By Carly Sackellares, MSW
As a therapist specializing in dating and relationships, I often hear stories from my clients about the horrors of online dating. What they may not know is I can totally relate. I was single for six years before meeting my now boyfriend on Hinge a year ago. In the interim, I can assure you I did a lot of online dating. My experience included a tendency towards high levels of swipe-heavy motivation followed by lulls when I would attempt to ignore my matches altogether. The anxiety of it all was overwhelming, and I didn’t know what to do—that is, until I was introduced to Naked Online: A DoZen Ways to Grow from Internet Dating.
Dee Wagner, psychotherapist and co-author, offered me the book as a resource for my digital dating dismay. With Naked Online as a guide, I began to understand my mood fluctuations, use the exercises to regulate my panicked nervous system response, and have fun with the dating process for the first time. Now, I offer some of the ways to combat online dating burnout so you can stay sane, sustain your flame, and conquer the online dating game.
1. NOTICE ANY CHANGES IN YOUR BODY Dee Wagner wisely notes: when we notice our bodies, this awareness changes our bodies. When we pay attention to our bodies, we become more attuned to what they need. Honoring those needs allows us to move from the fight-flight response that makes online dating seem overwhelming to a place of playful social engagement. Staying socially engaged keeps the process fun. If you’re unsure of where to start, try getting out some paper and art utensils. Allow your body to express itself. You may be surprised at what you find.
2. FOCUS ON UNDERSTANDING YOURSELF Often, online dating burnout stems from a fear of rejection. However, fearing rejection means that your focus is on the other person. What would happen if you shifted the focus to yourself? Understanding what you like about yourself and working towards showing up as your most authentic version allows a shift in intention. Instead of craving approval and fearing rejection, you can put your energy towards becoming better at partnering.
3. MAINTAIN AN OPEN MIND It is important to remember that you don’t know the person behind the screen when online dating. It can be easy to be critical of other people’s profiles. You may even find yourself writing someone off because of your fantasy of who you believe them to be. While online dating helps weed out hard-to-ignore mismatches—like differences in lifestyle or location—it is impossible to know a person through solely online communication. Maintaining an open mind allows you to view people’s profiles from an entirely different perspective. When you let go of the seriousness, you can begin to have fun and may even notice a special someone who wouldn’t have been on your radar before.
4. USE THE EXPERIENCE AS PRACTICE FOR HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIP SKILLS Viewing online dating as a means to an end puts pressure on the process. When the goal is to find a partner, it’s easy to lose yourself. I often see how burnout leads to frustration with the online dating approach. The turning point for me was when I began to view it as an opportunity. Why waste the seemingly limitless potential to meet new people—people who you wouldn't have had the chance to meet otherwise? You can use the experience as a way to practice healthier relationship skills. As your flame grows brighter, you will see the difference in all aspects of your life. When the right person comes along, you’ll blind them with your gorgeous light.