Written by Leah Sinclair
From the constant swiping on dating apps to difficulties dealing with both the big and the small questions in relationships, decision fatigue can impact our love lives more than we realise.
If there is one thing we’re not short ofin life, it’s options. From the type of coffee we choose to buy on our way to work to where to go on holiday over the summer, there are a variety of choices at our fingertips.
Having choices is a beautiful thing – after all, it’s a privilege that isn’t accessible to everyone – but sometimes, the access to too many options can be a challenge for those who struggle to make decisions that can affect various aspects of their lives – including dating and relationships.
This is often referred to as decision fatigue, which therapist Leighya Richard describes as when “one’s decision-making ability declines after having to make decisions throughout the day”.
“Dealing with decision fatigue not only impacts the ability to make decisions, but it also impacts the quality of decisions made,” says Richard.
Experiences with decision fatigue can vary in severity and play a role in any facet of life. But for those dealing with it when it comes to their dating lives, it can have a significant impact in a number of ways – and we’ve highlighted the three signs it could be affecting your love life.
You find it difficult to use dating apps
No matter what dating app you use, the mere act of swiping left and right means you’re confronted with choices and making decisions straight away – something that can be a struggle for those dealing with decision fatigue.
“I’ve seen decision fatigue among my single clients, as they struggle with having so many potential partners in front of them and not knowing which one to choose,” says Richard. “This pressure can lead to impulsive decisions that result in bad dates, while some clients will opt out altogether as the mere thought of swiping left or right was mentally and emotionally exhausting.”
“Dating apps increase our choice and options for a potential match,” adds mental health expert Nicola Hemmings. “Swiping through Tinder, Bumble and Grindr, we have thousands of options to choose from – but who will make us happy and complete? Is it about matching our values or is it short-term fun? All these questions often circulate for those with decision fatigue making it an exhausting process.”
You experience a breakdown in communications in your relationship
Richard adds that decision fatigue can significantly impact family life at home and result in relationship tensions. “I can imagine the tension and ongoing irritability can occur due to the mental impact faced by someone with decision fatigue and their inability to make decisions, which can negatively impact their partner,” she says.
“Alternatively, this struggle to make decisions may result in the person shutting down or stating they don’t care to get out of their decision-making slump, which can cause a block in any relationship if you refuse to confront things head-on.”
You struggle to make smaller decisions on a first date and beyond
Therapist Brooke Schwartz has found that decision fatigue can lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the smaller things when it comes to a first date – whether it’s what to wear or where to go.
“Things like deciding what to wear on a first date can leave someone feeling so anxious that they end up cancelling the date altogether,” she says. “And this can progress even when you get to the stage of being in a relationship, from an inability to pick a restaurant for a date, choosing a home to live in or deciding whether or not one wants to have children.”
Schwartz adds that even once a decision is made, those who experience this fatigue tend to end up second-guessing their decision or changing their mind, which may lead to other conflicts in relationships.
Overcoming decision fatigue can be difficult for those who’ve often struggled to make definitive choices in all aspects of their lives – but there are a few key ways to get you started.
“To combat decision fatigue, it can be helpful to learn how to identify your intuition and work on acting on intuition and gut feelings in lower stakes situations and working up to bigger, more significant decisions,” says Schwartz.
“It can also be helpful to create routines that reduce one’s need for decision making.”
“Finally, practising self-compassion and self-validation are important when experiencing decision fatigue,” she adds. “Punishing yourself by judging or shaming will only dig you deeper into the exhaustion and anxiety, making decisions that much harder to make going forward.”
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