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It’s the start of a new year and naturally our minds are focused on what we want in 2022. For many, this is the year we’d like to meet someone new or at least have fun in the process. Dating in a pandemic isn’t easy, though.
With Covid restrictions and new variants emerging, it can be hard to meet that special person. Sometimes, when our love life falls flat, dating can feel like finding a job. The fun and the thrill of meeting someone new goes out of the window. And if you don’t find that spark initially, it can feel disheartening.
Which is the case for one of our readers, Nicky. She says: “I have been single for a couple of years following a very painful break-up. I have been dating quite a lot and had a couple of friends reveal their interest. Most of these people have been really lovely and very dateable, but I have just had no excitement for anyone. How can I get my heart back into the game?”
HuffPost UK spoke to Counselling Directory member Jenny Warwick about how we can make dating fun again.
Why might dating begin to feel like a chore?
Warwick says we lose excitement around dating when there’s a lot of pressure on us to be part of a couple and to have a partner. It feels like something that has to be done, rather than something we desire.
“The truth is, this pressure may actually be coming from other people or society, rather than from your own needs or wants,” she says. “It can feel like there are certain rules around dating that you may not understand.”
This can be particularly hard if this is your first time dating following a split from a long term relationship, like our reader. Warwick says you may feel uncertain about the “new rules of engagement”.
“It can start to feel almost like a job application where you are both the recruiter and the applicant,” she adds. “You are applying to be the person someone else wants at the same time as looking for the person you want to be with. That’s when it can start to feel like work and a chore and you lose any sense of fun.”
What can we do to make dating fun?
Be prepared to try something new and to sometimes step out of your comfort zone. “Try not to have rigid rules around what constitutes a date. It doesn’t have to be coffee every time. Start appreciating each part of the process for what it is. You are there, at that moment, to make a connection with someone,” says Warwick.
“Let go of some of your preconceived ideas about an ‘ideal partner’ and just go with your instinct on whether they look like someone you’d like to hang out with for a couple of hours.
“Take the pressure off yourself and appreciate each small part of the process. Think of all the different people you’re going to meet. This is a perfect opportunity to hear about other people’s interests and experiences and that sounds like fun to me.”
How can you be intentional when dating whilst also having fun?
This is a great time to think about your boundaries around relationships, says Warwick.
“Think about what you want and what you don’t want, what is and isn’t ok for you,” she adds. “You can learn and grow this awareness as you meet and connect with different people. Remember, each time you connect with someone, you’re going to get closer to knowing what it really is that you want in a relationship.”
Having those really clear boundaries is going to make things better for you individually, even before you’re in any sort of relationship with someone else. Take some time after each date to think about what you feel went well and what you’d like to be different next time.
As Warwick says: “Remember, the better you know yourself and how you’re feeling, the more likely you are to have a good, positive and healthy relationship with someone else.”
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.