Dating Rust-Out Is A Serious Problem — Here’s How To Cope

When you’ve been single for a while, you end up finding yourself repeating the same dysfunctional patterns. You download dating apps, use them for a few weeks, then delete them again. Then, you decide to “put yourself out there” before convincing yourself it’s just not worth it. It’s an endless cycle that can leave you feeling a bit numb. If this sounds like you, you’re clearly experiencing dating rust-out, and you’re not alone. It’s a serious problem that’s becoming more and more common. Read on to find out what it is and how to deal with it.

What is dating rust-out?

While you might automatically equate rust-out with burnout, they’re two totally different things. Whereas dating burnout leads to exhaustion, irritability, and feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness, rust-out is more about apathy and lack of engagement. For instance, dating burnout might lead you to swear off dating for a while because you feel overwhelmed, experiencing rust-out means you kinda just don’t care either way whether you date or not.

Other feelings that come along with dating rust-out include boredom, skepticism, and disinterest. It’s not so much that you think looking for love is hopeless as it is that you just can’t be bothered to try. Of course, the causes of both burnout and rust-out are the same. Too many bad dating experiences like ghosting, lying, cheating, etc. can lead anyone to feel less than optimistic about love. It’s how you deal with it that differs.

Why rust-out is such a big problem

While it may seem innocuous enough — who cares if your heart isn’t in it right now? — it becomes a problem the more prevalent it becomes. If everyone starts experiencing rust-out, no one is going to put their best foot forward in dating. They won’t care enough to try and impress potential partners. As a result, they might fail to put in the effort to create or maintain a connection. That makes it harder for pretty much everyone to find love, and that’s a scary prospect.

The saddest part is that dating rust-out isn’t a symptom of not wanting a relationship. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. People who experience rust-out are often the ones that want love the most. They just feel a bit disheartened with the process of finding it to the point that they can’t must the energy to try anymore. Consistently being disappointed by dating apps, bad dates, and the sheer lack of effort you’re getting in return will lead anyone to feel disconnected.

How to deal with and overcome dating rust-out

  1. Adjust your expectations. If you’re someone who approaches dating from the perspective that there needs to be an instant spark for things to work, you may want to reassess. It could be that your rust-out is a result of expecting dating to be like a romantic comedy. That’s not to say that chemistry isn’t important. However, just because you don’t experience butterflies five minutes into an interaction doesn’t mean there’s no potential.
  2. Expand your “type.” You think you know the type of guy you want, but is that the kind of guy you need? Many of us have broken pickers, gravitating towards what’s familiar rather than what’s good for us. It could be that opening yourself up to different guys makes all the difference.  You never know — you might just discover something completely new about yourself (and your ideal partner).
  3. Suggest different types of dates. If you tend to grab drinks with your dating app matches, switch things up. Doing the same things ad infinitum is bound to lead anyone to experience dating rust-out. You want to do something that engages you and gets you excited. That’s not going to happen if you never try anything new. Why not suggest something more lively and adventurous? Go to an amusement park or take a hike. The world really is your oyster.
  4. Change up your approach. Dating apps are a great way to meet the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time. However, it’s far from a foolproof approach. In fact, there is such a thing as having too many options, especially because many of them aren’t worth the time of day. If you usually find prospective partners on apps, switch things up. Go out more often and see if you can strike up conversations organically. This is a simple but effective way to overcome dating rust-out. Plus, it might just be more successful!
  5. Take a break if it feels right. If you’re truly over dating at the moment, that’s okay too. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back temporarily to reassess what you want. It can be helpful in allowing you to refocus your energy and get your head back in the game. There’s no timeline for finding love. Everyone is on their own path, so don’t feel pressured to keep going when you really need to call time. Practicing dating self-care will get you so much further in the long run.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill