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

How Do You Combat Why Bother Syndrome

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.

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  1. 31

    @JM #28

    You make a good point.

    Last year, when I started dating again in a serious way I asked a woman out FOR COFFEE. We enjoyed talking so much 3 hours passed – yet I could not get a second date with her.

    Translation – it didn’t occur to me that since I wasn’t hungry, she was and miffed that I didn’t offer to order some food.

    Mystery solved.

  2. 32

    I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just from reading this blog all the time. Thank you Evan! Here here!
    I’ve studied online dating extensively, like you do when you want to succeed at something, and I have a great time now with it. Frustrations? of course. Lots of first dates, yes, second dates, sometimes. But after I learned it’s just a process, I can sit back, enjoy it, do what’s in the best interest for the girls and not me, and really enjoy myself with integrity! I’m having a blast and communicating with lots of women all the time, and I’m 50! She’s out there and damn it, I’ll find her!

  3. 33

    @ JM # 28

    If you were hungry why didn’t you just ask him, “Do they serve appetizers here?” I would have.

    I wouldn’t automatically assume he was cheap or unsophisticated. In any case, why would it be his responsiblity to feed you on a coffee date? You could have ordered something or cut the date short to go home and eat.

  4. 34

    I think the client does look forward to meeting new people and having new adventures, but she is, after all, a woman, and if she’s living and dieing with each new guy, she’s putting a huge emotional investment into the process right out of the gate.
    I guess putting out a huge emotional investment is a bad idea.

    Would casual sex be much less emotionally exhasuting?

  5. 35

    @ Steve 30

    Happy to help you solve your mystery; I think I speak for many women out there 🙂

    @ Selena 33

    What’s awkward about the “do they serve appetizers here” question is that he asked me out on a date. So I’m always uncomfortable bringing up the subject of food; especially since it was a “coffee date”. But this guy (and I) are both in our late 40s. I would hope after all those years of dating, a guy might think about the other person’s needs (i.e. I wonder is she’s hungry since it’s after 7pm and we met at 5pm). And when you’re sitting on a date for over 2 hours, I think it’s just common courtesy to ask. And I guess what made it even worse, was that he didn’t even have to pay for the coffee. Sorry, but that screams cheap to me, and if you are supposed to put your best foot forward on a first date, I don’t think this guy is worthy of a second. I’d be curious to hear how other women handle this scenario. I’m always open to hearing everyone’s point of view! And let me reiterate, I’m not dating with the hopes of getting a free meal, just hoping to meet a good guy!

  6. 36

    @ JM

    I’ve learned to inquire ahead of time, especially since I keep a kind of unconventional schedule about eating (would be perfectly happy living in Barcelona, if that’s any clue).

    I just ask before the date, “Are you thinking we might like to eat while we’re out, or should I grab something before hand?” Or if I get hungry during the date, “You know, I am a little peckish after all–I think I’ll look at a menu.” I’m old enough to decide if I want to order something to eat, and I always offer to pay so my date doesn’t feel like I’m taking advantage of him. If I’m too cowed to even mention that my blood sugar is declining exponentially, we’re not going to be a good match anyhow.

    I do think it’s courteous, if the meeting goes on longer than expected (e.g., a 2-hour+ coffee date), to ask if your date wants something to eat. Look at it as an opportunity: it gives your date a chance to end the meeting or, if they’re really having a good time, to extend the date by ordering some food. If she’s not hungry, but still wants to hang out, she’ll say something like, “Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry, but I would like a second cup of coffee” or “I’m good, but I could use a glass of water.” I don’t think it’s the guy’s responsibility, just a courtesy.

  7. 37

    @JM #35, I understand your predicament but I probably would’ve taken something like Cilla’s approach only even more direct: I’m a bit hungry; i think i might like an appetizer. If I did that I would not expect him to pay for it since it was a ‘coffee’ date, but when I’m hungry I’m definitely not putting my best foot forward and wouldn’t want to do that on a date.

    I see where you are coming from about him being more considerate, and I agree it would’ve been nice if he’d asked if you were hungry, but at the end of the day you have to make sure your needs are met, first and foremost. I like food too much to keep quiet about it 🙂

  8. 38

    To Michael #34: It depends on the woman.

  9. 39

    To Curious (#23) and Diana (#25), I don’t know if I accept that we can divorce someone’s unwillingness to experience the journey in a date from her overall adventurousness.

    There are a LOT of people out there who have difficulty dealing with people outside their immediate circle of family and friends. I see it every day, every time I go to a store, stand in a line or walk down the street. When they’re in the dating realm, those people will quickly lose patience as soon as they’ve determined their date isn’t “the one.” (I’ve experienced that too – believe it or not, I wasn’t “the one” for everyone I’ve dated. 🙂 ) Then that result rules the date.

    Yes, some guys get pushy or stupid. If your companion’s behavior makes you uncomfortable, that’s when you declare “date over” and walk away. The idea of “sticking it out” on a date that has clearly gone south in order to “be nice” is a bad idea. It makes you miserable and supports the guy’s behavior.

    Given Evan’s good statement to her that very few men will measure up, he might want to suggest to this woman is to not accept dinner, lunch or coffee dates – because her “rejection rate” is going to be higher than most, she should make sure the date situation itself is something she’ll enjoy even after she has mentally dismissed the guy as not “the one.”
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Better Workouts With Less Equipment =-.

  10. 40

    Thanks to everyone who showed me different perspectives regarding the “food issue”. Your comments were all very valid!

    I forgot to mention (and I hate to ‘go there’) but I live in NYC, and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the dating scene is very competitive. At the risk of sounding high maintenance (which I hope I’m not), the “food-less coffee date” is definitely the exception and not the norm. I still have to go with my gut feeling and at the ‘end of the day’, I just don’t think this would be the type of guy I would want to pursue a relationship with. But I am going to consider all your comments, and should I encounter this scenario again, I will definitely handle it differently and perhaps “vocalize” my hunger 🙂

  11. 41

    JM,I’m curious ……You can’t mean to tell me…lol (or maybe you can) that the ONLY reason you didn’t want to see this guy again was that he didn’t offer the appetizer ?? Obviously you weren’t attracted to him anyway? As well as not liking his personality?? I’m sure if he was a smokin’ hot 9 or 10 you would be able to get past the food thing…LOL

    And of course we’re only hearing YOUR side of the story what makes you think he had any desire to see you again? He may be cheap,just not that into you or both.

  12. 42

    @ JB – 41

    Well JB, believe it or not, I’ve been out with guys who are “smoking hot 9s” but their personalities don’t always measure up, and so their good looks start to fade. Then there are the guys who are 7s, and get cuter due to their great personalities. My guess is that he was enjoying my company and that perhaps in his mind, there might have been a second date. I guess we’ll never know! 🙂

    I’ve been on first dates where guys have paid $100+ on dinner and to be honest with you, that makes me uncomfortable, because I think that’s a pretty big financial commitment for a guy to make on a blind date. But, I think there is a happy medium. And unfortunately, I don’t think my date from last night knows about this blog, so you may never hear his side of the story… 😉

  13. 43

    – Lance #32:

    “Consider every rejection, and every bad date, a brick in your palace. Eventually, the palace gets built.”

    I like that alot Lance. Quite positive.

  14. 44

    @Selena #33 – you’re a doll

    @JM #35
    Somebody brought up the idea of “false positives” — dating blunders that get mistaken for red flags.

    I got so lost in the great conversation that it never occurred to me that I should have offered something more.

    That coffee date/first date was last year and has long been water under the bridge, but my curiosity about what exactly happened on her end was never satisfied. I’m honestly grateful to finally have had a revelation about the possible cause.

    Given some of the ridiculous things I have read women raise “red flags” over in the comment section on this blog Im taking this as a lesson learned instead of whining about it being a fast judgment.

    Conceit aside, I have a sense for what women have to settle for these days so I know I am a great guy. If she is still throwing opportunities away because somebody has an absent minded she is still missing out.

  15. 45

    @ Steve – 44

    I think you sound like you are a very positive guy and you are also very open to interpretation and input from other people. That is so healthy. I think we are all struggling (both men and women) when it comes to dating. Truth be told, I think it was much less complicated before online dating came into the picture, and also when gender roles were more clearly defined.

    I think in the end, the good people find the other good people. In the meantime, I’ll continue to keep an open mind and an open heart, but I won’t lower my standards out of desperation! I’ll also remain true to who I am and what works for me.

  16. 46

    @JM #45

    Thanks for the nice compliments :). I don’t think online dating is any worse. It is just more frequent.

    I don’t how I feel about about gender roles. I’m not sure it matters for me personally. I act how I want. I pull chairs out, I open doors, I drive and I pay for the first 4 or 5 dates. If a woman is cool, but has a problem with that I just tell her she can get the next one. Unless a woman’s demeanor is way off I can handle being asked out and I’ve actually felt quite flattered about it.

    The big problems I have had dating, is that at least as a guy, I feel “guilty until proven innocent”. So many times I have gotten a sense of a woman that tells me that we are both cool people who would get along well, but that isn’t enough. I have to overcome suspicions of all kinds, red flags, game playing etc. Sometimes I feel like yelling “You don’t know who I am. My name is ‘Steve’ not ‘Mr. All Men You Met Before'”. It is a major turn-off to me

    It is so bad, sometimes it is just more fun to stay at home and watch Lost :). Thankfully, only sometimes.

