You “think” it will feel better than it actually does, and you’ll definitely feel worse after
“Seriously, she’s been making eyes at you for an hour. Go talk to her,” I nudged my friend, Desmond.
“Ugh, I can’t. I got a date,” he responded forlornly.
“You sound excited,” I laughed.
“Well…I don’t actually think it’ll amount to anything. I’m not really that interested in her, but I didn’t have anything else planned at the time, so I figured,
“Why Not?” Just more practice, right?”
I’ve known Desmond for a while, and I knew exactly why he shouldn't go on dates he wasn't really interested in, but I bit my tongue.
The next day, I checked in on Desmond to ask him how the date went.
“It was…fine. But I just feel a little sad now. She was nice and intelligent, but the conversation was very intellectual. The lack of emotional intimacy reminded me even more of my loneliness. This feels like the other dozen or so dates I’ve been on recently. And of course, I’m $80 poorer. Ha!”
After listening to Desmond, I coined the term “Junk Dates.” I used it to refer to the kind of dates that he knew were not going to be great, but he went anyway because he needed some kind of instant gratification or felt like he just needed to do “something” to find his soulmate.
Desmond binges on junk dates like some people binge on junk food. If there are people who are emotional eaters, Desmond is an emotional dater. When he’s lonely, he wants the validation of knowing he can get a date. He prioritizes convenience and quantity over quality.
Just like junk food eaters, Desmond almost always feels better before the date. The anticipation of it is always more exciting than the actual event and he definitely always feels worse afterwards.
Sure, there were some dates that he enjoyed and that were pleasurable in the moment but when you view the effects of these dates over the longer-term context of finding an emotionally satisfying relationship, these dates drained his hopes and reinforced a belief that he would never find love. Just like some junk food may feel good when you eat it, they will almost always have a negative effect on your health in the long run.
Remember, just because you are doing “something,” it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing or that it’s getting you closer to your goal. So, the next time you are in Desmond’s position and thinking, “Why not?” — here are some reasons you can use to remind yourself not to go on Junk Dates.
“Time is your most precious commodity and yet most of us live our lives as if we have all the time in the world.”— Robin S. Sharma
You might recall at the start of the story that Desmond could have actually gone out with a different person had he chosen to save his free time for activities that had value. Desmond thinks that he has nothing to lose by going on a junk date but really, what he has given up is the opportunity to go on a potentially high-value date.
Maybe you’re thinking that you’re not Desmond and don’t have people eyeing you from across a crowded party often. That still doesn’t change the fact that you could be doing something better with your time.
You could be deepening your friendships, reading, building your side hustle, or working out. All these activities would increase your attractiveness as a partner and contribute towards your goal of building a relationship more than spending time with a stranger one time.
So, next time you are tempted to go on a junk date. Don’t ask, “What have I got to lose?” ask, “What am I giving up?”
Desmond told me that he couldn't work out because he couldn't afford a gym membership. Yet, he often went on junk dates that cost him more per night than an entire month of membership at his local gym.
“You can’t put a price on finding love, right?” Desmond would often say.
Desmond was guilty of something economists call mental accounting. This term is used to describe the behavior that most of us have for compartmentalizing what we can spend into different buckets. Desmond’s “Find Love” budget was unlimited while his “Get Fit” bucket was small. The reality is, if he was more efficient about his “Find Love” budget and transferred some into his “Get Fit” budget, he would likely find love sooner.
But first, he needed to stop wasting money on junk dates.
Let me ask you this — do you think you would feel worse if you had gone on 20 bad dates in a month or if you had been alone or with friends and had zero dates? Any person who has been a serial dater will tell you that it’s the former.
It feels counterintuitive. How could putting more effort into your goal make you feel more emotionally empty? I’m all for putting in more effort if you had at first established value. Yes, you need to date and take emotional risks to find love. Just like you need to eat. But what you eat is important. Just as who you date is important.
In eating, there is the concept of “empty calories” — food that makes you fat while providing zero nutrients. In dating, there is the concept of “empty time” — time spent that makes you sad while providing zero fulfillment.
If you continue to subject yourself to bad or even mediocre dates, you are simply feeding more data points to your mind and heart that the world is full of people who are not fulfilling to you. Over time, this repetition will help you form a strong belief that it is impossible to find love and this new belief will block love from coming into your life.
Remember, emotional energy is not a finite resource. If your goal is to find emotional fulfillment and you give away your emotional energy to a low-return activity, you’re going to burn out one day.
When I suggested that Desmond go on a Junk Dates Detox, he stared at me incredulously, “So, are you suggesting I not date unless I know that it’s going to be good?”
No, that’s not what I’m suggesting at all. I’m not suggesting that you avoid dating unless there is a guarantee that it will be good. I’m suggesting that you avoid a date if there is a very good chance that it will be bad. If you don’t know who will be compatible with you and how to know if the date will be bad, then you need to use that time to figure yourself out.
Remember, finding love isn’t necessarily about how much effort you put in. It’s about how well you seek out and create value. It’s about how well you know yourself and what you want and it’s also about what you can offer as a partner. Don’t do “anything” — instead do only the things that matter.
Taking 100 steps in the wrong direction is less valuable than taking two steps in the correct one.
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