How to get back out there and dating in the real worldMay 17, 2021
This is an article that I wrote for the Daily Express on getting back out there and starting to date, post Lockdown
Are we all a bit rusty? Is it a case of ripping off the band aid and getting back out there?
We have spent over 13 months trapped in an alternative reality with uncertainty over what the future was going to be like and adjusting to a series of new normal.
Our ability to meet with people face to face has been very limited and for single people nights in with Netflix and a jumbo bag of popcorn has been as exciting as it gets.
Now that there is light at the end of the very long tunnel a different future beckons, but this can seem a very scary option. It is like the prisoner who has been kept in solitary confinement for many years. When the cell door is unlocked and they are told they can go, they will often refuse because they had got used to confinement and cannot cope with freedom.
There is a world out there of people desperate for company, conversations, and cuddles. If you hold back, maybe the best choices will have gone. If you procrastinate, the task will get harder day by day.
If you are feeling rusty, so are many others. Just treat it like your first freefall jump. Take a deep breath and leap into a wonderful unknown.
What are the benefits of dating - mentally, socially etc? (around 150 words on this)
Dating expands our horizons and introduces us to new people that might become friends, lovers or rejects. It is often exciting, sometimes disappointing and maybe life changing. When we start to fall in love our bodies get flooded with Dopamine and Oxytocin which make us glow and feel good. This is good for our mental and physical health as well as for our feelings of self worth.
At a primal level we need to procreate to ensure the survival of the species. At another level we all need to try create a loving and fulfilling relationship with another person. Unless we date we will not be able to achieve this, our comfort zone will shrink and we will be trapped at home, lonely, waiting for a knight (or fair maiden) on a white charger to come and knock on our door and whisk us away.
You may have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet your prince or princess; just treat this as a worthwhile investment in, possibly, the most important journey you will ever go on.
10 tips on dating in this new era
- Carpe Diem; seize the day
You might be feeling rusty and so might they. The longer that you put it off, the harder it will get. If it is important to you and your future then just seize it. You might find it helpful to get some large sheets of paper and some coloured pens. Draw two pictures; the first of your life as it is right now and the second representing your ideal future. Compare and contrast the two and work out what you need to do to get from one to the other. How much does this motivate you?
Choose a place where you are going to feel comfortable and relaxed. It should also be slightly aspirational, to reflect the sort of life that you would like to be having. Go somewhere that you can make a quick escape if they are totally unsuitable rather than being trapped for 3 hours eating an expensive 7 course meal with someone that you really don’t like.
Set the expectations as fairly low; maybe a quick meeting over coffee rather than a meal. Would you rather be able to walk out of the front door than have to escape through the toilet window? It is much easier to extend than cut short.
A public place, in the daylight, for your first meeting is advisable. Leave the clifftops at midnight for when you know them better! You both need to feel safe to be able to relax and show your true selves
Make sure someone else, that you trust, knows where you are going and can come and rescue you if you send them an SOS.
Set the outcome you would like for the date. Is it just a fun diversion or is this your future that you are creating?
We all go through forming new relationships and changes in our lives at different paces. They are not you. If your first date is going well and you would like to see them again, gently tell them that is what you would like without putting any pressure on them. Go at their pace initially and then start to lead. Relax and savour the journey.
- Head, heart, gut
It takes less than 7 seconds to form an impression of someone that may become fixed in your mind. Look for the things you do like about them rather than the things in your first impression that you did not like. They may be sweating because they are anxious. Their hair might be a mess because they had to rescue an old lady from the path of a juggernaut. Breathe, relax and let your perceptions slowly unfold.
Towards the end of the first date, check in with your three centres of intelligence; your head, heart and gut. What do each of them think of your date? Then decide on your next step.
It is normal to feel nervous and say too much or too little. If you show the authentic you then you are much more likely to connect with a suitable partner than if you pretend to be a reclusive millionaire or a Nobel prize winner.
If you listen really well and ask open questions about their feelings, they will think you are amazing. If you just talk about yourself and how wonderful you are you will attract hollow people.
At the end of the first date; do you want to see them again, are you not sure or is a definite no? If it is a no; say so gently and politely. It is unfair to keep them hanging on. If it is a maybe; ask them ‘What would you like to have happen next?’ That will give you a better idea of their feelings. If you want to see them again, say so gently and arrange the next date. It may feel cool to play hard to get but this is important, not a game.
The age-old dilemma, how do you greet someone for the first time? Nod, handshake, kiss, hug? Look for the subtle cues and try to go with what they are comfortable with. It is easier to go low and build up than have that embarrassing missed kiss.
Smile, make eye contact and look for all the subtle cues that they find you attractive. These include longer looks at you, leaning towards you, laughing more, blushing, touching themselves, using flirtatious language.
At the end of the first date, that dilemma plays out again but now the stakes are higher and your knowledge greater. If you want to give them a hug and your gut tells you this is right then say ‘ Can I give you a hug?’ If they say no, respect that rather than going down the ‘they don’t like me’ rabbit hole. Maybe they just need to go slower.
A date should be fun for both of you once you break through the nervousness and embarrassment. If you are not having fun, maybe you are not right for each other
What can you do to make it different and memorable? This is not a job interview. Can you unleash your child within and be fun and silly so that you can find someone with whom the laughter and joy will resonate throughout your future?
Relationships require the ‘you’ ‘me’ and ‘us’ to all grow. You need to find if this is someone who will nurture that growth or will hold you back. Ask questions that will help you start to understand each other better, such as:
What is my biggest dream?
What was I intended to do in this life?
Who am I when I am alone?
What are my most important values?
Trust is the foundation of a relationship. If, instinctively, you do not trust someone, that will be hard to recover from. If they say or do something that makes you question that trust you can either let them go or, if they otherwise, seem a good match, ask them about it and see if their reply comforts you or not.