How Do You Combat “Why Bother” Syndrome After a Bunch of Frustrating Dates?

african american couple smiling

As a dating coach, I serve many roles. Friend. Confidante. Big brother. Teacher. Taskmaster. Cheerleader. Roll those all into one and you have me – a guy who spends 4 hours a day on the phone as a sponge for the frustrations, pain and negativity felt by my private clients. It’s no different than being a shrink perhaps, but one of my clients, who IS a shrink, thinks I’ve got the tougher job.

Because while a psychologist can keep on asking questions: “How does that make you feel?”, “What do YOU think that means?”, my clients turn to me for ANSWERS. They want results. They’re not concerned with conquering their inner demons as much as getting clarity on when love will come their way.

How do you keep on going when you’re successful at everything else in life, yet every romantic partner you touch turns to crap?

Today, I spoke with a special client. I won’t out her, but she knows who she is. Like most of my clients, she’s got everything going for her – bright, successful, interesting, relationship-oriented. How she’s unique is that she’s 33 (which is young for my clients) and she’s undeniably cute (which isn’t rare, but makes it far easier for her to attract men). Working with her has been a pure joy for me, as I am witness to her spectacular growth on a week-by-week basis. We’ve been talking for 11 weeks now, and I am astounded at how far she’s come. Yet tonight, all she could tell me was how sad she was. Three bad dates in the past week. No promising leads on the horizon. Negative thoughts creeping into her head. Why bother with dating at all? Great question. One I’ve tackled relatively recently. But still, it persists.

How do you keep on going when you’re successful at everything else in life, yet every romantic partner you touch turns to crap? We spent an hour talking about this today, and I was thrilled to say that my client felt a thousand times better after the call than she did when we started the call. For her, metaphors, logic, and analogies are a big key to giving her a healthier perspective. Thank god, because that’s what I do best. 🙂 Anyway, I pointed out to her that, because she’s a catch, 90% of the guys she meets are going to fall short of her standards. Which means, logically, that she might have to go on 9 mediocre dates until she finds one guy she’s excited about. If she didn’t have such high standards, she might be satisfied by the cute, boring guys she just passed up. But since she does have high standards, only 10% of men will be eligible. That’s nothing to get angry at. It just means that due to her smaller dating pool, it will take her more time than it takes other women.

If we extrapolate further, of the 10% of the guys she’s open to, half of them will not be into her, and half of them will be into her. That’s dating for you. So now we’ve established that 1 out of 20 guys is boyfriend-eligible. Suddenly, as frustrating as it seems, my client has a paradigm – a framework of what to expect out of dating. Her problem was that her expectations are unrealistic. She lives and dies with each new guy from Last week she had 7 guys in her inbox and was high as a kite. This week, she’s cycled through them and is down in the dumps. Yet, we know that this is how online dating works. Men come, men go. Most will be disappointing. Some will get your hopes up. A few will show consistency and want to be exclusive with you.

So if you’re going to date online and think that you’re going to find true love in your first 30 day trial, think again.

So if you’re going to date online and think that you’re going to find true love in your first 30 day trial, think again. Unless you’ve gone out with 19 guys, you haven’t even gotten warmed up yet! Besides: how many times in your life have you been in love? Two? Three? Then maybe you should stop freaking out that it didn’t happen after six months in 2009. The rarity of love is what makes it special. The possibility of love is what keeps us going. And coming to the conclusion after a bunch of frustrating dates that you should give up entirely is simply false. My darkest month of dating was November, 2006. I met my wife in January, 2007. You never, ever, ever know what’s in store for you.

Your dream partner may be going through a divorce right now. He may have just signed onto eHarmony for the first time. He may be focused on his work and will be ready to date by early next year. You have no idea. Which is why I’ve got no time for “Why Bother?” syndrome. You bother because the only way to find love is to go on dates with strangers. Stop doing that and it’s pretty hard to find love. For my client, her big takeaway was that she needs to stop measuring results the way she measures results at school or work. Ultimately, she wants a husband and family, but that’s a process that she just started undertaking 11 weeks ago. Yet since we began working together, she has rebranded herself online, gotten a tremendous amount of attention, fell for a really amazing guy…who turned out to have some really serious issues, figured out how to play it cool with men, how to let them choose her, how to assess the difference between wants and needs, how to flirt successfully, how to weed out the players from the keepers, how to be a great first date, how to bounce back from rejection, and how to persevere when the going gets tough.

