I hear the cry, loud and clear. The outcry comes from my clients, from readers who respond to my dating blogs and from close friends who are dating. I myself had the outcry during my long tenure as a single person. The outcry is resounding: Dating is discouraging. It's discouraging! It's hard, it's not always fun and it can be exhausting.
The good news is that you are not alone or abnormal in feeling discouraged; it's actually normal and often, is part of the process. The next piece of good news is that there are several ways to deal with dating burnout. The first task is to ask yourself if you're truly in a good place to be dating. When you're not really in the best place emotionally, dating burnout is bound to happen much more quickly and with more force. Some of the top criteria to look for include:
Unresolved past issues. Past issues can prevent you from moving forward in your love life because you're not able -- or ready -- to let go of a past relationship. It might be that you still have feelings for an ex or are still in contact with him, and are having trouble picturing yourself with someone new. The bottom line is that if you think your past love might be holding you back, he or she probably is. Before you can open the door to a new relationship, it's important that you have closure.
Stuck in the same old patterns. This means that you find yourself in different relationships that all sort of look the same. It might mean that you consistently find yourself with unavailable partners who have trouble committing, or find yourself being the one who always takes care of the other person, leaving you feeling taken advantage of. Patterns tend to be problematic if you find that relationships are ending for the same reasons, or that you consistently are feeling unfulfilled in a similar way.
To help identify unhealthy patterns, write out a timeline of several past relationships. Write down common characteristics of those partners, why you broke up and common feelings that you had around them. As you look over your relationships, you may see patterns emerging.
A Strong Sense of Self. Do you have a healthy sense of self-worth? Do you feel confident in what you have to offer a partner? Are you clear about what you need in life to feel fulfilled?
It's essential to feel secure in your sense of self and not to feel that you have to apologize for who you are. It's really liberating to be content with you. Plus, you are more likely to attract good potential mates when you feel worthy of receiving love from someone you would admire and respect.
Now, what if you do feel good about where you are in life? What if you've moved on from your past, you've broken free of unhealthy patterns and you're truly ready for love? You may be thinking, Hey, I've done everything I'm supposed to do -- I have an active social life with solid friendships, I do yoga, I have a great job, I'm 'putting myself out there' by asking friends to set me up and by doing online dating. I even went to therapy. I feel ready. What more can a person possibly do!?
The frustration is understandable. And you're right! Sometimes, it's not about doing more. You may already be doing your part. At this point, it's more about continuing to take care of yourself and not getting even more discouraged by the fact that dating is still taking a bit longer than you expected.
You must find ways to not give up your hope of finding love. You must learn to deal with dating burnout, but never give up. Here are the best ways to cope:
Acceptance. Having acceptance doesn't mean you accept that you are going to be alone for the rest of your life. Quite the contrary; you can have acceptance while still working hard to meet a great potential partner. Acceptance, instead, has to do with acknowledging your life as it is right now. It means accepting that right now, for whatever reason, you haven't found the right person. Acceptance is about being OK with where you're at -- it doesn't mean you love it, or even that you want it to be like this, but it does mean that you understand that there's no point denying it or agonizing over it. You simply accept that right now, it is what it is.
Take a breather. Dating burnout likely means that you need to change things up, even if it's a small, temporary change. If you're feeling like you've had a series of bum relationships or no-go dates and you're at your wit's end, it might be time to take a dating break. Take a week or two and give yourself a break from engaging in any new relationship. When you're feeling stuck in a rut, giving yourself some space can be extremely refreshing. It takes the pressure off, and it gives you a chance to let go of some of the negativity that might be lingering from your not-so-successful recent past dates.
Validate your emotions. It's very hard to feel positive about dating if you're burned out. You don't have to deny that you're having a hard time. In fact, it's helpful to validate your own emotional experience, rather than beat yourself up for feeling down. Start out by naming your emotions. For instance, you might notice that you're feeling 'frustrated,' 'sad' or 'hopeless.' Allow yourself to recognize the painful emotions that come up.
The next important step is to recognize that negative emotions will come and go. Just because you're feeling sad or discouraged in this moment doesn't mean it will always be this way. Feelings tend to come and go; like waves crashing onto the sand, they ebb and flow. As surely as you're feeling negative emotions right now, there will likely be other, more positive emotions that you will experience soon.
Be kind to yourself. When you're burned out on dating, there is a tendency to feel that there is something wrong with you, that you are a flawed person or that you are forever doomed to be single. But it is essential to realize that all the ingredients might be there in you, and there is not one thing wrong with you. Instead, it's just that sometimes you just have to wait. You can't conjure up the right person; it takes time and sometimes, no matter how open you are, it takes longer than you would like. But I encourage you not to give up.
Remember, there so are many amazing people, just like you, who are still looking for that special someone. And all it takes is one person. Just one person to be right for you. That one person will make a world of difference, and all the heartache you've dealt with will have been worthwhile.
Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice. Dr. Kolakowski is the author of When Depression Hurts Your Relationship. Her latest book, Single, Shy, and Looking for Love: A Dating Guide for the Shy and Socially Anxious will be available Fall 2014.