How these people learned to like dating, even though it's hell
From serial swipers to meet-cute enthusiasts, we asked young singles how they overcame dating burnout
image Call Me By Your Name / Frenesy Film Company
words Lucy O'Brien
It’s okay if you’re having a shit time dating right now. Dating can be draining. Ghosting; recurring first date nerves; financial (and physical) hangovers; fussing over appropriately witty responses to Hinge prompts; hours spent navigating the app algorithms – it’s inevitable you'll feel emotional burnout from the seemingly endless cycle of it all.
If these experiences resonate with you, rest assured you’re not the only one. A 2022 study conducted by Hinge found that 61% of its users felt overwhelmed by modern dating, while a US study in the same year found that 80% of daters felt “some degree of emotional fatigue or burnout from online dating.” Where have we gone wrong?
Our general disenchantment with today’s dating game seems to come down to a growing pessimism for the chances of the “success” of a date. A 2023 cross-analytical study found that 45% of dating app users felt frustrated by the experience, with a 35% reporting that they felt pessimistic about getting dates from the apps. And it’s not unreasonable to feel this way. “Using dating apps has the added challenge of having to "market" yourself, which is a relatively new concept and it doesn't come naturally to everyone,” says Jessica Alderson, relationship expert at So Synced. “This in itself can be draining, particularly if you're naturally private or uncomfortable with self-promotion.”
Dating takes physical and emotional effort. From exhausting your social battery meeting new people to stressing over how to capture your identity in a mere six photos and three conversation prompts, it can be frustrating when these endeavours are met with unsatisfactory exchanges, little to no action, or sometimes not even a follow up text.
Understandably, a history of bad dates can manifest into a glass-half-empty attitude towards dating; expecting every new date to be a doomed repetition of the unsatisfactory ones that came before. But what if this mindset is the very thing holding you back – diminishing your chances of finding a meaningful connection, or simply just enjoying a good time, before you even swipe right?
According to Alderson, dating burnout can take various forms, such as "feeling fatigued, upset, discouraged, cynical, and even completely hopeless about finding the right partner,” she explains. “Ultimately, they get to a point where they feel that the time, money, and effort required aren't worth the reward. Of course, it's usually a temporary state of mind, and most people eventually recover from it.”
It’s time to get back in tune with what dating is meant to be: fun. Dates are a great way to learn more about yourself, as well as what you do and don’t want. Had a bad date? Hey, at least you put yourself out there, and learnt from the experience. You owe it to yourself to take the pressure off, and open up your mind to what is meant to be an enjoyable process.
But you also need to recognise the signs that dating is taking a toll on you emotionally, and set healthy boundaries for yourself in order to recouperate. “If you're experiencing dating burnout, you should listen to your body and emotions,” insists Alderson. “Focus on yourself and look for joy in other areas of your life. A large part of dating success comes down to your mindset, so it's important to take some time off from dating in order to reset your outlook.” But how are young singles doing this?
Woo caught up with some young singletons who have managed to overcome this emotional burnout and reignite their love for dating. Here's what they said...
For three-years-single Brandon, who has been actively dating for a year now, it’s about perspective. “Whenever I’ve had dating burnout, I take a step back and have a moment to focus on myself and any short term goals I want to achieve. I know burnout is temporary, so focusing on myself reminds me to just enjoy the moment.
“I learned to protect myself by acknowledging mistakes from my past. Previously, I’ve had instances of no communication or only doing what the other person wanted – it took a couple rough patches to see my self worth and apply healthy boundaries that I know work for me. I now keep a more honest approach when talking to new people, making sure I’m being truly me rather than a heightened version of myself to try to impress people.”
“Meeting new people is fun and there’s always the opportunity for it to develop into something more, or even just make great memories. You also end up exploring yourself more through the people you meet, especially if they ask questions that feel obvious to you.”
Ultimate self-love treats
Meanwhile, for Caitlin, who has been in the dating game for eight months following the end of a long-term relationship, dealing with dating burnout comes in the form of a detox: “I just have a break from the apps – I don’t even think about dating. Instead, I’ll spend time with friends or take time out for myself to do something I want to do.
“I learnt the hard way how to protect my boundaries [when dating],” she goes on. “I used to give guys way too much emotionally too early on. I wore my heart on my sleeve and it always bit me in the arse eventually. Now I’m much firmer with myself - teaching myself to react to what people say and how they act, not based on their potential.”
“Especially when using the apps, I like that I get to meet people who I wouldn’t have crossed paths with ordinarily. I think now I’m in the headspace of just enjoying people and life. Dating is great because you get exposed to new experiences and learn what you like and dislike, while scouting what you would look for in a potential life partner.”
A meet-cute enthusiast to a T, Alex has found a new love for IRL dating, having been single for 6 weeks now. “Meeting people in real life allows you to instantly feel a connection with someone, and it’s such a nice feeling,” she says.
“You know they find you attractive and vice-versa; I personally feel there’s less chance they’re just talking to you for the sake of it, particularly if they’ve approached you. It’s exciting – it’s fun!”
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