I have a love-hate relationship with dating. On the one hand, it’s super fun to put on a cute outfit, meet someone new, and try my best to seem charming and witty. But on the other hand, dating is exhausting, and I get really tired of putting myself out there. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do on a weeknight after work is go have drinks with a relative stranger.
Before I met my current boyfriend, I spent over a year going on dating app dates with no long-term success. It got really frustrating, and there were moments when I would delete all my apps in despair because I couldn’t stand the thought of sending one more meticulously crafted opening line. The truth is, dating feels like work sometimes, when all you really want is to find comfortable love and happiness.
But putting yourself out there is key to eventually finding someone you connect with. So, how can you date around without burning yourself out? According to relationship expert April Masini, all it takes is a little intention about how you want to structure your dating life. Your mental health and happiness should be the priority, no matter how long it takes you to find lasting love.
Try these tips from Masini to make your dating life less stressful and more legitimately exciting and fun.
1. Space out your dates.
“Don’t schedule back-to-back dates on the same day or even within the same week,” Masini suggests. “Give yourself breathing room between dates to live your best life. That way the dates won’t become your life — they’ll be a part of it.” While three dates per week is a sweet spot for some people, others find that number overwhelming. Figure out how often you can go on dates without feeling like you’re sacrificing other things you love.
If you’re on a date and your heart isn’t in it, it won’t be a good experience for anyone. “If you’re discouraged and fatigued (mentally and/or physically) you’re not going to go into any date ready to succeed,” Masini says. “So, pace yourself.” Make a personal commitment to leave time in your schedule just for you.
2. Don’t say yes immediately.
When someone you’re into asks to meet up in person, you might be tempted to respond with an immediate, “I’d love to! When are you free?” But Masini says this might lead to a hastily-planned date that stresses you out. “If someone asks you on a date, check your schedule first,” she suggests. “Only accept dates when it’s going to be good for you — not just because someone asks you and not just because you have a free evening.”
Don’t be afraid to ask someone to reschedule for a day or week that works better for you. Maybe you’re technically free in the evenings one week, but you know you’ve got a huge project due at work, and you’d rather not book yourself up every night. Or maybe, Masini says, “you have a spate of bad dates [and] you need to hunker down and regroup before getting back out there.” Whatever your reasoning, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why your life is super busy at the moment.
3. Keep living your best life.
Sure, romantic relationships are one facet of life, but they're not the whole pie. To keep yourself from feeling like dating is taking over your brain, spend time pursuing hobbies and friendships that bring you joy. “Don’t stop being fun, interesting, and healthy, and don’t stop living your best life,” Masini says. “The more fortified you feel, the less your mediocre dates will get you down.”
4. Date yourself.
It sounds cheesy, but you’re really the only person you can count on to make yourself happy. When you just can’t even with dating anymore, Masini suggests taking yourself on a “spiritual date” — somewhere quiet where you can be alone with your thoughts. “This is such a great way to cancel out the noise in your brain and to reconnect with your higher self,” she says. “You’ll surprise yourself at the way something this simple will refresh you.”
Ultimately, you can’t open your heart to someone else until you make space to love yourself first. And taking care of your emotional health is a huge piece of this puzzle. “Respect your process,” Masini advises. Everyone’s ideal dating routine is going to be different, but the key is establishing boundaries so you don’t get too disheartened. Take breaks when you need them, and don't be afraid to speak up for yourself in the process. Finding love does take work, but you can always have fun along the way.