Here’s the thing: I absolutely love dating at its best.
I love connection and romance. I love the possibilities inherent in meeting someone new and getting to know them. While I often feel nervous before a date, I have found most of them to be enjoyable, with a few exceptions. But I just got out of a relationship a few months back, and the idea of dating—particularly online dating—seems exhausting.
The thing is, most dating is not dating “at its best.” Most dating is a series of awful encounters, a veritable smorgasbord of horrors that range from comedic to downright scary. I am not alone in feeling this way. Social media is filled with women and men who can’t understand how the dating world has become this horror show.
From poor etiquette to outright stalker-like behavior, single people can become very familiar with loneliness and discouragement.
While I don’t think abstaining from dating forever is the answer, I do think we all need to take the occasional break.
I began to brainstorm what we could be doing that would be so much better than dating. What started out as a small list for my personal amusement, grew. I could have done this all day. But let’s just start with 11 things, in no particular order, that are better uses of our time than dating.
- Try out BarkBuddy. Instead of endlessly swiping on Tinder or Plenty of Fish, we could be scrolling through photos of dogs looking for owners. This is a great way to rescue pets in need of homes, and owning a pet can be great for one’s health and happiness. Shop around online for something other than a date or potential soulmate.
- Volunteer. All that time we spend trying to find our perfect match might be better invested in helping someone else. We can think of the causes we’re passionate about and find a way to volunteer our time to help others. A friend of mine has recently been spending time brainstorming the issues in her community to try to come up with solutions to them. Sure, we could be screening out unsolicited nude photos, or we could solve real problems instead.
- Plant a garden. I love the World War II era victory gardens. I really admire people who try to grow at least a little of their family’s food. Even planting flowers can be a huge help in sustaining and supporting bee populations, which contribute greatly to our ecosystem. In the words of Veronica A. Shoffstall, “Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.”
- Take a class. If there’s something we’ve always wanted to learn, now is the time to do it. My list of things I want to do is incredibly long! I’m always thinking up something new that interests me. For example, I’m not a strong swimmer. My town is hosting a triathlon, and I can’t sign up because no one wants to see a 30-something woman doggie paddle or float her 200-yard swim. I’d love to take a swimming class so that I could enter and swim without feeling self-conscious.
- Learn something new outside of a classroom. Our schedules don’t always allow time to take a class. We can borrow books from the library, look for YouTube videos, or even download apps to expand our knowledge base. I enjoy Duolingo for a little language learning, and there are also apps where we can learn about art, culture, or stay in the know on current research.
- Invest in friendships. It’s so easy to get distracted when we’re in a relationship and spend all our time with a significant other. Having strong friendships is important no matter our relationship status. While we’re on our own, it’s a great time to truly invest in our friends. We can call them up for a chat, meet for coffee, or make plans that have nothing to do with trying to meet someone and have everything to do with spending time with the people we care about.
- Challenge a fear. What are the things that scare the hell out of us? For me, a fear of heights tops the list. I’ve been thinking that a tandem skydiving session might be in my future. While we’re footloose and fancy free, we can devote a little time to personal growth. Maybe our fears are smaller, like going out to dine alone or trying a new restaurant. Whatever it is that presents a challenge for us, we should try that. I recently started a YouTube channel to do a little spoken word poetry. It’s something that interests me, and I pushed passed my fear to give it a try.
- Conduct a relationship moratorium. Okay, so we’re taking a little dating break. Instead of looking for our next partner, it might be helpful to look back on all the former relationships. Perhaps we haven’t been choosing well or ignore red flags. Or maybe we’re skilled at relationship sabotage, engaging in behaviors that lead to the same conclusion each time. Until we’re willing to take an honest look at ourselves and our history, we’re not going to find moving forward to be easy at all.
- Get organized. I’m a major procrastinator when it comes to home projects. Instead of spending our time downloading yet another dating app, we could be organizing that closet we never get to or find time to donate unused items. We can get our homes, work spaces, and vehicles in a little better order while we have a little extra time on our hands.
- Go on an adventure. We don’t need a partner to take that road trip, day trip, or vacation we’ve been dreaming about. I recently spent a few days sleeping in a teepee, hiking, and visiting the beach. I went solo on purpose because I wanted time to write, to think, and to have a little space to restore myself. If our budgets won’t extend to a big trip, we can always see our towns and communities from the vantage point of a tourist and enjoy local sights.
- Work on creating a balanced life. Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about work, love, and our social lives, but other areas get neglected. Are we as fit as we’d like to be? Oftentimes, we can do a little better with exercise and eating well. Are we as spiritual as we’d like? For those of us with a spiritual orientation of some kind, we might want to participate in religious functions, meditate, or spend time at a retreat to reconnect. Are we always learning new things? Do we challenge ourselves? Are we the parents we want to be? There are so many aspects of our lives that need attention, and it’s important that we find a way to balance them so that we don’t feel insufficient and overwhelmed all the time. We are absolutely enough. We are capable of handling our many roles. We just need to take time to refocus, prioritize, and make sure that we have balance in our lives.
Dating will be there when we’re ready for it, but it doesn’t have to be our main focus. In fact, it’s better if it’s not our primary focus. If we’re active, involved, and interested in our own lives, we’re more likely to meet like-minded people who are active, involved, and interested in theirs, too. We’re less likely to attract codependent partners who are looking for us to complete them. We’re less likely to send out a vibe of desperately needing a partner. We can be cool and confident knowing that our lives are interesting—whether or not we share them with a significant other.
Bonus: The One Buddhist Red Flag to Look out For.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron