I'm A Dating Coach: Here's How To Avoid Burnout From Dating More In 2022
Just as the New Year triggers resolution-inspired gym-goers, the early part of 2022 presents a potent motivator to dive headfirst into dating, especially after many feel the pandemic has stifled their social life. But an all-in approach, just like aggressive New Year's resolutions, can quickly lead to burnout.
We typically associate burnout with work-related stress and exhaustion, but relationships and specifically dating can be another common cause. In my work as a dating coach, my clients often describe an initial bout of ambitious swiping in hopes of queuing up enough dates that "one of them has to be good." When that turns out not to be the case in the first few (or first dozen), many come to me brewing with resentment.
What they resent varies. For some, waiting for the guy to take the plunge and finally ask them to get drinks. For others, it's the awkward small talk at the beginning of every first date where they wonder internally, "I feel like I've told these stories on every first date. Is this really what it's supposed to feel like?" This feeling can be perplexing. Dating is supposed to be fun, right?
Let's get one thing straight: Dating is neither completely amazing nor completely terrible. If you're truly opening yourself up to connection, dating requires a vulnerability that can be draining over time. It involves more opportunities for rejection than in our day-to-day life. Add in the logistics, the mental gymnastics of getting ready for dates, and the reality that they sometimes end up with us back on our couch with Chipotle and a glass of wine, wondering why we even bothered to go out in the first place. But we cannot let fear around vulnerability or the emotional roller coaster sour us to the positives of the experience.
If we're approaching it earnestly, dating can be a lifeline to hope. When we swipe on the dating apps or push open the door to that dark cocktail bar for a first date, we are actively giving hope space in our lives. We're saying, "I think they're out there."
That's powerful. Even on dates or a series of dates that don't work out, the experience of anticipation, of excitement when you find something in common, or of connection when a date is going well is reminding us that what we're looking for is possible.
So how can we return to an active dating life in 2022 without getting burnt out? Here are a few tips I give to my coaching clients that you can apply in your life, too:
More does not equal better.
There's a common misconception that "dating is a numbers game." It's flawed because it implies that if you are physically on a date, you are open to connection. We put too much emphasis on getting in front of the type of person we want to date, but we underemphasize how we show up to the date, how present we are, and our emotional readiness to connect. Treating dating as a volume game leaves us drained—or worse, numb—on each individual date, which gets in the way of connection.
The sustainable volume of dates varies by person. I advise my clients to try to watch for numbing or signs of overwhelm. For example, if you open Bumble and the number of matches waiting for you to draft an opener causes you to put the phone right back down again, you might be doing too much. If you find yourself needing to down a shot before you head out on your third date of the week, you might be doing too much.
We need to reserve our willingness to be open and our optimism, in addition to the physical energy required to get dressed, get to the date, and engage in conversation.
Try a few compassionate no's or exploratory yeses.
When a person reenters the dating scene, there's often an instinct to say yes to everyone just to "get back out there" or to be "pickier this time" because of past experiences. These tactics can backfire. We use our first couple of dates in a series to gauge the dating environment as a whole, and there's extra pressure on our impressions when we've got particularly "fresh eyes."
Be honest with yourself about your dating patterns. Are you someone who tends to come to a conclusion based on dating profiles or conversations but has been occasionally surprised to the positive? Or are you a hopeless optimist, always erring on the side of giving people a shot, often to be proven that your initial instinct of a "no" was right to begin with?
Trying to completely override your typical behavior or pretend that you don't have "typical" behavior is a recipe for burnout. Start by acknowledging whether you feel good about how you approach dating. If you have some thoughts on how you might be able to approach it in a more balanced way, try easing into your fresh start by challenging yourself to one "pattern-breaker" a week. This could be sending a message to someone who you wouldn't normally give a shot (an "exploratory yes") or saying no to a second date when you'd normally give them the benefit of the doubt (a "compassionate no").
Letting your brain see the alternative for what you've done in the past can be just energizing enough to keep you going, without having to force ourselves to act completely against our natural instincts.
Key caveat: If you ever feel a strong negative reaction, trust your instincts. It's never worth putting yourself in an unsafe situation for the sake of breaking old patterns.
Tune into your body when it's asking for rest.
When we're low on rest, our culture tells us to push through using coffee and sheer force of will. When we're low on confidence, we're encouraged to "have a drink and loosen up." But ignoring our needs in dating is equally futile and likely to catch up with us. Having enough emotional capacity "in the tank," so to speak, is key to having a real shot at connection.
Pay attention to other parts of your life where you might be getting signals your emotional capacity is low: Does your heart race faster than normal when you realize your credit card bill is due in a few days? Are you less patient than usual with the intern at work? If you're seeing signals that your emotional piggy bank might be running low, it might be time to slow down the pace of dates or build some time into your calendar for some real rest.
The more you can keep a pulse on this, the less likely you are to burn out and need to take a multiweek (or month) break from dating, the kind that can really impinge on any connections you might have been forming.
Samantha Pillsbury is an NYC-based dating and self-worth coach and content marketer. In her coaching work, Samantha works with type-A, ambitious millennials to raise their self-worth through a more honest approach to dating that helps them more effectively find the love, life, and wealth they deserve. Before coaching, she worked in marketing and business development, and she still occasionally works with small-to-medium businesses on their sales and marketing. Samantha has a degree in Humanities from Yale University. When not thinking about all things dating and self-worth, she is an avid reader, personal finance enthusiast, solo-traveler, and burgeoning wine nerd. Follow her on Instagram for info on her newest resources, content, and coaching on a more authentic approach to dating.