Let’s face it, dating can be a rollercoaster of emotions: the trepidation before a first date, the feeling of living for that text reply, the intoxicating longing of a new crush, the pang of ghosting or rejection, and the euphoria that can come from finally finding a spark.
At its best, it’s thrilling. At its worst it can be crushing.
When I think of how exhausting dating can be, I’m always reminded of Charlotte in Sex and the City, exasperated, pleading, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen. I’m exhausted! Where is he?!”
What causes dating burnout?
When we date from a place of trying to boost our self-esteem, to feel “complete,” or in attempts to rebound past our grief from a breakup, we are more susceptible to experiencing dating fatigue.
If you’re approaching dating in this way, you might not even be aware of it.
Here are common signs that you might be seeking romantic connections to feel better about yourself.
You take an all-or-nothing approach to dating
This involves going through periods of time where you put a lot of effort into dating followed by periods of burnout.
Perhaps you are notorious for repeatedly adding and deleting dating apps. Maybe you cycle through times where you go on multiple dates per week, only to become completely burnt out and take months off.
You feel like you have to show up “perfect”
Perhaps, when you’re dating you feel like you have to spend more money or time on your appearance. Or you feel pressure to say the “right thing” rather than interacting genuinely with the other person.
You downplay your desire for a relationship
You tell your friends or dates that you are not looking for a relationship, when secretly it’s what you want more than anything.
You take this approach because you are embarrassed of what other people will think of you if you are not “successful” in finding a partner.
Or because you’re worried about scaring your date away when you’re honest about what you’re really looking for.
You sabotage yourself
When you place too much weight on dating for your self-esteem, the stakes may feel too high.
In these situations, you may subconsciously decide that it’s better to give up instead of facing the rejection you worry is inevitable.
This can look like convincing yourself you’re not interested in people that could actually be a great fit for us, not texting back or asking out people we really like, or being rude or dismissive on dates.
If any of that hit a little too close to home, you likely are familiar with the boomerang dating experience — diving in head first, only to feel completely exhausted by it a short while later.
4 ways to avoid dating burnout and stay true to yourself
Here are some suggestions if you are looking to build a more sustainable relationship to dating:
1. Mosey into love rather than freefall
Many of us learn from rom-com culture that love comes around when we least expect it, and then bops us over the head. It starts with a meet-cute, escalates quickly and passionately, then ends in a happily-ever-after.
In reality, a whirlwind romance is not always an indication of relationship strength.
A “spark” can actually be more indicative that we found someone that activates unconscious childhood wounds than we found someone who is a fit for us on a deeper level.
Emotional connection takes time to build. So does getting to know the other person’s values, conflict resolution style, and life goals, and assessing whether you are compatible.
2. Fit someone into a life you already love rather than trying to squeeze into theirs
A healthy long-term relationship consists of a balance of two people holding onto their individual identities while turning towards each other to care and foster their relationship.
Be intentional about continuing to make space for the aspects of your life (your friends, your hobbies, and self-care), and this practice will benefit you both in the early and later relationship stages.
3. Make dating an excuse to do the things you already want to do
This may sound obvious, but the temptation to seem chill and go with the flow when dating can be high, particularly if you have people-pleasing tendencies.
If your repertoire mainly consists of grabbing a coffee and going for drinks or dinner, you might be following a dating script without even realizing it.
If those are your favorite ways to spend time, great!
If not, make sure to periodically check in with yourself: What are your favorite ways to spend time?
It’s a double win. When you do those things, you’re more likely to filter for people who also like them, and you get to do your favorite things!
4. Remind yourself that dating is about fit, not worthiness
As an experiment, consider how different dating would feel if you approached it more like traveling to a new city or trying a new restaurant rather than a job interview?
How would you feel if you knew in your bones it wasn’t personal, but simply a process of looking for compatibility. We are not for everyone, and not everyone is for us.
The final word
Navigating the dating landscape can be particularly draining when we approach it from a place of lacking.
If you recognize these unhelpful patterns in your own dating experience, this is your nudge to reevaluate your dating practices and mindset. Instead of taking the love highway, consider the scenic route.
Remember to romance yourself along the way — make time for your favorite ways to spend a cozy morning or a Friday night.
Embrace the notion that dating is about finding compatibility, not a reflection of personal worth, knowing that in doing so, dating can become a more enjoyable and enriching experience.
Erin Davidson, MA, RCC, CST
Erin Davidson (she/her) is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Certified Sex Therapist working in private practice in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a firm believer in the healing power of pleasure and being kinder to ourselves. Erin is the author of two books Break Through the Breakup and Thriving in Non-Monogamy. She is most proud of her new fluffball Marv who recently graduated top of his class in puppy preschool.