Dating. Where do I even begin with this topic? Dating can be a lot of fun, and can even lead you to someone special... so I've heard. However, from my experience, dating can also be very draining. Whether you're in the endless cycle of deleting and redownloading dating apps, or you're putting yourself out there to hopefully stumble upon your very own meet-cute, dating in the 21st century feels more like trying to survive The Hunger Games than living out a cute rom-com!
Dating in your late 20s is even more complicated. At this age, some of your friends are married with baby number one and try to give you advice on how to not look for your soulmate because that's the very moment they will come. While other friends are still dating around and encouraging you to have fun with a roster of people. This contrast of "ready to settle down" adults and "we're still young" adults is also found in the dating scene. Some people are intentionally dating for a life partner, while others are casually dating, only interested in a friends with benefits situation. In a perfect world, all the people from the same category would get together and have no problem, but that's not how life works.
Add living in LA to the equation, and dating becomes 10 times more draining. The underlying need to stay young forever, and the need to explore every opportunity that has this city in a chokehold, also spills over into its dating culture. Which for me, looks like running into man-children who live like they're still in college and F-boys who want you and 5 other women. Yup, DRAINING, and if all that wasn't enough, try adding grief to that chaotic combo. (Y'all, pray for your girl!)
So, what DO you do when you find yourself almost 29 years old, single in LA, and grieving the death of your mother on the cusp of Valentine's Day? Shoo, wanting to give up and eat a whole box of Trader Joe's snickerdoodles in one sitting, that's where! Haha, but if you don't want to give up, here are some tips and thoughts I have on dating while grieving, based on my own experience, and what I think might help. Again, I'm still single, so take these with a grain of salt.
Tips for Dating While Grieving:
Allow yourself to have fun
Set your boundaries and stick to them
Try being friends first
Be your own wing-person
Allow Yourself To Have Fun
I've mentioned this before in another post, that when you're grieving you sometimes feel guilty for not feeling miserable all the time. I'll reiterate it here, "Your loved one doesn't want you to be miserable. You still have a life to live, and they don't want you putting it on hold at their expense." My therapist often reminds me that you can be both emotions, sad and happy, at the same time. So, this is your reminder that you are allowed to have fun. With that said, dating can be fun! It doesn't always have to feel like an impossible search for your soulmate. It can simply be meeting someone new, discovering a cool, trendy spot, or making out with a hottie because you felt like it. As long as everyone's on the same page and knows what they're getting themselves into, have a good time!
Now, don't just be out in these streets using people as a distraction, but you are allowed to enjoy someone's company and be flirty and cute for a night. I had a guy I went on a date with before ask me out to dinner to get me out of my grief bubble. At first, I ignored him because I just wanted to be alone and sad. But after a while, I was like, "Leaving my apartment might be nice, and a grieving girl's gotta eat, right?" I went in with no expectations, and told him I'd probably be a Debby Downer, but I actually ended up having a lot of fun! It was one of the first few times I had genuinely felt happy after my mom died. So, have some fun. Go on dates. Remember it's ok to live your life.
Stick To Your Boundaries
Setting boundaries is important in all aspects of life, and I've learned it's crucial to your grief journey. The truth is emotions are heightened when you're grieving. Maybe they get less intense as you go on, but I'm six months into this grief journey, and I can confirm that my emotions are still a bit all over the place. Some things you could tolerate before grief can become insufferable now, and as far as I know, that's totally ok. You have to decide what you can and can't handle and make it known. This is important to do when you're dating because y'all let's be real, people can be selfish and will see how far they can go until you express they've crossed a line. Think about how many times you've had to put a new employer in their place, like, "No, I'm not going to kill myself to meet your unrealistic demands, this is my capacity, take it or leave it!"
