This year, something revolutionary happened to my love life: I moved to New York.
You would think that making a move to one of the most popular cities in North America for young people would open up my options enormously. And you’d be right.
I spent the first few weeks in the city swiping through an endless sea of faces – getting so overwhelmed by the options that I’d begin to make little rules about who I’d swipe right on.
‘Only if they’re doing something fun.’
‘Only if they have a cool tattoo.’
‘Only if they have their Myers-Briggs personality type listed in their profile and it’s a different type than the last person I swiped right on.’
I had to make different rules for meeting people at bars.
‘I’ll do a shot with them if they make me laugh in the first two minutes.’
‘I’ll give them my number if they aren’t afraid to make a complete fool of themselves on the dance floor.’
‘I’ll go on a date if they have a cool, non-conventional profession that I’m dying to learn more about.’
The dating options truly are infinite when you relocate to a big enough city (especially one as bustling and as sex-hungry as New York) and it’s easy to get caught in an endless merry-go-round of first dates, casual flirtations and half-hearted hookups.
Except I did something a little different after my first few weeks in the city.
I stopped dating.
Of course, everyone opts for this at some point. Some need a break from the merry-go-round of tinder meet-ups. Others get busy with work or school or projects and can’t be bothered. I chose to take some time off to deal with my emotions surrounding a relationship that had recently ended, rather than continuing to avoid it with a string of rebounds.
But here’s what I never expected when I deleted Tinder from my phone and stopped giving out my number at clubs: My life got better. In ways that I couldn’t have predicted.
The thing about being in ‘the dating game’ (because it is a game, whether we like to admit it or not) is that you’re constantly trying to not lose it.
You have to keep your options open, play the field, be strategic and stay on guard.
Are these healthy dating strategies? Nope. But they’re ones we all engage in. They’re a product of the culture we’ve created.
You can’t divulge too much because they might think you’re coming on too strong. You have to think about what you’re texting because you might give off the wrong impression. You have to turn on the biggest, brightest version of yourself to go get beers, only to come home and collapse in an exhausted heap with your sweat pants, a bag of chips and Netflix.
Dating, simply put, is exhausting. It sucks the time, energy and money from your life, even if you’re enjoying yourself while doing it.
And when you stop dating deliberately, you get that time, energy and money right back.
Instead of actively dating in New York, I started signing up for classes. Searching out opportunities to meet friends. Approaching new relationships from a platonic angle – one where I didn’t have to worry about quadruple-texting or wearing my sweat pants when we hung out.
And what I noticed is this: Instead of showing the fuck up for dates and then coming home to collapse and unwind, I just started showing the fuck up to my life.
Instead of bringing full energy to dates, I brought full energy to work. Full energy to classes. Full energy to platonic hangouts and happy hour drinks and community events. And it made my life instantly, infinitely richer.
The thing about dating is that it’s a very easy thing to preoccupy ourselves with.
It gives us novelty, intrigue and validation – all wrapped up in one pretty package.
But it’s not the only place where we can find those things.
We can find novelty in the activities that we seek out. Intrigue in getting to know new people platonically and genuinely. Validation in the way we treat and speak to ourselves, instead of the ways we receive love from others.
While it can be a wonderful and healthy thing to do, dating around is too often a bandaid for the issues that we don’t care to solve on our own.
The issues of loneliness or boredom or self-doubt.
And those are the things you learn to combat when you temporarily check out of the dating scene.
And here’s the roundabout beauty of all of it: You’re most likely to meet someone you’re crazy about when you are not deliberately looking for them.
I’m a huge believer in the friends-first approach to dating. In the process of getting to know someone completely – with both of your guards down and minds open – before you even begin to consider whether or not they would fit into your life as a romantic partner.
Because if you’re going to make it work with someone – actually, genuinely make it work – they’re going to see the less glamorous parts of you eventually.
The shortcomings you struggle with. The frustrating habits you have. The past events that still affect your present and the ways in which you’re simply imperfect.
And so why not get those out of the way from the get-go? Why not form relationships that allow you to see the whole of other people – who they are when they’re not aiming to impress and how their energy flows when it’s not pointed.
Because those relationships are ultimately going to be the ones that mean the most. Whether they stay platonic forever or develop into something more intimate, those will always be the relationships worth investing in. The ones worth showing up for. The ones worth expending your energy on, day after day after day.
There’s nothing wrong with dating around – either in New York or anywhere else – and yet I’m inclined to believe that it’s one of the least genuine and effective methods we have for meeting people we’re actually going to click with.
By taking the possibility of sex out of the equation (at least for the short-term) we’re opening ourselves up to relationships that hold solid foundations. Friendships that add infinite value to our lives.
And we’re reminding ourselves – first and foremost – that there’s so much more to life than a never-ending sea of right swipes.