It can be scary getting back into dating after a long break. Perhaps you’ve been in a relationship or married for years, but have now found yourself single again. Or maybe you’ve decided to try and meet someone having spent a period of time on your own. You might be trying to decide how you should go about meeting new people or be worried whether you’re confident enough to start dating again.
Perhaps you’re dating again after the end of relationship or you have feelings left over from a previous relationship that you’re still trying to move on from. For instance, if things didn’t end well last time, you may not be sure if you’re ready to trust someone new.
We’ve put together a few tips to get you across the dating start line...
How to know you're ready to start dating again
It’s a brave decision to get back in the ring. It takes courage to give things a go again, especially if you’ve had bad relationship experiences in the past. So feel proud that you’re willing to take that step.
Remember you don’t need to do anything you don’t feel ready for. It can be confusing knowing when we’re ‘ready’ to start dating again. You may find that a lot of people urge you to ‘get back out there’, and, of course, there may never come a time when you feel 100% confident about things. However, there’s no obligation to make a move until you feel comfortable doing so.
Working through feelings from past relationships
Sometimes, past relationships can leave us with worries about what future relationships might be like. This is especially common if things ended badly, but can also apply even if things ended fairly amicably. Relationships can leave deep wounds – sometimes deeper than we realise.
One thing that a lot of people can get hung up on is whose ‘fault’ the end of the previous relationship was. You may feel like you did everything to save the relationship while your partner did nothing. You may even feel like they actively sabotaged things. This can leave you bitter, and wary of showing the same level of trust in someone new.
It’s not always easy, but when it comes to the end of a relationship, it can be useful to accept that responsibility is usually at least partly shared. While it wouldn’t be realistic to say that every split is 50 50, it’s often the case that both members of the couple contributed in some way towards the conditions through which the relationship ended. Being able to acknowledge and accept our part in both the making and the breaking of the relationship can help us to understand what we’re good at in relationships - and what we perhaps find difficult.
Of course it doesn’t have to be a clear case of ‘fault’ for a relationship to end. Sometimes, changes in circumstances – or changes in people – can be enough for something that worked previously to stop working a few years down the line. This can be equally hard to deal with, especially if you both feel you did everything you could to save the relationship. It can leave you fearful that exactly the same thing could happen again. The truth, of course, is that it could: but that this isn’t necessarily a reason to never embark on something new.
Talking about dating again
If you’re struggling to come to terms with your feelings, one thing you may find really useful is simply talking to someone. Friends and family – people you can trust and who you know will listen to you – can be a great help. Being able to explain feelings and get different perspectives can be a really useful way of beginning to understand why you have these feelings. And sometimes understanding them – even if they stay painful to think about – can be the start of letting them go.
At Relate, we commonly see single people for one-to-one counselling. Our counsellors can talk to you about your relationship history and help you think about any issues you’re finding it hard to deal with – things left over from the past and your fears for the future. Counselling can also be a great way of becoming more aware of your relationship habits – both good and bad.
How to start dating again
One worry a lot people have when it comes to re-entering the dating game is simply: how do you do it? It can be nerve–wracking thinking about how to actually meet new people, particularly if your social situation is quite different from when you were last single.
The first thing to say is: don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with worries. Sometimes it’s better to take things one step at a time.
You might like to start by simply trying to be more social. You could go along to clubs that reflect your hobbies or interests, join local societies, reconnect with old friends and so on. It’s not necessarily about meeting someone you like immediately – it’s more about broadening your opportunities and giving yourself the chance to rediscover some of the social confidence you may feel you’ve lost. That way, you’re not setting your expectations too high – and you may find that your chances to meet someone then increase more naturally anyway.
One other option, of course, is online dating. Whereas in the past online dating may have been seen as a bit of a niche option – or even something of an oddity – these days it’s often the preferred one. Online dating offers all kinds of choice when it comes to potential partners – allowing you to match with people based on hobbies or interests.
We know it can seem like a bit of a jungle if you’re not familiar with it though, so if this is an option you want to explore, it could be useful to speak to someone who’s given it a go themselves – again, perhaps a friend or member of your family.
How we can help
If you’re looking for support with dating, we can help. Here are some of the ways we can work with you.
Learn about ongoing counselling for couples, individuals, children and young people; plus sex therapy and mediation – ask your Centre about prices and financial help:
Help figure out your next steps – £30:
Work through a problem in writing – £ 45:
For a specific issue – currently £90 (usually £120):
Access hundreds of self-help articles including quizzes and videos whenever you need them – free of charge:
Help us continue supporting the nation’s relationships: