How to Start Dating Again if It’s Been a While

By Dana Hamilton

Dating again after being “out of the game” for a while can be stressful, regardless of whether you’re getting out of a long-term relationship or if you just took a break. But once you’ve determined you want to date again, there are many ways to get back into it without feeling any undue anxiety or pressure. Here are some tips to smartly dip your toe into the dating pool if it feels a little daunting.

Set yourself up for success

If you go into the process thinking that dating for the first time after a while will be terrible, it’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Try to cultivate a positive mindset rather than starting out defeated. “With dating anxiety, we tend to focus on the negative parts about ourselves,” says  psychotherapist Natalie Peikoff. “But what about all the parts we’re proud of? Focusing on those aspects can boost our self-esteem and remind us of our inherent worth.” To start your dating journey on the right foot, Peikoff suggests listing out the reasons why you’d make a good partner to remind yourself that you’re a catch, because you are! 

Name your fears and concerns

Sometimes maintaining a positive mindset about dating can’t happen despite our best efforts. Common fears that come up for folks include: wanting to avoid how they’ve been treated in past relationships; how their appearance will be perceived IRL; or simply questioning if they have enough experience to be “good at” dating in the first place. “It’s okay to be intimidated and afraid,” says Peikoff. “But we can’t let our fears get in the way of finding love. We can be fearful and do hard things at the same time.” Yes, dating can be intimidating, but don’t let that overwhelm you. 

Take some time to write down all of your concerns when it comes to online dating and putting yourself out there—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and then respond to them as if your best friend were coming to you with these fears. What would you say to them? Looking at your kind, compassionate responses can help you realize that dating isn’t something to be afraid of. Plus, remember that the people you’re talking to might be a little nervous to date as well—it’s not as if everyone else has figured it out besides you! 

Don’t pay attention to the numbers

Success on Bumble isn’t about how many matches you make or dates you go on—it’s about finding meaningful connections, so go into it looking for quality over quantity. And when you’re able to put your true self out there, you’ll attract the right people. Confidence coach Caroline Quinn points out that “being confident in yourself allows you to confidently state what you’re looking for, set proper boundaries, and trust your instincts [about if someone is a match or not].” When you don’t believe that your worth is determined by the number of people who swipe right on you, you’re more likely to show up for experiences that work for you and pass on ones that don’t, making for a better dating experience overall. 

Recognize that rejection is a natural part of dating

Many people get anxious about rejection, but rejection is actually a good thing! It prevents you from devoting time to someone who isn’t interested, and frees you up to engage with someone who is. In the same way that not everyone is for you, you’re not for everyone, and that’s okay! You will swipe left and unmatch people, and it might not be anything personal; maybe they’ve listed that they have a cat and you’re highly allergic, or perhaps they’re wearing a band t-shirt in one of their pics that reminds you of your ex. Remember that most of the time when people reject you, it’s not personal either, so don’t take it to heart.

Take breaks

Don’t let dating feel like a full-time job; dating is supposed to complement your current life, not complicate it. To avoid burnout, pace yourself and take breaks when you need to. “If you’re feeling drained, overwhelmed, or stressed out, don’t force yourself to swipe and go on dates,” says Quinn. “We work so hard to listen to our body and intuition in other aspects of our life. Give yourself some grace when it comes to dating as well.” Remember: you’re dating again for you, and you deserve a good experience.

Keep all this in mind, and you’ll be unstoppable (and less stressed out) in this new chapter of your dating life. Good luck!