Of course you’re burned out.
You’re burned out from wasting so much time pursuing promising guys only for them to turn out to be jerks. Or ghost on you.
You’re burned out from pretending to be perfect because men can’t handle the real you.
You’re burned out from being responsible for everything from how he feels to keeping the conversation flowing to making sure he’ll want to see you again.
And you’re getting NOTHING in return.
Not even a damn bunch of flowers.
Dating burnout is real.
And it’s worse for women than it is for men.
Why Women are Burned Out
Emily and Amelia Nagoski want us to talk about burnout.
Why we’re burned out. How modern society is stacked against us. And what we can do to stop piling on the stress.
Dr. Emily Nagoski is a sex educator whose first book Come as You Are is a classic in the science of sex. Her sister Amelia is a conductor and assistant professor of music at Western New England University. They’ve both got busy, stressful lives.
But it wasn’t until Amelia ended up in the hospital as a result of unrelenting stress that the sisters started talking seriously about burnout.
Their conversations became their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. In it, they pose questions like:
Why is it a woman’s job to take care of everyone else’s feelings?
Why is it a woman’s job to make sure her body is attractive to everyone else?
Why is it a woman’s job to take responsibility for everyone in her family?
Why is it a woman’s job to sacrifice herself—her time, her comfort, her needs—so that the people in her life can be happy?
They even coin a term for it:
Human Giver Syndrome.
Women have been brainwashed into believing that it’s their job to give, give, and give some more…
While men get to just BE.
The Dating Double Standard
Nowhere is this double standard more visible than in dating.
How much time do you think the last man you went out with spent on making sure he looked good for you?
Do you think he spent his week watching his weight, exercising a certain number of minutes per day, trimming the hairs on his body, being careful about what he ate, and selecting the right clothes so that you would be impressed when you rocked up to meet him Friday night?
But what do YOU do when you’ve got a first date scheduled in your calendar?
Do you get a mani-pedi? Do you schedule in a wax? Do you go through your wardrobe a dozen times and buy something new if nothing works? Do you cut calories so you’ll drop a pound by Friday?
You put in a LOT of time and effort so you’ll show up on that date looking and feeling your best.
But your obligation doesn’t end there.
If it’s a typical first date, you’re the one who keeps the conversation flowing. You work hard to make him feel good about himself. You overlook dating faux pas and smooth over insensitive comments.
By the end, you’re sweating. Because it’s crunch time:
Will he want to see you again … or not?
The System is Rigged
This is a prime example of what the Nagoski sisters call patriarchy (ugh).
Without getting political, let’s just define that term as a dynamic where the man’s comfort and expectations are prioritized over the woman’s.
You’ve probably heard the old saw that “men are chasers and women are choosers.” We’re supposed to be designed this way by biology. It implies that men do all the work while we sit back and tap the winning candidate on the shoulder.
But does that really fit your experience of modern dating?
Let me ask you this:
- How many MEN believe it’s their job to make sure their date has a good time?
- How many WOMEN think it’s their job to make sure the man has a good time?
In the chasers/choosers dynamic, all men would be hustling to make sure their dates had a great time, while the women sat back and enjoyed themselves.
In an ideal world, that number would be equal. Just as many men would take responsibility for a date as women.
But what happens in the REAL world?
In my experience—and perhaps in yours, too—relationships are a woman’s responsibility. She’s the one who hopes this date will turn into the start of something wonderful, so she’s the one putting all the effort in.
Meanwhile, strict gender roles keep women from showing up as their full selves. Women are afraid to ask a man out or tell him she’d like to see him again. We’ve been convinced that men must chase us or feel unmanned.
No wonder we’re burned out.
That’s a system that’s not just rigged against us. It’s rigged against healthy relationships.
From a Catch to a Steal
The Nagoski sisters don’t want us to stop being kind, thoughtful, and sensitive to other people’s needs.
Our giving nature is a good thing. It should be celebrated.
What they want instead is to create a society where EVERYONE gives.
As Amelia says:
The cure for burnout is not self-care. It’s all of us caring for each other.”
There’s a simple way to apply this wisdom to dating:
Look for men who give as much as you do.
Look for profiles where men talk about their volunteer work or the contribution they’re making to their community.
Pay attention to how much a man demonstrates concern about your comfort and wellbeing on a first date.
Notice whether he buys into outdated views on gender roles. Does he expect to “be the man” in the relationship?
A man who enjoys caring for the woman he loves—not with money, but with emotional investment—is a man you can go the distance with.
The world would be so different if we all looked after one another.
That shift may be a long way away, but we can do our part by rethinking how we make our dating choices.
Instead of looking for “a catch”—a man who’s successful, physically attractive, and dominant…
Look for “a steal”—a man with a giving heart, who can be your best friend as well as lover.
He may not spark that instant chemistry (it’s more of a slow burn) but he’ll restore your faith in humanity.
And he’ll remind you that it’s not your job as a woman to attract him, “the man.”
It’s both your jobs to show up for each other.