Those who have navigated the majority of this socially isolated year without a committed romantic partner tend to fall into two categories: Those who swore off dating altogether and those who cranked up the dial in hopes of finding someone to connect with during what was a very lonely time for many. Regardless of where you may have fallen, it’s probably been a period of singlehood like no other, and if you’re coming out the other side seeking a mate and having no luck with matches, perhaps it’s a good time to reconsider your approach. For anyone seemingly stuck in a dating rut, relationship experts believe that by putting yourself out there in some totally new ways could give you at the very least a new perspective, but perhaps some unexpected (and positive) results as well.
First of all, if you think you’re suffering from the dreaded dating rut, just know that you’re not alone. Experts like Valentina (Tina) Setteducate, therapist and co-author of BreakUp & BreakOut share that many clients of late are reporting similar feelings of being stuck. “I often hear people refer to a rut when they have been on a string of bad dates, or dates that have not been as successful as they would have hoped,” she explains. “Other common ruts include feeling like you are going on the same date over and over (same location, same few bars) or feeling like you are meeting the same type of guy or girl again and again.”
Setteducate says this feeling also can result from a dating drought. “Sometimes a rut can also be experienced if someone feels like they have not been on dates at all or have not been asked to go on a date in a long time — often leading to that person possibly feeling unwanted or undesired,” she offers. “When we are single, it can feel good to receive external validation and to feel like someone is interested in us. When this feeling is lacking in general (especially during a time like COVID, where people have not been seeing or meeting new people), it can feel especially hard to put ourselves out there and feel excited about dating.”
There are also those who might not even realize they’re in a rut. Not sure if your dating habits could use a little sprucing up? Dr. Paulette Sherman, a psychologist, author of Dating from the Inside Out and host of The Love Psychologist, says there are some telltale signs. “Some common dating ruts include wanting to take time off from dating due to app burnout, dating the same type over and over with no results, being too picky, choosing someone just for company who is not a good long-term match, negative self-talk and catastrophizing about their dating prospects or not working through old relationship baggage so they stay stuck.”
Before you delete your apps or jump back into your same old pattern, you can stay open to the possibility of romance by making some changes — even little ones. Ahead, Setteducate and Dr. Sherman outline a few things to try for un-stuck dating and potentially some exciting results.
Getting Out Of A Dating Rut: Challenge Negative Thoughts
Have you noticed that when you even so much as think about dating, you feel defeated or disappointed? It’s easier said than done, but challenging those negative thoughts is a good first step to reversing your rut. “Our thoughts directly influence how we feel. If you go on a bad date and think that you'll never meet someone you like — challenge that thought,” Setteducate says.
So how do you do it? “Move to a thought that leaves you feeling more open such as ‘One bad date doesn't mean I'll never have a good one again’ or ‘I'm willing to meet someone new even though my last date didn't go as planned’,” Setteducate adds. “Notice how your feelings change when your thoughts are different.” And if you find yourself thinking in terms of absolutes, try to remind yourself there are always exceptions. “For example, [daters] tell themselves, ‘I’m 36 and guys only want to marry women under 35 years old’,” Dr. Sherman explains. “They can challenge this belief and find exceptions. If they know women who married at 37 they will take then take action to date and to be hopeful.”
Getting Out Of A Dating Rut: Challenge Your ‘Type’
“Many daters pick the same types again and again and it doesn’t work out,” Dr. Sherman says, adding that this often has a lot to do with their upbringing and previous relationships. Dating outside your “type” doesn’t mean lowering your standards either — but the psychologist explains that if you’ve been limiting yourself to a very narrow list, perhaps think of ways to allow some wiggle room. “Some daters have a list of 50 requirements in a mate,” she offers. “They can pare this down to seven so they can cast the net wider without being too picky. This can allow them to give more people a chance.”
Getting Out Of A Dating Rut: Ditch Dinner & Drinks
According to Setteducate, the answer could be as simple as trying some new and out-of-the-box date ideas (that includes some unique virtual ones). “Sometimes I hear that people feel like they are going on the same dates over and over: Drinks, drinks, and more drinks,” she says. “If you are feeling like you are in a dating rut with the same kind of dates and spots, suggest another idea! Dates where you are walking, seeing a new scenery, doing an activity or moving your body can help you shift your energy and feel excited and unstuck.”
Getting Out Of A Dating Rut: Ask To Be Set Up
Setteducate explains it could be the method of dating you’ve been doing that needs some shaking up. For example, try having your friends play matchmaker instead of hopping on your usual apps. “With online dating being so popular, I hear more and more that people are feeling in a dating rut or have gone on a string of bad online dates,” she says. “If you are in an online dating rut, delete the app for a few weeks and ask your friends to set you up with someone they know. Having a mutual commonality drastically increases the likelihood that you will get along with that person, feel more safe, and also decreases unwanted behavior like ghosting.”
Getting Out Of A Dating Rut: Take A Break
Sometimes getting out of a rut means actually taking a dating pause. “If you are feeling sick of dating or feeling down from dating, take time to take care of you,” Setteducate says. “Putting ourselves out there can feel exhausting. Learn when to pause, check in with yourself and give yourself the nurturing you need.” And Dr. Sherman adds this is especially relevant to those that are still mourning a past relationship. “Often after a breakup or heartache, daters carry old anger and distrust into dates when meeting new prospects,” she explains. “It’s important to leave the past in the past and to take time to work through those feelings. They can make time to grieve and to learn old lessons so they can move forward with hope and positivity about relationships going forward.” The psychologist also says this could be a great time to dig into past traumas and so-called baggage with the help of a therapist.