Yep, you read that right, dating sucks. Or should I say, it can suck. To quote the great Charlotte York (who did end up marrying the man of her dreams, btw), “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen, I’m exhausted! Where is he?!” And while I know you didn’t ask for a Sex and the City reference, if her frustration at all resonates with you, I’m here to assure you that you are not alone.
Speaking from experience, both personally and in working with clients, I know how hard dating can feel these days, especially in Colorado. In fact, a recent survey showed that more than half of Americans agree that dating is much more difficult than in was ten years ago. So what’s the deal? Why does it feel so hard? Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the reasons modern dating is such a mess these days:
This may not come as a huge surprise, but things are kind of, um, crazy right now. We’re slowly clawing our way out of a global pandemic, which has caused a cascade of challenges including economic inflation, isolation, trauma, and grief. War and political instability continue to consume our news cycles. And natural disasters and extreme weather patterns threaten our ability to feel safe in the natural world. So, yeah, if you’re feeling a little extra anxious these days, there are reasons why. (Pause for deep breath).
I bring this up because this collective anxiety can, in fact, translate over into the dating world and manifest itself as something called dating anxiety, which is linked to things like introversion, shyness, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear of rejection, and repetitive negative thoughts about dating. The antidote? You’re not going to like it: exposure therapy. Get yourself out there and overcome some of those fears.
Peter Pan Syndrome and Transient Communities
Ahh, our beloved Peter Pans. Adults with Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS) tend to have a difficult time “growing up,” and have been known to sabotage their relationships. No, this is not an official psychological term, but you know the type. They may struggle with commitment or maintaining employment, exhibit emotionally immature tendencies, or have trouble keeping up with adult responsibilities. And while they are fun, adventurous, and lovable, this immaturity can make dating them an absolute nightmare. Trust me, I know.
While Peter Pans can habituate anywhere, it’s important to note that they tend to frequent transient communities, like skiing and mountain biking towns. Looking at you, Summit County, and on a larger scale, the entire state of Colorado. It’s no secret that many Colorado residents are not from around here (just ask any native), and the transient nature of the state’s culture can make dating feel pointless or frustrating. Living in a transient community can be a blast, and Peter Pans can bring a lot of joy and thrill into our lives, just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you walk that plank!
Don’t get me started. If I had a nickel for every time I downloaded, deleted, and redownloaded a dating app, I would be able to buy both of us a drink. In my experience, apps tend to take the “organic-ness” out of dating. Instead of serendipitously meeting a prospective partner in real life, who you can vet and develop a natural connection with, you are forced to create a connection through a screen, with the expectation of ~liking each other~ looming over head from the outset. Such pressure!
Apps are also innately difficult to navigate, from the financial aspect to receiving the algorithm’s unsolicited matches to sifting through hundreds of profiles in search of the “perfect fit,” they can be extremely draining and defeating. Common occurrences such as being ghosted or catfished are incredibly negative to our self-esteem, which consequently increases our anxiety and makes dating even more difficult.
That said, they’re not all bad! They truly do connect us. Recent studies have shown that more that 40% of people have met their current partner on a dating app. Plus, it allows us to cast a much wider net and meet people we would never have crossed paths with. Let’s just cool it with the ghosting moving forward, deal?
That Pesky Paradox of Choice
Speaking of casting a wider net, let’s talk about the Paradox of Choice. Sometimes, too many choices can be a bad thing. In his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Bryan Schwartz suggests that that the more options we have, the more difficult it is to make a decision. And he’s not wrong. Does anyone else get overwhelmed in the cereal aisle? Or when choosing a brand of oat milk? Swiping through dating apps and consuming social media is no different. This Paradox can lead to feelings of overwhelm, burnout, or even the search for perfection…
The Search for Perfection
Repeat after me: my partner cannot fulfill all my needs. What’s up with this? We’ve entered into a space where we expect our romantic partners to check all our boxes. Relationship expert Esther Percel writes:
“Modern relationships are cauldrons of contradictory longings: safety and excitement, grounding and transcendence, the comfort of love and the heat of passion. We want it all, and we want it with one person.”
Nobody is perfect, not even you, and that’s okay! Partners should be your rock, not your whole world. That’s what friends and family are for. Expecting someone to meet your every need is a recipe for disaster, and don’t let social media tell you any different. Find someone who is kind to you and makes you happy, and invest in growing together from there. The grass is greener where you water it.
I know what you’re thinking: “Gee, thanks. You’ve just listed five reasons why dating sucks with no real solutions. Now what?” To clarify, that was not my intention! My intentions were to normalize all your frustrations with the current dating scene and assure you that you are not alone. I also want to spread some hope because, honestly, you’ve got this. Here are some tips on how to make dating a little easier:
Take Advantage of Your Solo Time
You are your first priority! We spend the majority of our lifetime with ourselves, no one else. Learn how to embrace solitude and take care of yourself. Try out new hobbies. Cultivate rich relationships with family and friends. Heal. I promise you will be craving solo time down the road, so sink into it while you can now.
Manage Your Expectations
Finding a partner will not “fix you” or solve all your problems. Relationships require a conscious choice every day, and that is not always easy. Make sure you’re ready to accept the
compromises that a relationship requires and know that a partner will not fulfill you 100% of the time.
I cannot stress this final point enough: dating is supposed to be fun! I hear you, and I know it’s stressful, but please don’t forget to enjoy it. Go on fun dates, connect with different types of people (even if it doesn’t work out), push yourself to grow and be vulnerable. There is an abundance of opportunity in the dating world. There is an abundance of opportunity in the dating world. You are looking for your person – let the process empower you!
Written by Carly Schaller, therapist and adventure therapy specialist at Grit Therapy. She offers traditional therapy as well as eco-therapy, and incorporates nature and movement into many of her sessions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about working with Carly!