It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everyday life. Between balancing work, play, and mental and physical health (among a million other things), it can seem nearly impossible to add dating into the equation, especially given the emotional energy it sometimes requires. But according to a whole panel of experts we interviewed, it’s entirely possible. (That is, if you want it to be –– it’s totally fine to just not want to date, for the record). And as per the pros, there are more ways to make it work than you might think.
“I am a firm believer that you can make the time for anything that is personally valuable to you in life,” says New York entrepreneur and former matchmaker Josephine Wear. “I am not saying that [prioritizing dating] is easy, but we have a finite amount of time, so think about what you can afford to do less of and let dating fill in the gaps.” We asked Wear and her fellow dating gurus for their pointers on how to put that into action, and here’s what they had to say.
G-Cal is your friend.
“What helps is planning something in advance that you are already looking forward to and locking it in your calendar like a set appointment,” says Wear. That can feel a bit business-y to some, but it’s worth a try if you’re in a rut. Hunt Ethridge, a dating coach also based in NYC, recommends starting out with just one hour a week labelled “dating.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to go on a date, but do things that will help you out. Read a relationship book, go to a meetup, look [through] Tinder, or research some fun date ideas in your area. Dating, like anything, is a skillset that can be learned and honed, but first you need to devote some time to [it].”
Emily Depasse, a Philadelphia-based sexologist, puts it into perspective: “Set aside a couple of nights out of the month where you may be able to meet up with your potential matches. This way, the time is already scheduled and if you don’t have a date, you still have free time. It’s a win-win.”
Maximize your time by removing your blinders.
Being aware of your surroundings is more important than you think, according to Chicago relationship expert and author Kevin Darné. He recommends paying attention to “how people are engaging with you” and just being willing to engage (and reciprocate if applicable and desired). “Sometimes people are so focused on their objectives they fail to recognize when someone is flirting or interested in them.”
Date close to home.
“If your date suggests going out on Wednesday after work, but it’s going to take you 45 minutes to get there, maybe counter with a spot a little closer to home and that’s only going to take both of you 20 minutes to get to,” says Carlee Linden, dating content manager for BestCompany. “A long drive can be fun and refreshing on the weekends, but during the week and after a full workday, it can be exhausting. Plus, it can be stressful knowing that you’re busy and you could have gotten your to-do list done in the time it took you to get to your destination.”
Don’t go overboard…
Linden also recommends pacing yourself for the sake of your own sanity. “Don’t overwhelm yourself and your schedule by trying to squeeze in six dates that week. Respond to messages and schedule a date in the next week or when you’ll have a little more time. You’ll thank yourself later for not planning two dates on the same night.”
Darné agrees: “Rushing through the dating process usually leads to experiencing dating burnout or making bad choices in mate selection.”
…but don’t procrastinate if you’re unsure.
“If you’re busy but willing to go with the flow, schedule the date ASAP,” says Depasse. “You may jive well with someone over text, but the chemistry may not translate when you meet up. The sooner you go, the more you know.” And, of course, you’ll spare yourself any wasted time and energy spent on the back-and-forth.
Make it fun for yourself.
“If it is a first date, I would advise checking out the new coffee shop, wine bar, museum exhibition, or comedy show that you wanted to experience even before the date,” says Wear. “This way, you can really look forward to that time and manage your expectations so that your experience is not contingent upon romantic chemistry (that’s just a bonus!).”
Munich-based Celia Schweyer, a dating and relationship expert at DatingScout, recommends thinking outside the box by looking at the middle of your day for time to schedule a date. “Work is as constant as lunch breaks, so make use of that free time to have a sweet and intimate lunch with someone you like. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. Choose your favorite restaurant near your work; that way you can easily decide what to order and what to recommend.”
In general, less formal dates are also a great way to mix things up. “If your schedule is filling up and you want to sneak some get-to-know-you’ time in, maybe invite them to join you as you walk your dog in the park,” says Linden. “There is no rulebook that says a date needs to be three hours long and you need to be sitting across from your date. Find an activity you’d feel comfortable with if they were to join you and turn that into a casual date.”
Be real with yourself.
“For some of us, this advice is harder than it sounds,” says Linden. “If your date just isn’t the one for you, then it’s probably best to just say so. Being a little more decisive with you who you’re dating will help you [avoid] spending your time on something that’s probably not going to work out.” Putting yourself first is key here — your schedule matters, as does your energy output. And if you’re giving it to someone who you don’t necessarily want to, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Darné sums it up: “Don’t feel obligated to pretend you want something just because you believe you are supposed to want it.”