Should I Quit Dating While I Finish This PhD?

Are you thinking about an ex? Or wondering about someone new? Submit your question about your relationship/dating/single life here.  You can also email [email protected].


Hi Meredith!
Dating has not been going my way for some time now. I’m a gay man in my 20s living in Seattle. I’m a full-time PhD student attempting to balance dating with other aspects of my life like friends, family, fitness, hobbies, and travel. I’ve had two serious relationships and one “flirtationship” since coming out a little over four years ago. None of my relationships have ended on good terms, and in particular, the last fling I had ended explosively. It really put me off dating for a while. That was at the end of 2021.

I took a solid hiatus to contemplate that whole experience and what got me there. I’ve grown and learned a lot about myself since then.

After that last relationship ended so poorly, I made it a point to be a little more methodical when approaching dating. I kept the rose-colored glasses off and was on high alert for red flags. I told myself it was better to be picky, take my time finding someone I enjoyed being around, and to prioritize myself while single. Essentially, learn to enjoy being single and let life happen without actively trying to couple up with the wrong person just to be in a relationship. After all, I had been in relationships and gone on dates where I really enjoyed the person, so I thought I kind of knew the feeling I was looking for.

Fast forward to now. I have been on more dates than I can count and I’m feeling very uninspired. I waver back and forth on whether I need another cold turkey break from dating but I’m not even sure that would help. I’ve done that before only to find that when I start dating again, I run into the same issues – general feelings of apathy and dissatisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some objectively fantastic and interesting people during this two-year stint, but nothing has felt right in my core. I’m starting to think that this poor streak of luck is on me. I can’t help but feel like a combination of my high expectations and lack of flexibility (sacrificing work, school and family/friend time) is affecting my dating success. It’s honestly gotten to the point where I’m debating putting dating on a long-term freeze so I can put my head down and finish my PhD sans distractions. I’m planning on leaving Seattle after my degree anyway, so maybe that’s the move? Then I can start again in a new city, hopefully with a little more perspective. But if we’re being honest, that scenario makes me kinda sad. That would mean no dating until my late 20s, and I run the risk of missing something great.

Anyway, I guess my biggest question is what do you think I should do? Keep dating in the hopes I find someone I’m excited about, or do I put dating on ice so I can finish my PhD in peace? Thanks for reading.
– Solo in Seattle


What if it wasn’t all or nothing?

Can you finish that PhD in peace while having a casual date once or twice a month? Because that’s the way to go, I think. You can see someone five times, have fun with them, enjoy the experience, and move on. You can take a few weeks off when you have a busy semester.

If you see this as life experience, as opposed to a quest to find a life partner, you might be more satisfied with the results.

The fact is, you’ve had several experiences that taught you what works and what doesn’t. I’m not sure people accomplish much more than that over four years, especially if they have other goals. Also, yes, the Seattle part of this is relevant. You know you’re leaving, so it probably feels like any date is a prologue to what’s next.

Sometimes we let ourselves believe that the path to career, love, family, etc. will be linear, and that everything will move at the same speed, at the same time. That’s not how it works, though. You might make great strides in education and then, years from now, meet the best person ever. Maybe at that point you’ll want too change jobs. You might as well try some dating along the way, enjoying the lessons and company without making too much of it.

Instead of jumping to frustration and defeat, take a beat, shrug, and consider that it’s all part of your story.

It’s OK to prioritize yourself and continue dating this way – on your schedule and without a big goal.

– Meredith

Readers? How does one frame dating as a success when it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere? Would it be better not to date at all?

Love Letters

What’s your love and relationship problem?

Ask Meredith at Love Letters. Yes, it’s anonymous.

About Love Letters