Dating burnout

Lotte Ditzel | Sunday 13 February 2022

In addition to being tired from, for example, your job, watching TV for too long or running around the park, you can also become extinguished from dating these days. This general love fatigue can be described as date burnout and is caused by too many dates with too many different people in a row. Although the symptoms are not as bad as normal burnout, date burnout is not something you should take lightly. Time to take a closer look at this phenomenon. What characteristics does a burnt-out serial dater actually exhibit? And how do you turn that dying fire into a lasting burning love that sparks off?

What’s Happnin’

It’s no news that with the arrival of apps like Tinder, Happn, Grindr or Inner Circle the belief in several great loves (per day) has increased. Where in the past you could languish for weeks or even months just to catch a glimpse of the one object of your affection, you now simply swipe to the right or press the heart button on all the attractive profiles you see online. The same evening you can sit at the bar with a random chosen one, deep in conversation about your work, the best Netflix series or the next round of drinks. Sounds like a never ending love story and it is, but not with a happy ending. Anyone who repeats this rant often enough runs the risk of becoming burned out, discouraged and desperate, which ultimately means dating is out of the question altogether. Something that psychologist Shannon Kolakowski experienced personally in her immediate environment. The large number of singles she spoke to shifted from one date to the next in high gear, hoping of course that their true love was among them, while in the meantime they didn’t really feel anything for anyone in particular. All of them then doubted whether this was due to the people they were dating or their own ability to have feelings of love for someone. All also struggled with their self-esteem and often felt hopeless or depressed throughout the process. Yet they continued to date stubbornly, because it still felt better than the feelings of restlessness and impatience sometimes so characteristic of a date-less existence. But over time, the fleetingness of the many dates brought them more and more difficulties, confusion, discouragement, and an ever-increasing alienation from themselves. As a result, they ended up not wanting to go on dates at all. They were firmly convinced that it was not worth all the disappointment and that love was not for them. After all, they had already tried everything. Dating had become for them a terrible, obligatory number, instead of an exciting, new opportunity to meet someone interesting.

Fear and uncertainty 

Kolakowski explains to us in her book “Single, Shy and Looking for Love” why this is. Nowadays, dating apps make it very easy for people to escape that inevitable part of dating: feelings of insecurity. Do I like him? What did she think of me after our last date? At times like these, it seems easier to look for new matches online than to deal with all the unanswered questions you have about your current date. Still, when you are looking for a long relationship, it is important to give the other person a chance to really get to know you and vice versa. Of course, it doesn’t help if you flit from one to the other in the meantime, too impatient to really stick around. Online swiping can also lead to you becoming less emotionally available. The virtual, artificial and hectic aspect of it all means that you attribute less human qualities to others and no longer consider them worthy of your time, attention, kindness or respect. So dates are canceled last minute, don’t show up or disappear, after a first date that may or may not have been disappointing. It is this series of disappointments and rejections that causes people to experience what is known as date burnout. This effect is even stronger in types who are above average in fear or shyness. On this, Kolakowski explains how fear naturally acts as a protection mechanism against danger or pain. Those who experience higher levels of anxiety or are very shy also suffer more from (anxious) thoughts that convince them that dating is not safe and therefore not worth it. However, when you ask couples what they miss the most since being in a relationship, they often start talking about first times like the first kiss, beginning butterflies or the first time they woke up together. All aspects that make dating so valuable and worthwhile, contrary to what people who suffer from date burnout think.  

From burn-out to burning desire

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to deal with date burnout. One is to not think too far ahead, because no matter how much you muse about it, you simply cannot know if you will spend the rest of your life with someone after one or two dates. Worrying about this will give you unnecessary anxiety, preventing you from experiencing the positive emotion of a date. Think about whether you would like to date this person in the next one to two month(s)? This will reduce feelings of stress, making you more receptive to a connection and perhaps even a budding love. The next important thing to consider is the uncomfortable uncertainty of not knowing if you want/need a relationship with someone. Your instinct in this state may tell you to continue looking at what else is around on the singles market in the meantime, but if you are looking for something long-term it can help to see this uncertainty and uncomfortable feelings as part of your current dating developments. By experiencing them rather than avoiding them, you build a tolerance for them. As a result, a budding relationship is more likely to unfold naturally. Another piece of advice is to break away from so-called “rules”. Rules are often unrealistic and leave you or the other person ignoring yourself. Date at your own pace. After three or more dates, you don’t necessarily need to know if you see a future with the other person. All you need to know is if you feel like going on the fourth date and, exceptionally, the fifth. Finally, it may sound cliché, but take your time meeting someone you might want to settle down with. Taking refuge in all kinds of (short-lived) romances because you’re afraid of being alone makes no sense. Relationships do have their own pace and eventually your craving for control will only lead to what you are so afraid of: being alone. When your mission is purely to find someone, rather than get to know them (permanently), you make encounters end before they’ve even started. In the process, you push away potential nice partners with the pressure you put on the contact. So take it easy. Once in a stable relationship, you will miss the uncertainty of the initial phase of dating the most, according to most couples.