Getting back into dating can be downright terrifying. You put your most private self on the line, leaving your deepest fears and most ardent wishes open and vulnerable. If you’re just getting started again after being in a long-term relationship, you face a vast unknown—not just in how dating itself has changed, but in how you have changed.
You’re not the same person you were when you first started dating, and odds are you still see yourself as belonging with someone, as part of a couple. Even though you know you are no longer in a relationship, the thought of dating can still feel vaguely like cheating.
If you are new to dating again, you might be suffering from deer-in-the-headlights syndrome, seeing time itself heading straight for you, knowing you have to move but remaining frozen to the spot nonetheless. If you have been dating unsuccessfully for a while and are ready to give up, the thought of another frustrating date makes your couch seem even more inviting on a Saturday night.
What can you do to push yourself forward without losing your balance? How can you change your dating landscape just enough to see something on the horizon worth heading toward? Start simply. Take these three basic steps and you just might find you enjoy the walk so much that you keep right on going.
1. Decide the big question once and for all: Do you want to date again or not? Do you want companionship and love, or do you genuinely prefer to stay single? I’m not asking if you want to keep going on miserable dates or if you are afraid to date again. Put those concerns aside. Do you want to date, period? If dating were fun and you were able to meet interesting men and enjoy new experiences and perspectives, would you want to keep dating?
If you are not interested in dating at all, regardless of the dating circumstances, then by all means, don’t date. But if you do want to date, if you want to make meaningful connections with men and have a blast doing it, then understand one thing: You no longer have the option to back out or quit. Because you’ve decided that you really don’t want to quit. You just want to date well.
So when you are scared, hurt, nervous, or frustrated, you can do any combination of things: change your strategy, learn new tools for handling your emotions and your situation, seek help, seek healing—absolutely anything but give up.
2. Stop hiding behind your excuses.
I’m sure you can (and probably have) come up with millions of reasons for not getting back into dating. You’re too busy, or you think you’re too old or not attractive enough to make dating worthwhile. Maybe you blame men: They aren’t interested in an intelligent, strong woman. They’re just looking for sex.
But every last one of your excuses comes from the same place: Fear. Fear of being rejected, hurt, humiliated, or disappointed yet again. Fear of the unknown. Maybe even fear of finding someone and then having to deal with all the complications that comes with fitting him into your already complex life.
You can and should address the individual reasons that are holding you back because they do affect your confidence and your approach to dating and to yourself, and you can actually improve your dating skills by facing your fears in specific ways.
But here, I want to focus on one thing. Regardless of your excuses, and regardless of your fears, you have decided you want to date again. You have committed to not quitting. Otherwise, you would have stopped reading at number 1 above.
This means that your excuses for not dating are at most problems with dating that you can, and have decided to, solve. It doesn’t mean that your fears aren’t valid or understandable. Of course they are! That’s exactly why your response to them should be to figure out how to overcome them rather than letting them overcome you and your desire to date. And you don’t have to do this alone.
3. Get help!
Dating is about interaction. It’s about connecting with people and building relationships. Yet most of us feel like we are on our own when it comes to preparing to date and handling the myriad complex issues that revolve around dating again after being in a long-term relationship.