So she can focus on how some guy flaked out on her at the last minute, or she can focus on how well-prepared she is going to be to let love into her life. Which do YOU think is a healthier way of looking at things? Success can be measured in a million ways. You can get a 4.0 at a school but get a crappy education. Or you can get a 3.0 and challenge yourself and stretch and grow. What’s success to you? All I know is that even though my client was on the verge of tears when we spoke today, she is on a path to success. And I’d bet my bottom dollar that she finds an amazing man who appreciates all of her gifts sooner rather than later. That’s why she bothers.

I literally have an entire module in Week 2 of Love U called “Why Bother Syndrome?” Curious? Click here to check it out. 

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  1. 1

    This was the same numbers type of logic that I used last year when I went on a large number of dates.

    Logically, if I went on 10 dates, even though I screened them to meet my standards and they had a high interest level and so forth, only 1 of them would be second date-worthy. And on that second date, about half would be third date-worthy. So that’s about right, 1 in 20. And even then, it takes a bit longer than that to determine if someone is relationship-worthy.

    I went on 54 dates last year. When I went on my 55th date, I got a lot of ‘the one’ vibes from our first date. Our second date I got even more ‘the one’ vibes (and a really good kiss at the end of that date). Our third date, when it took us two hours to say goodbye, I started canceling all my online dating subscriptions because I knew she was the one. And after four and a half months now, I just told her I loved her, and she said I love you too.

    I was just lucky it took me 55 dates and 4500 browsed online profiles rather than 100 dates and 9000 browsed profiles.

    It’s all about perspective and keeping your individual glass half-full. As long as you’re working at it and doing all that you can, good things will come your way. How do you think people because successful? They had to work at it!

    1. 1.1

      That is very encouraging. I’ve been on (rounding 100) first dates in my past two years. This doesn’t mean that quality and standards go by the wayside, however, I will meet a man for a cup of coffee and treat it in many ways like I approach business. I know that we (my business) know how many appointments we need per week to translate to new clients needed per month. We factor for fallout (not everyone is going to evolve to an end result. To make that, we need x number of new contacts and need to make x number of call/contacts per week. Where I’ve had the most success is when I remember that and maintain sending the winks or emails, remain proactive with people and don’t chase the ones that aren’t meeting standards (or willingness to do the email-phone call). I treat that, again, the same as business. Are they willing to schedule a consult, are they willing to do particular things that highly engaged, ready, willing, able clients do? If not, I may categorize them as future prospects but I am certainly focusing on the others. What is most important about what you wrote, was your willingness and feeling that urge to take the radar down and focus on that one person.

  2. 2

    This reminds me of the “How Do You Get Past the Cynicism…” post of June 2nd. While I’m aware dating is a often a numbers game and that going on more dates can increase your chances of finding a good match, sometimes I just need to take myself out of the game entirely for a month or two. It’s easy to get caught up in constantly checking email, maintaining phone relationships, and updating your profile. Throw in a few first dates, and all the prep that goes into them, and you feel like you have a second job. If you’re not having great first dates, it feels like a job with really low pay. We take vacations from work; if dating has become another form of work, it might make sense to take a break from that too.

    My solution is to take down my profile, email the people I’m corresponding with that my life has become a little busy and I’ll get back to them soon (at the risk that they may find someone else in the meantime), and focus on my life outside of dating. In the past when I did this, I found I came back to dating refreshed and more confident about what I was looking for in a date/relationship. I was also more tolerant of first dates who were not a good match for me but might be a good match for a friend or might be someone I could have a platonic relationship with.

    Before I even put my profile back up, I completely revamped it (most people have read a few new books, taken a trip, or seen a new film over the course of a month), added new photos, and formulated a game plan for my search criteria, how much time I was willing to devote to looking, etc. The rewards to twofold: the dating pool had changed in the time I was gone, and a bunch of new guys had posted profiles; and because my profile was “new,” it moved to the top of the search list garnering me a lot more hits. It didn’t take long to get an email from someone who was a fabulous match for me, and we’ve been dating exclusively for the last couple of months.

    Sorry, Evan, I know this isn’t a good solution for your business in the short term, but it might be a good long-term strategy for people who have been looking for a while and are becoming so frustrated they are now difficult clients. You were right, though, a good person for me was just around the corner. Instead of going on a lot more dates to find him, I needed to jump off the ride for a while and be willing to come back with the attitude that he was out there somewhere–same vision, same end, but a different means to that end.

