Pouring an excessive amount of energy and time into dating can lead to burnout just as easily as working too much.
At the end of last month, 'quiet quitting' took over the internet. Although it's been characterized in about a billion ways at this point, the concept can be summed up pretty simply: As Sarai Marie, a TikTok user who has 1.5 million followers, puts it, "You come to work, you do your job, and then you go home." The case for it is that if you're not getting anything extra for "going above and beyond," what's the point — especially if your mental health is on the line?
Anyone who's single and swiping for something serious knows full well that dating can feel like a part-time — if not full-time — job, so it's no surprise that you might benefit from quiet quitting that gig, too. Kate MacLean, Dating Expert at Plenty of Fish, notes that pouring an excessive amount of energy and time into your dating life can lead to burnout just as readily as working too much — and that's why it's so important to "embrace quiet quitting energy for a more fulfilling dating life."
What does that look like exactly? "Quiet quitting in dating is all about setting clear boundaries and being self-aware," explains MacLean. "It's about avoiding extremes, whether that's swearing off dating altogether forever or having the quest for a partner consume your waking hours."
Here, why you might benefit from quiet quitting your dating life and how exactly to do it.
<strong>How Quiet Quitting Your Dating Life Can Make It More Satisfying and Successful</strong>
Whether you're feeling lonely, fed up with a perpetual barrage of crappy matches, hyper-focused on finding your person, or all of the above, it can be easy to pour an overabundance of time and energy into swiping or actually going out on dates. After all, it can feel like the more time and energy you spend on it, the greater the chance you'll connect with someone special. But going balls to the wall in your dating life can actually backfire.
"Often daters believe that trying harder means giving everyone a chance, regardless of their gut instincts or energy levels," says Rachel DeAlto, Chief Dating Expert at Match. That can result in spending too much time talking to people who simply aren't on the same page.
"Studies have shown that those who focus on a smaller group of options as opposed to the limitless pool are more successful in dating," she explains. "It's a change in mindset. Intentionally dating those who meet your non-negotiables, giving those who do a chance [because] sometimes that first date is filled with nerves and leads to a poor first impression, and moving on deliberately only when you know it won't work can create far more success than constant connections that don't dive beyond the surface."
Basically, 'quiet quitting' — aka being way more intentional — lays the groundwork for higher quality results. As MacLean puts it, "Quiet quitting sets you up for making sure you do not settle for anything less than you deserve."
<strong>How to Apply Quiet Quitting to Your Dating Life</strong>
To be fair, if you're immersed in a high-energy campaign to find a partner, stepping back sounds like something that's easier said than done. Here are a few expert-backed strategies for applying the quiet quitting philosophy to your love life.
Get clear on what you want.
DeAlto likes what she calls the "TJ Maxx analogy" — it can also apply to any similar store, like Target. "If you walk in and don't know what you are looking for, you could end up with a chair, shampoo, and sunglasses," she notes. "If you walk in looking for a blue shirt, all of a sudden your brain only focuses on the blue shirts. They pop out like they are being spotlighted, because that's how our brain works."
To date more intentionally, she recommends picking four non-negotiables, or four qualities that are permanent and non-superficial that represent personality characteristics of your ideal partner. For instance, you might choose intelligence, ambition, generosity, and humor.
"If you know what you are focusing on, you will find it easier to spot it," explains DeAlto. If someone you're checking out on an app or out on a date with doesn't meet those non-negotiables, you do not date them — no matter how attracted you are, she says.
And even if they do meet your non-negotiables, you'll want to set boundaries. Even if you aren't super-attracted at first, go on three dates, says DeAlto who explains, "Compatibility can lead to attraction even if those initial butterflies aren't there."
Allocate a set amount of time to swiping.
Patrick Walsh, LCSW, a psychotherapist in New York City, points out that dating apps are designed to capture and monetize your attention. "So, value your attention more than they do," he suggests. "Make the apps serve you rather than becoming subsumed by their game."
He recommends setting aside 10 to 20 minutes a day to swipe and message potential dates. "That's all you need to connect with a few people and convert a casual exchange into a phone call, video call, or cup of coffee," he says.
If you're glued to the app for any longer, he notes that you may be using it to avoid an issue that should otherwise be examined, like looking for approval or generating a false sense of self-esteem.
MacLean says embracing innovative approaches to dating can make it feel less like an exhausting job hunt. She suggests finding creative and different ways to connect and meet someone new. "[Maybe] that's tuning into a funny live stream together, playing an online game against each other, or going out with a group of friends first," she explains.
"Dating is something you can't really force, but when you are feeling particularly lonely it is tempting to feel some control over your dating life," says Stephanie Macadaan, a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Bay Area, California. "This can lead to upping the effort by swiping and dating as much as possible."
When you're in this headspace, there's merit to taking a step back and acknowledging the loneliness or longing for a partner, says Macadaan. "That's natural and soothing versus trying to force your way out of those feelings by making dating work at any cost," she notes.
Consider taking an actual time-out.
"If you are putting far more energy into dating than you are receiving from dates, it may be time to take a break," points out DeAlto.
Sure, you might not want to take a break as a result of FOMO, but it can pay off. "Being reinvigorated and hopeful again allows daters to show up in a different way after taking a week or a month off," she notes. "It's about energy management above all."
<strong>The Main Takeaway on Quiet Quitting Your Dating Life</strong>
It's easy to get hung up on the idea that dating is a numbers game. Walsh acknowledges that, in many ways, it is. "You need experience to learn yourself, learn others, and to understand how the shape of your personality fits the shape of someone else's," he says. "The more people you date, the better your understanding."
But it's also important to remember that dating is a quality game. "You need time, attention and presence when getting to know someone," he notes. "You need your heart, your spine, your charm and discretion. If you chase numbers too doggedly, you sacrifice quality." That said, you'll do best when you strike a balance — and do your best to protect your energy.
As Macadaan concludes, "When you stay in flow with your dating life and with what level of effort and swiping feels good — versus exhausting — you are more in alignment with yourself, and that is what leads to the outcome you want at the right time."