  17. 47

    Steve re: #44,

    I don’t if it’s so much I am a doll, as I am practical. If I’m hungry to the point of being uncomfortable I am not having a good time – wherever I am or with whom. I’d have to do something about that. Also, *I* wouldn’t be having coffee after 5 anyway; I’d be having a glass of wine or beer – lol. If the man I was with didn’t offer to have dinner with me, I’d just assume he already had dinner plans. This was just meant to be a kind of “go-see” date after all, why should there be any pressure?

    Tell you this though, if the date extends beyond an hour or so, the guy who offers food scores points with me. It’s kind of a way of saying, “I’m enjoying your company and I’d like this to continue.” I understand dating, particularly ‘blind dating’ internet style, can get expensive for men. I’d be more comfortable in that situation keeping the date casual, inexpensive, and with a time frame that could be adjusted – short, or possibly extended if we really hit it off.

  18. 48

    If people present themselves accurately and positively before dates and judge accordingly, “Why Bother” Syndrome is less likely to occur.

    If someone gets into that state, then – as suspected by some of you and supported by research – judgments of physical attractiveness and other qualities are harsher and therefore the problem perpetuates itself.

    The idea of taking a break sounds reasonable. Time to get over old hurts, maybe analyze and improve presentation, maybe question one’s own preferences, and so on. A subset of people likely is drawn to online dating due to the idea of finding someone special with fewer dates.

  19. 49

    Cilla post 2…I can totally identify with you. I took myself of all the dating websites and decided to take a complete break. Dating is exhausting and not always an easy thing to do.Let’s be honest here.
    Believe me I do have a positive outlook and don’t easily give up on anything and I am always willing to look at dating in a different way and learn. Dating does however wear you out after a while.
    I have not dated for 4 months now, during that time I did go out but focused more on making new friends. I build a great new circle of friends and we have dinners together and try to organize fun events to do. I also go out on my own. Eventually when I feel ” energized and recharged” I will go back on a dating site and try again……

  20. 50

    Sure. A good sense of the numbers is always a help. When I start feeling like there must just be something wrong with me that I can’t find a guy I’d want to go to the movies with, I call a friend and we reassess:
    -I’m looking for a Jewish guy, and I live in the rural midwest. Right away we’ve cut the pool down to about 30 in a 150-mile radius.
    – I’m looking for a sane guy who’s extremely bright, has a very fine ear for fiction and poetry, thinks it’s important to care of himself, and won’t ask me for a loan. (Now we’re down to six in the entire country.)
    – He should be nice, and funny, and able to tolerate me. He should also be a grownup and have some sense of the compromise, self-denial, and responsibility that come with being a grownup. I don’t need manifestos at this point.
    – He should be interested in a 40something single mother, and should understand that spontaneous fun dates aren’t likely here unless they’re midday, when the kid’s in school.
    – He should not want to get married or live with me. I’m looking for a companion, not a husband.
    – He shouldn’t be married.
    – He should also have his own work, something that interests and absorbs him, and he should do it well.
    The pool, it’s not large. I understand this. But, you know. You have to stay open, that’s all. I believe he’s out there. Why not?

  21. 51

    Since January 2010, I have been to 4 singles events and 2 blind dates. I have 5 guys who exchanged contact with me. Been out on 2 one on one dates.

    The guys I’ve met are pretty lukewarm. Things seemed to be moving on very slowly.

    But, oh yes. This is a good post for me to read and re-read again when things are not going well to give myself a pick-me-up.

  22. 52

    oh yes, DAFT , dating fatigue and tiredness syndrome lol. been there. not every personality is made for the dating game, especially online, for some it is nervewracking (literally) the rejection, the vulnerability we must show, yet the tough steel rigidness when we act like ” we don’t care” . I wen’t thru it, and it didn’t take 19 dates, it only took about 4 on a personal sites before i nearly said hell with it altogether. When i was out with a guy i was having fu n with, i was having fun, but wondering would i see him again.. lol. 

    i lucked up on a nice guy, my current beau and 9 months later i am happy that i kept on. We both discussed this and agreed the constant meeting someone new and getting it together for the next person was exhausting, but the truth is, even when your’e dating and married , the game is not really over.

     live in the moment. if you are feeling emotionally worn out from it all, take a break and pamper
    yourself,  do not try and juggle more dates and personalities than you can handle either, you will be  become cynical

    i had to remember,  love may be around the next corner. won’t it be worth it to laugh about with someone you adore  years down the road.

