Ask Dave-Burned Out On Dating

I’m sick of guys who are only in it for a hookup. How can I spot Mr. Right when he comes along?

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I am so tired of dating. I am 27, and it’s supposed to be more fun than this. The last three guys I met and hooked up with were totally wrong for me—one was a player; one seemed nice, but disappeared the next day; and the other one didn’t live up to his online
The only way to recover from burnout is take a step back from the fire.
profile at all. In the last four years, I’ve met tons of guys. This used to excite me, but now after the bad luck I’ve had, I just feel hopeless. I alternate between wanting a boyfriend and just wanting to be single—every time I decide I want a boyfriend, I meet some guy and get my expectations up, only to be disappointed. When I am partying and couldn’t care less, I attract guys, but usually the wrong kind. I can party with the best of them, but my heart isn’t into hooking up anymore. Any advice for me?
-Tired of the Scene

Dear Scene,
I think you are experiencing dating burnout, which is more common these days than many people think. Why? Because the myriad ways to meet guys — chat rooms, online, speed dating, etc. — focus on quantity rather than on quality.

My advice for you is to slow down. The only way to recover from burnout is take a step back from the fire. In your twenties, it's easy to meet other gay men, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you can experience a wide variety of types and figure out who’s right for you. The downside is that, instead of staying on track with smart dating rules like "target the right guys," you opt for the more broad-based and democratic "ready, fire, aim later" strategy.

Before dating burnout sends your love life up in flames, follow these four guidelines to chill out before your next date:

Keep your perspective.
To some degree, dating is, and always will be, a numbers game. You have to play to win. But it’s how you play the game — by adjusting your expectations and attitude — that allows you to feel good as you’re playing. It’s liberating to realize that you aren’t going to be everyone’s type, and vice versa. If you maintain a sense of humor and approach each new guy as a potential friend, rather than putting so much pressure on the experience, you can get something out of every meeting.

Know yourself.
It sounds like you are all over the map when it comes to the “boyfriend or no boyfriend” question. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you want, but understand this: If you
Chemistry and personality aren’t conveyed in online photos and brief email chats.
are putting confusion out there, it’s no surprise that you are getting it back. If you are confused, spend time getting to know yourself better. What do you really want from dating? You have a fair gripe about men who present physical characteristics dishonestly, but it’s just as bad to be emotionally dishonest. How many of us say we want a long-term relationship, but, in truth, thrive on five different dates a week? Keep in mind that sincerity works both ways. You must depict yourself truthfully in all ways, not just photos and physical statistics, if you’re going to expect others to do the same.

Focus on quality, not quantity.
As you’ve found, it’s easy to meet other gay men. Pop into a chat room after work and meet a mysterious stranger 15 minutes later. But more is not better, according to the many single gay men I’ve interviewed. To handle the increased quantity of dates, they become more emotionally distant, which defeats the purpose if you’re looking for a real relationship. In fact, focusing on quantity teaches you how not to make the real connections that you might ultimately want. There are many ways to focus on quality. Share a little bit of personal information and see if he reciprocates. This is one way to see if he wants to get beyond the small talk and get to know you. It’s also important to focus on shared interests and values as much as physical characteristics.

Stay connected in real time.
Technology, which brought us the Internet whirl of chat rooms and online personals, has made dating more expedient and efficient. As you note, chat rooms and online personals are a low-risk approach, and sometimes you meet Mr. Right through them. But it’s also easy to click on Mr. Wrong. Chemistry and personality aren’t conveyed in online photos and brief email chats. Mr. Photogenic might be a jerk in real life. There’s no virtual substitute for talking live before you agree to spend time with a date. If you want a real relationship, stay connected in real time.

Bottom line: You sound burned out on meeting guys, so take a deserved break and think about what you really want from dating. Pay attention to what has and hasn’t worked in your past approaches so that you can avoid repeating past mistakes. When you feel recharged and refocused, return to dating with a new mindset.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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