to that point, it may be time to opt-out and to choose instead to spend that time doing other things to enrich our lives. Our lives can be full and interesting whether or not we have a partner. When we remember that our relationship status doesn’t define us, perhaps we can invest a little more time in ourselves and a little less time in swiping right.

Originally published on Medium

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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