FODA: Fear Of Dating Again

Here's how you can get back in the game

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Lei asked: “My last long-term relationship (LTR) ended around 3.5 to 4 years ago. It happened right around the time I started studying again so I took it as a sign to focus on it. COVID then happened and I just never had a chance to explore again. Now that the pandemic is less worrisome where I am, I want to jump back into the dating pool but I keep hesitating. Any tips on dealing with it?”

One of the least talked about concerns after a break-up is the fear of dating again. While this concept became more visible as people were navigating life post-ish pandemic and dealing with the fear of socialization after extended isolation, it still didn’t capture the side of the story that involves dating again after a break-up, especially after a long-term monogamous relationship.

No matter how long you step away from socialization, in any of its forms, jumping back can feel daunting. The isolation of the pandemic, while it allowed the privacy of self-exploration and introspection, taught us the comfort of being with oneself–in both a good and bad way. Getting out there again and engaging with people, especially in the intimate and vulnerable frame of dating, is going to be even more challenging as you’ll have to re-explore the discomfort of knowing and being known by others.

Tip #1: Feel the discomfort.

Avoiding negative emotions doesn’t resolve them but only delays them. Allow yourself to process them as they come. A lot of people expressed reluctance in meeting people again post-pandemic, even now that the world has been a little more open for quite some time, and it’s OK! That’s the first thing to remember: it’s normal to feel scared and uncomfortable; the important thing is the willingness to go forward regardless.

Instead of ignoring that discomfort and pushing it down, transform it into a productive guidepost for setting the pace at which you explore.

Tip #2: Reflect on your expectations.

This is the perfect time to reset your dating life and re-explore what it means to you and what you expect from yourself, your potential partners, and the relationships you will build. Oftentimes, when you’re actively dating, you tend to get lost in the flow of things and forget to set up check-ins where you make sure you’re staying true to yourself–and sometimes it’s even harder to start those habits once you’re too involved. This is a great opportunity to start afresh and create a healthy environment for yourself.

Take the time to ask yourself what you want from a relationship and what you’re looking for in a partner. Once you have that down, it becomes easier to find what you’re looking for. Make it a habit to check in once a week, or at a pace that best suits you, and re-affirm those needs and expectations. It’s important to completely and shamelessly be honest with yourself.  

Tip #3: Don’t let it take over everything.

When jumping back to dating after a long break, it’s normal to be impatient about finding someone and get back into the game as soon as possible, but it’s important to not obsess over it and let it be the focal point of your thoughts. There is never a rush to be partnered–it can also be a sign of needing to think deeper about your desire for a relationship.

You need to have interests other than dating and work on all the different relationships in your life as well, especially the one with yourself.

Tip #4: Practice, practice, practice.

One of the main reasons folks can feel scared about meeting people again is their perceived lack of socialization skills and the anticipation of failure with it brought on by the lock-down. Think of socialization as a muscle, the more you train it, the more acclimated it becomes, and the more confident in using it you will be.

The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be with dates; any interaction can provide valuable insight as long as you’re being intentional in absorbing the social clues and skills, recognizing pitfalls, and learning how to overcome them.

Tip #5: Invest in self-care.

As mentioned in the previous two points, a lot of the work done in overcoming the fear of dating again is surprisingly about yourself and done with yourself. Create routines and systems that make you feel comfortable and at ease; that help you control what you can. The anxiousness will be less overwhelming and bearable once you know what puts you in a good mood and a positive mindset.

Self-care is simple things like putting on a certain perfume, taking a calming bath, listening to a song you love, journaling, etc. There’s no need to put too much weight on the word. It’s anything that makes you feel better.

This was best put to words in the famous quote by Mark Nepo: “The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.”–The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.

Take care of yourself first, the rest will naturally follow!

our take.

And remember: it’s important to be kind to yourself while navigating this and to remember that most people are going through similar things. Everyone is trying their best to do their best with the current state of the world while being kind to others as they’re also navigating. Keep showing up for yourself every day and working to become a healthier person on the inside, what is good and needed in your journey will find you.