Thinking about getting back on the dating scene, but feeling completely out of practice?
Factor in COVID safety and all the other pandemic angst we’ve been dealing with, it’s bound to all feel a bit odd and daunting.
We asked some dating and relationship experts for their advice.
Make a plan and start slow
If you’re finding the idea of spending a whole evening with a stranger, or being in a busy pub or restaurant, really anxiety inducing, have a think about what feels comfortable.
“I suggest my clients start off slow, going for a drink or coffee date that lasts no longer than an hour or two. If weather permits, a picnic or bike ride could be a great way to get the chemistry going,” says relationship therapist Charisse Cooke.
I’ve forgotten how!
No idea how to present your ‘best self’ right now? “So many people will naturally feel out of practice with dating, and that’s okay – the only expectations on a date are the ones you create for yourself,” says dating and relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan.
“Remember, it’s just a meeting between two humans. Know you are more than enough, and by just being your authentic self – forget what ‘best’ looks like, because that’s so much pressure in itself – and focusing on whether that person is right for you and your wants and needs, helps you step back into your dating power.
“Don’t pass this power over to someone else by considering you aren’t enough in confidence or conversation. With the right person, you will settle into it and things will start to naturally flow.”
Get out of your head
But what if you spend the whole time fretting about what they’re thinking, or what to say next? “One of the best ways to get out of your head and into the moment, is to focus on the person in front of you and stay present,” says Ms Ryan. “It happens so often that people are focusing so much on being liked, or being accepted or wanted by the other person, it means shifting the focus away from the end goal, which is seeing if you like them.”
Take a breath
There might be a temptation to go full throttle. If you’re eager to have some fun (safely of course!), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But do pause to think about what you’re in the market for. “It has been a lonely time for singles, and the danger now would be to become somewhat reckless in our dating style,” says Ms Cooke.
Beware the urge to ‘make up for lost time’
Dr Marisa T. Cohen says self-care is an important part of the picture. This will help with managing stress and anxiety as we continue to navigate the pandemic. Plus, prioritising time for yourself – and hobbies that give you a boost, good friends – could help you avoid ‘dating fatigue’ and being overwhelmed.
“Don’t overschedule yourself due to the perception you may hold that you have lost valuable time for dating and getting to meet your match,” says Dr Cohen. “We went from a period of minimal in-person socialisation, so jumping in with two feet may get overwhelming quickly.”
Take the pressure off
Similarly, the pressure to find somebody quickly might be ramped up. We all have moments of dating despair (we’re only human!) but keeping a healthy perspective is something we can work on. “Take the pressure off by seeing each encounter as a meeting of new people and gaining experiences, rather than an interview for your last romantic partner. It’s called ‘dating’ for a reason,” says Ms Ryan.
And trust the process. “Know that the person you are looking to meet is looking for you too. Stay positive,” adds Ms Ryan. “If you find you’re not enjoying it, change your approach and try something new.”
What do I really want?
Could there be positives we can take from this strange time too? The pandemic may have provided a chance to get clear on our goals and values, dating dynamics that really weren’t working for us before, and what we actually want in a partner. “Lockdown has given us all a new perspective on things. Our time is precious and who we invite into our lives matters,” says Ms Cooke.
Ms Ryan suggests: “Start to be crystal clear on your values, so that people who do not align with that fall by the wayside. Work on creating boundaries … If you’re happy on your own, enjoy your own company, and living a life you love full of purpose and passion, there is no doubt you will attract someone like-minded and have a happy, fulfilling relationship. Focus on building the relationship you have with yourself and filling your own cup, so to speak.”
Are you starting to date again? What’s your preferred first date activity? Let us know in the comments section below.
– With PA
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