  23. 53


    I am pretty worn out by all of it, I admit.   When you’re the provider, protector, chief cook and bottle washer, and whatever else the world demands that I be, I don’t have too much emotional and mental energy left.  Especially when you take into consideration all the issues we discuss here.   I’m not going to be intellectually dishonest and say that the right guy wouldn’t make me change my mind, but I’m still wrestling with it.  I go through periods where I can just relax and have fun with it, then I go through periods where it pisses me off, then I go through periods where I’m just apathetic about meeting anyone.   One really has to fight that apathy; in order to date successfully, a woman has to do what is counterintuitive which takes a great deal of mental energy because we have to be mindful to combat those impulses that women are hard wired to follow.  Then, when he goes poof, we have to combat the questions about what we might have done wrong,  or just buck up and move on, etc.   That is not to bash men, because I know women have just as many issues.  And some people are just more naturally easygoing about the whole process, while others aren’t and burn out easily.

  24. 54

    I gave up on “dating” a long time ago.  Instead, I became rich.  Now, women throw themselves at me.   I wake up at noon everyday, watch sports and porn, and guzzle beer.
    Get sex whenever I want and don’t have to deal with the BS of relationships.
    I would recommend this to any man in the world.

  25. 55

    You know Evan, I do believe that I am already and probably always have moved past or ignored my past experience with men………..I am definitely dating differently, less frequently….. and more openly and with men that are not “the ideal” match I thought I wanted, past the men that make me tingle at meeting, removed the (way too young) FWB out of my life to clear the way, to meet the man I want to spend the rest of my life with,  and the reason is that I want the things that you spoke about in your last newsletter.  I mean in my own life surrounded by girl friends, whom I love dearly, and who are very carried away with looks and money, I have always been the one to know that money comes and goes, looks come and go, work comes and goes, I want the man who will show me he can and wants to give me his love, wants to love me as much as I want love him.    
    So though I do feel as if I am dating differently, I must be doing something wrong, and really am not sure what specifically I have to change?  I deal in specifics much better than concepts.  I am getting even more responses,  to emails that I write to men (your way).. sure there are some that don’t want to respond to my written email, or some that tell me they are not interested, or don’t answer…some that  take me for first date and don’t want the second date…….., I am right past these, never take them personally and never let them deter me from writing to ten others. But blessed or not,  there are more that want to meet me and take me out once, and then for the second date.  I really want to want that………but am not feeling anything, that I find myself focusing on the guilt I would feel leading a man on. 
    I feel as if I am just not meeting the right man, or if I am… I clearly cannot identify him………….or I am just pretty worn out by it all..

  26. 56
    Jack @ I Love Your Accent

    As with most things, dating can be a numbers game. It can be a disheartening endeavor at times but ultimately you have to sincerely believe that the next date will be successful beyond your wildest expectations or else you could very well end up getting pretty down on yourself.

  27. 57

    To Jordan, 54-

    Ummm…ok. So why read a blog about relationships? (assuming you’re not trolling here).

    Also, for online female daters out there, I’m curious- how has your experience been with the ‘nervousness’ factor of the opposite sex. I seem to be noticing that guys online, when we end up chatting on the phone, are stammering so much, or not letting me get a word in edgewise, that I almost can telepathically see beads of sweat glistening on their foreheads. Now, I know, I know, that I should be compassionate because the poor guys are just nervous. But some of these men are 35, and talking to me like they’re 12, and it’s their first time talking to a girl! I’m not saying they’re not nice, attractive guys, but I don’t know…this irks me.

    So, do you think that online daters are more socially awkward than people you meet at ‘events?’ I’m trying to do a personal survey here- lol- and I realize I’ve met my share of awkward men in real life too (albeit in higher numbers online). Is this related to the kind of people who go to dating sites, or is it just an inevitable result of a culture that’s becoming more and more isolated from personal interactions face-to-face?

  28. 58

    @Sayanta – I’d think that online guys would definitely be more awkward. The same could be said for women, I suppose. I mean, let’s face it: some people use online dating as a last resort to pick up the slack of their difficulty meeting dates in “real life.” I don’t think it’s crazy that socially awkward people would be particularly drawn to online dating. I mean, you don’t even have to leave the house.

  29. 59
    Jen A.

    Excuse for saying, but I don’t want to go on that many dates with that many guys.  I know what Evan would say:  that I won’t find the one then.  But I found my first husband the old fashioned way, without the internet.  I will augment nature’s (God’s) process for my life with, but I will use email and talking to weed most people out.  I don’t feel like wasting my time on that many dates…it’s awkward and exhausting.  And I think that plays into the jaded part of it.  I still believe in being genuine and meaningful, so to treat dating like getting on a carousel doesn’t work for me.  I’m not saying dates should mean everything, but they shouldn’t mean so little either.  I tend to go out with groups of friends, with men being part of the group, to get to know local men.  Easier than staring each other down over a dinner table with some kind of expectation.

  30. 60

    Evan – What happened to this client?  I’d be curious to know.  I just got off the phone with a sobbing girlfriend who is also 33 years old and a great catch, but was just broken up with.  I would love to hear some encouragement!

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