My advice would be to take some time to reevaluate where you're at, and what you want from your dating experience. Maybe you can only handle fun, casual dates, or maybe you're ready for a real relationship. Take the time to decide and set boundaries you feel comfortable and safe with that will help you accomplish your dating goals. Then, stick to them. I can't express enough how important it is for you, yourself, to stick to your own boundaries! Because how can you expect someone else to respect your boundaries when you're not even respecting them yourself? I'll give an example, one of my boundaries is to go on at least three dates in public before going on dates at each other's places (spread out dates, not just three back to back in one week.) This helps me get to know the guy better and vet him out before getting into an intimate setting with him. (Girl, I don't care how cute he is! Dude's still a stranger!) Pre-grief me broke that boundary once to have a movie night with some love-bombing dude I met on Bumble. Long story short, he turned out to be a complete ass, and I regretted ignoring the very boundary that could've prevented this. Boundaries aren't always set in stone, and you can revise and change them as needed. Make sure you're changing boundaries because YOU are ready to, not to accommodate someone else who just doesn't respect them.
Become Friends First
I'm not going to lie to you, the term "friends" in the dating space is always tricky. Some people see becoming friends as being friend-zoned with no hope of ever being seen romantically again. Others think being friends is an easy way out of commitment while still receiving sexy benefits. And yea, these are both valid thoughts because that's usually what happens. However, dating is supposed to be about getting to know someone better and assessing how you both would coexist in each other's lives. Believe it or not, you could get to know someone by becoming friends first. Now, your stance on the debate if two people who are attracted to each other can really be friends, (which was captured beautifully in my favorite rom-com, When Harry Met Sally) will determine if this is actually possible for you. I personally am a believer that you can be friends with someone you're attracted to, if you set clear boundaries and give each other time apart to adjust (keeping it PG also helps, if you know what I mean!)
This might be a good option for someone who is grieving. Relationships take a lot of work and energy that you may not fully have. Consistency and communication is also important in a relationship, and depending on how your grief strikes, this could be a challenge for you. Taking it slow and being friends first might help you get back out there at a pace you can handle.
Starting as friends also helps if you're the opposite. Maybe your grief hates being alone and wants someone you can be vulnerable with, so you latch onto someone a bit too quickly. Being friends can help you slow down and make sure you're picking someone who is actually good for you, rather than becoming dependent on just anybody. The goal is to give yourself the time to truly know someone, and to take care of yourself and mental health first. Which means there's also the option to call it quits if being friends is too hard or not helping you. I'm a strong believer that if someone's your soulmate, they're your soulmate regardless. Whether you take some time apart or are friends for years, your person's your person, so if it's meant to be, it'll happen.
Be Your Own Wing-Person
In general, it can be very difficult to rejoin the world after losing a loved one, so reentering the dating world can feel even more taxing. This is why you have to set yourself up for success, aka be your own wing-person. This looks like planning self-love dates and outings that could also position you to meet someone special. I believe every person should take themselves out on dates as part of their self-care routine, especially while you're grieving. Taking myself out to art exhibits and museums has significantly helped me get out of my depressive grief bubble. Well, what if you plan activities for yourself that also forces you to be in proximity to other singles? Consider this foreshadow for some of my upcoming blog posts, but what if you took yourself out on dates like salsa dance lessons or speed dating events?
You're required to dance with partners during salsa lessons...Boom! A possible connection! While speed dating may seem a bit frightening, if you just see it as a cool, unique experience, rather than 20 first dates crammed into one night, it could be a fun way to get used to talking to new people again! Being a wing-person for yourself is just being mindful of places you can go, or activities you can do to "put yourself out there." The best part is, if you keep it a self-love activity, it's already something you enjoy doing by yourself. So regardless if you meet someone or not, you can still have fun doing something you love! I love dancing and taking dance classes, if I get paired up with a hottie, that's just icing on the cake! And remember, you don't have to do self-love alone, so if you need some back-up, make it a girl's night or a fun group hang.
Here's some self-love date ideas that also opens you up to potential connections:
Hanging at your fav coffee shop
Singles events: game nights, soirees, travel groups
Perusing a trendy thrift store
Hopefully, these tips were helpful! It's my game plan at the moment. As I said before, this is still a single person's advice, so I can't confirm this method works for finding your soulmate. However, I can confirm it makes dating while grieving a bit more bearable. If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments! Happy dating friends!