Q: Dear Meredith:
I am a huge fan of Love Letters and your commenters! Here's my question in a nutshell: I've got dating fatigue. What should I do about it?
In college, I dated somebody for a long time. We could have moved in together, maybe even married one day, but we weren't right for one another. I'm over it, and it seems like a distant memory. Since then, I've dated people on and off, done the online scene, had more than a few six-month relationships, nothing special. Guilty admission: I enjoy OKCupid more for the ability to judge random people than for the potential to go on a date and meet somebody. Strangely, I feel emotionally healthy. I'm also in a good place having just landed a wonderful job that is challenging, helpful to society, and meets my basic financial needs. I'd very much like a real relationship at this point, but this isn't a "Why won't anybody date me?" sort of thing -- and I'm OK being on my own. Besides, I've found I'm able to meet people pretty easily. It's not that.
I've got a serious inertia problem. On the one hand I'd really like to be in a relationship, and I'm ready to have the fun and do the "work" of a relationship. But it just takes too much effort to get to that point. For one, dating is expensive, even doing it cheaply. Two, three, four 1st-5th dates add up, and that'll put a strain on a budget -- even when you split things, and I'm the sort of fellow who at least offers to pay. Then there's the opportunity cost. I have a fairly big network of friends -- going on an OK date that's not going to go anywhere is not as fun as seeing friends I know I like and haven't seen in far too long.
But mostly, I have the same date over and over again. Here's how it goes, more or less:
[Grabbing drinks, grabbing dinner, catching a movie, going to Quirky Artsy Thing, or doing Quirky Sport/Game Thing.] This weather is crazy! It's Snowmageddon! Compliment. Compliment. What do you do? Descriptions of what you are both passionate about and your shared values. Discussion relative to various tv shows, music, movies, or other pop/sub-pop phenomenon. Recall childhood cartoons/memory. Siblings? Hey, do you know so-and-so? You do. What a coincidence! You went to that exotic place that one time and how it's different and interesting. You both want to travel more. News Event. Brief political or religious discussion (look how risky you both are to bring that up!) That local thing that just happened. That book you read. That movie you just saw together. I've had a nice time. Yeah, me too!
As I write this, I am well aware that I sound like a huge drag, and I'm sure that's just what the commenters will say. Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm just bored. Maybe I'm elitist or have too high standards or am just plain cynical or something. I don't think I am any of those things and I hope I'm not. So, (at last) here's my question: I get that there aren't any shortcuts on the road of life, but maybe there are ways to make the journey a little more scenic? What do people do to enjoy the process of dating before you find somebody who is going to be a good partner in a relationship?
– Lethargic in Somerville
A: I get it, LIS. Dating can be annoying, especially when you've been doing it for a while.
And that's why I'm going to suggest that you stop dating. Hang out with people as friends. Stop the OKCupid thing and spend time with people in groups. Get to know people naturally so that by the time you're on a real date with them, you know they're worth your time (and money). Yes, organic meet-ups are more difficult to come by as a grown-up, but you're telling us that you actually do meet people in your everyday life. Capitalize on that. Invite six people over to your apartment to watch TV. If you wind up spending more time with one of those six people, that's great.
Your complaints are fair, by the way. Dating is expensive and can be seriously repetitive. (Snowmageddon, indeed.) And that's why you can only do it if you're psyched about it. Taking a break will give you some clarity to see beyond the small talk. Right now, your dating glasses are all foggy.
Readers? Is the LW a drag or is he just sick of a difficult process? Should he stop dating? Should he be dating online? If he had a date with the right person, would he be able to see beyond the small talk? Tips for coping with dating fatigue? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.