    1. 2.1

      I think that manbaticals are reasonable and in order sometimes. I relate that to going to a conference and retooling my career or educating myself better, implementing some new things in the mix. I’ve taken manbaticals before and have kept my profiles active and just took the alerts off of my phone. Usually will do a lot of reading during that time (Evan’s posts and comments, or a new book related to relationships/love.. even things that are just life related). I was a business coach for my company and really value personal growth. When a person has dated dated dated for so long, I think it’s healthy to be receptive to meeting someone yet slow down the pace while they retool ‘how’ they’re dating and approaching new people. It’s important to self assess and with this last time, I realized a few things that were critical for me to adjust.

  3. 3

    Evan, I love everything about the post. It’s easy to lose perspective and the numbers really are helpful. Thank you!

    I had a date saturday night and while i don’t want a second date with this person, I had a good time and walked away feeling good and excited about upcoming dates as opposed to disappointed that that date didn’t ‘work out’. That’s growth people 🙂

  4. 4

    I kept a meticulous dating journal after my divorce in 1995. On average, it took me 25 first dates between “keepers.” It took me four monogamous relationships with men I deemed worthy of stopping dating for (ranging from 3 months to 7 years) before I found my wonderful new husband (3.5 years now), so you do the math. That’s approximately 100 first dates before finding Mr. Right-For-Me. They originated from newspaper personals, online dating, dating services, people I met through organizations I belonged to, and men I met “in the wild.” Some of the dates were awful, some were great, most were meh. Approximately one-quarter of all my first dates resulted in a second date. But as one boss from an advertising job many years ago once taught me, “It’s a process, not an event.” The “it” can be whatever you want it to be, in this case romance. “You’ve gotta be in it to win it” is the corollary. And Evan (as well as my mom) are correct in their advice that “it’s a numbers game.” Get yourself out there in as many places as you can and date up a storm. It’s the only way.

  5. 5

    @ Mr_Right, what a sweet and inspiring story! Best of luck to you and your lady. 🙂

  6. 6

    My advice would to be concentrate on having a good time (including sexual intercourse).

  7. 7

    I agree with Cilla’s approach of taking a break – sometimes it does get your head back on straight. I had been taking a break from Match for a month or two when I happened to e-mail the soon-to-be BF on MySpace. I wasn’t invested AT ALL…until about 5 minutes into our first date!

    Prior to meeting him, I’d resolved not to even try to date anyone until I graduated, since at that time I was planning on leaving the state once I was done and I didn’t feel like the 2 years I had left was going to be enough to ask someone to give up their career and move with me. Now I’m still in AZ and I’m the one who (at least for now) took a career detour so I could be with my one-and-only. So like Evan, I met my guy during my darkest time. It seems to be a super common story, which is good news for those who are frustrated now!
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..Good News Follows Good News: Or, LinkedIn Works!? =-.

  8. 8

    One way to combat the “why bother?” syndrome is not to bring the “why bother?” attitude with you on dates. I’ve been the fifth guy some woman has gone out with in one week, and it’s no fun sitting there trying to make up for the perceived sins of the other four. As difficult as it is, she needs to leave her baggage at home and bring her happy face with her to each date. She may not find the one immediately, but with a better attitude, she’ll at least have more fun trying.

  9. 9

    How I can relate, and I am in my late 40’s.! I wish I was out there dating at 33! Piece o’ cake, but I know, it’s all relative. Haven’t been in a long-term relationship in nearly 10 years, but have had several short ones. Oh, the stories I could tell! Taking occasional breaks is a must in order to re-charge and not get too jaded.

    After not meeting anyone special for over a year, I’ve recently started dating someone I’m very excited about, and it appears to be mutual. He recently started dating again after not having dated for over 3 years. It’s still early, but it has given me so much hope. Of course, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go back o being cynical. It’s hard to keep putting yourself out there, but as they say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

  10. 10

    Thanks Evan for writing such a positive post. Refreshing after some of the negative dialogue inducing ones of late. Made me feel optomistic and I’m not even actively dating. Smile.

  11. 11

    Evan, this is one of the best posts I have seen about this subject. We’ve all been there or are there. Right or wrong the numbers thing makes sense. It took me 50 guys to find my husband, so if I look at the bright side, I only have 9 to go! Even for a can do upbeat personality like me, this article was right on as I wonder, “Where is he and why haven’t I met him yet?” It’s the motivation to never give up that makes it work, thanks for your timely reminder!

  12. 12

    I started reading this blog & Marc’s before I started off with Doing those things helped reduce frustration in advance. I learned what the reality in this area is, which helps me to not take it personally.

    When I go to the motor vehicles association I know I am going to get a hard time, but everybody else does to. It isn’t being aimed at *me*.

