I was single and dating for ten years. I mean dating-dating. Every week I’d have something lined up, whether it was a second date to a local trivia night, an awkward first catch-up over coffee, or a casual hook-up I was hoping would develop into something more.
I was exhausted, given that I was also living a pretty full life. I had friends I enjoyed seeing, a really demanding career, weekly netball and honestly, a lot of TV shows I was invested in. It wasn’t really the dates themselves that felt overwhelming, but the work it took to even get to those dates.
Anyone who has spent more than a few casual minutes on dating apps knows what I’m talking about. Every thirty profiles or so, you’ll find someone you think might be a good match. So you swipe right. Then, you need to start or continue a conversation, which after a long day at the office or a big night out can take a lot of brain power to get beyond “hey, how are you?”. Then you have to maintain momentum with that conversation. Plus the other fifteen conversations you have going across your five different dating apps. Several of these may lead to IRL meet-ups, which you then have to schedule into your busy week. And on it goes.
Dating feels like a second job for many of us because it really is as demanding as a side hustle can be. Throw out the idea that you’ll just bump into a hot person on the street, your eyes will lock and you’ll fall in love, together forever, etc. That doesn’t happen! If it does, it’s the exception and not the rule.
I’m now with a great guy and we live together with our little rescue dog, Ted. But I’ll be the first to tell you that meeting him took work, maintaining our burgeoning relationship took work and yes, keeping our relationship healthy takes – guess what – WORK.
If we adjust our attitude to dating and look at it like we do other tasks in our lives, it honestly takes away a lot of the fatigue. Here’s how I used to do it.
Allocate time in your day for swiping
It’s easy to jump onto your dating apps in fits and starts through the day, as notifications pop up. Turn those off – instead, allocate thirty minutes (or more if you like) each evening to swiping, continuing conversations and organising dates. Maybe that’s from 5.30 until 6pm while you’re on the train home. It could be at 8pm after dinner when you’re sprawled on the couch in front of RuPaul. Pick a time period that works well for you, and keep all your dating app business in that space.
Suddenly, you’ll find that you aren’t feeling as swamped with relentless tasks relating to dating, because it all happens in one chunk of your day. This isn’t even a new concept; it’s literally the advice most life coaches give to time-poor people trying to tackle their emails. The good news is, it works just as well for dating apps.
Make the first move
Stop waiting for the other person to set up the first date. Don’t just sit there hoping they’ll initiate conversation. Every time, make the first move. That way, you aren’t wasting your energy in app purgatory! A friend of mine had a go-to icebreaker — she would send a message saying “You’re cute” followed by like five rose emojis. I would usually pick something funny or interesting from their profile and ask a question about it. Whatever you come up with, do it fast and be direct.
Gone are the days of playing games in the dating world. You are way too busy for that shit.
Designate one or two nights a week as “date nights”
Make these nights where you are more likely to have energy, like Tuesdays and Thursdays if you work full-time, for example. No one wants to go on a date after a hard Monday back at work, and if you love to go out, there’s a good chance that Friday nights are for friends, not potential lovers.
This also ensures that you have down-time. I used to limit myself to two dates per week, max. Any more and I found myself listlessly swirling my drink while trying in vain to pay attention to whatever story someone was telling me about crypto. There’s no point in going out with someone if you’re only going to give 25 per cent. You may as well take the night off, recharge and schedule a date for a week when you have less going on.
Go home after sex
Look, sometimes sleeping over after a hook-up is fun. Say, Saturday night because you can just shuffle home the next day with mascara under your eyes and then die in your hangover hell, you know?
Sleeping over on a Thursday night when you’ve got a 12-hour shift the next day, or a major presentation on? Absolutely not. Take yourself home instead and wake up in reach of fresh clothes and a shower that isn’t dominated by your hook-up’s four other housemates.
Take a break when you’re burnt out
Contrary to how it feels when you’re single and dating, there is no rush. I didn’t meet my partner until I was 35, and had a long string of failed situationships/relationships prior to him.
That being said, I’m very aware of the pressure we face when we’re single, particularly if you want to have children in the near future, or have a friendship circle that’s slowly turned into all couples.
The truth is (and I know it's shit), dating when you’re burnt out is pointless. You won’t be your best, buzziest self when you meet people, you’ll feel the constant micro-disappointments ten times more, and you’ll be exhausted not just by dating but by the rest of your wonderful life, too.
Take a break. It could be a week off. A month. A whole year off dating. Whatever you need, do it and stick to it. No apps, no dates, no texting the ex. Take a holiday from dating now and then, just like you’d take a holiday away from work every so often. Your brain will thank you for it.