    Same way with the online dating thing.

  13. 13

    @7 – amen.

  14. 14

    @BeenThruTheWars #4

    What an incredibly useful post. Though, it does sound overwhelming 🙂 __25__ dates!! Gadzooks. That is a whole lot of chef’s salads!

  15. 15

    On a date, men are usually just looking for a good time. A woman could be looking for a perspective mate or long term partner with marriage potential. The dynamics can be a bit off. At 33, she should probably be dating with long term intentions in mind, but train herself to be much more mellow about the process, otherwise she’ll just mentally and emotionally drain herself, and not give the whole dating process a fair shake. With today’s daying scene, hundreds, if not thousands, of dates seem to be a good trial number. It’s really a second / part time job. Just my 2 cents of course =)

  16. 16
    Mikko Kemppe

    Great article. Really enjoyed it!

  17. 17

    I guess I have not got there yet. I think it depends on your past relationship history and perspective. And maybe age (51) I am enjoying life with family and friends. Yes I want a significant other and I am looking but I am not down about it. Of course I am not 33 years old not trying to have kids. I was married for 8 years. Pretty good years at that! My son is in high school and I am excited about what life will bring in the future. I try to have fun on all my dates and for me the secret has been to treat the guy as a friend. I do not have these high expectations and I enjoy myself even if the person is not a match. I say enjoy the journey, not just the destination!!

  18. 18

    Ruby#8 is a lot closer to what I’m feeling. It’s a different game when your 48 and of course depending on what you look like,where you live,what your options are,if your male or female etc… everyone is going to have a different opinion

    Women can go on “15 bad dates” and it won’t cost them a penny except time. For men, a bad date not only costs time but cash. (Except for the woman I met that ordered 1 Diet Coke…lol Thank god….that was the longest 20 minutes of my life…lol but inexpensive)

    I haven’t met anyone I’ve actually cared about and was really attracted to in 4 years and that was my last relationship. That hasn’t stopped me from dating it’s basically just made me get closer to having “Why bother syndrome”. Going on dates with women I’m ambivalent about at best is wearing me down.
    It’s either that or not dating at all and being celibate. My options are what they are. They closed down the only place in my area where 35-50 yr. olds felt comfortable going to so that ended meeting women the “old fashioned” way……err…walking up and saying “hello”. In my area they have several singles fucntions that are filled with people 60 and up…Woo Hoo !!! I could yell “BINGO” and they’d all get excited !! …LOL That leaves the wonderful old internet, where after 12 years and many profiles,dates,successes(what ever you’d deem a success)failures and utterly ridiculous scenarios. I could write 3 books if I could remember ALL the details.

    I know I don’t sound positive in this post, only because that’s the topic(the Syndrome) but believe me I NEVER let negativity or frustration creep in when I’m dealing with women. I know better….lol no really….believe me….I’m an incredible actor. 😉

  19. 19

    Love is a rare bird all right, but certainly one worth pursuing; and as you say, it can be darkest before the dawn (or alternatively, right before it goes completely pitch black.)

    I’m not sure I have a point here. Keep reaching for your dreams, perhaps? Illegitimi non carborundum?
    .-=´s last blog ..Ashley Madison Review =-.

  20. 20

    She “lives and dies by each new guy?” I know a lot of women who put themselves through this torture. You are an emotionally healthier individual and thus, a healthier and more attractive dating partner when you stop placing excessive value and pressure on the situation, the guy, and even yourself through the expectations and high standards that you have created in your mind.

    IMHO, she needs to slow down, regroup and truly evaluate and understand herself first before heading any further, or to at least put the brakes on the runaway train. Have fun, try to keep it light and easy, don’t let your dating ups and downs define who you are. And believe me, when the right man comes along, they will both know it, without all of the emotional toil.

    Until then, life really is about the journey and not the destination, as Angela mentioned. Sometimes we are so focused on our perceived destination, we miss the entire trip altogether. Life has a way of changing our course, too.

    As for the stats, yes, it could all work out that way, and yet Mr. Right could also be date #1. Life is somewhat of a crap shoot. 🙂 Just remember to breathe, and keep hope eternal.

    1. 20.1

      Diana, I just wanted you to know what you said gave me a sense of peace. Thank you. It’s about the journey, not the destination. I guess since I broke up with my ex I lost hope (maybe more subconsciously) that I’d ever find someone compatible again. I just have to be me again, content and secure that I know what I want and not looking or questioning thinking maybe if I gave people a chance, otherwise I will be discouraged because everyone who comes my way is typical and I wasn’t made for that.

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