Dating in a Post-Pandemic World: 5 Tips for those with Re-Entry Anxiety

Imagine you’re at a bar this summer – vaccinated, mask-free, and ready to mingle. Someone catches your eye, you walk over, and – 

What do you do next? If you’re struggling with this question, you’re not alone. Many people around the world are struggling with re-entry anxiety, especially when it comes to dating. 

How can you take the fear out of dating? We’ve listed our top five tips below: 

Tip One: Get Honest About What You Want

If you’re thinking about re-entering the dating pool, it’s critical to sit down with yourself and think about what you want. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Are you looking for a relationship? Or something more casual? 
  • What kind of person are you looking for, and do you have any non-negotiables? 
  • What are you comfortable with, date-wise, as society returns to normal? 

Getting clear answers about what you want will help you in the long run. Being up-front about looking for a serious relationship or a casual fling means that you won’t waste someone’s time (or have them waste yours). Most importantly, think about what you’re comfortable with in terms of the dates themselves. Are you comfortable meeting someone in person? 

Setting boundaries early will help you get clear about what you want – and will help you stay true to those needs and wants as you navigate a post-pandemic dating world. 

Tip Two: Set Goals

Dating (especially online dating) does require a certain amount of effort, and all modern dating experts recommend setting yourself a certain number of dates per week or messages per day, especially if you’ve decided to use apps. A recent article for Hello Giggles makes this clear: “Like any habit, it’s hard to go cold turkey on dating and then jump back in, full speed ahead. Dating experts recommend starting off slow but setting concrete goals for yourself to get the ball rolling.” 

When it comes to goals, it’s essential to be realistic about what you can (and want) to achieve. If one date per week sounds like too much, it’s okay to dial things back. Goals allow us to keep momentum – something that’s crucial as we navigate the next few months.  

Tip Three: Try an App

Online dating is great – it opens you up to plenty of other like-minded individuals, and it’s never been easier to make your approach virtually. However, a pandemic has us all out of practice, and let’s be honest – the dating game rules have changed. All that aside, apps are great places to meet new people and are terrific when you need to remind yourself that plenty of other fish are in the sea. Elle breaks down some of the most popular dating apps (and who should use them) below:

  • Bumble: Bumble is a fantastic app if you’re a woman sticking her toe back in the dating pool after an extended hiatus. Bumble puts all the power in the woman’s hands – women message first, and men have 24 hours to respond. It’s also full of potential partners and has more than 22 million users around the world. The cherry on top? They’ve banned any form of body shaming, as well as language that’s racist, fat-phobic, homophobic, and transphobic. 
  • Hinge: known for your witty one-liners? Hinge is the place for you. Elle calls it the ‘Instagram of dating apps’ because of the complete picture it allows you to paint. Profiles have quotes, questions, and funny anecdotes – meaning that if you don’t cave to the pressure of being effortlessly funny, there’s a real chance of making a connection. 

Bumble and Hinge are two of the most popular platforms but don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path and try others on Elle’s list. 

Tip Four: Or Try Something Different

Online dating can be a minefield, so it’s okay to want to dip your toe in the water and try out something that feels a little more casual. Many people look online to find connections, and with all of the Reddit threads, Discord chats, and social media opportunities out there, the possibilities are endless. According to recent research from Chumba Casino, 73 percent of respondents found that they made new social and romantic connections from playing video games! The rise of video games and online culture shouldn’t be ignored – and there are more people out there than you might think. According to Chumba Casino’s research, 68 percent of respondents used video games to fulfill their social needs during the pandemic, and those numbers will only grow. 

Why does this work? These online connections are made because of commonality. It works differently than an app. You’re not just interested in dating – you’ve got a built-in hobby to discuss. 

Tip Five: Know That They’re Nervous, Too

We are all nervous (and let’s be frank, a little bit weird) after spending an entire year inside by ourselves. Those nerves that you’re feeling? Your date is feeling (almost) the same thing. The good thing, though, is that there are ways to combat your nervousness – especially if you’ve taken the tips we’ve mentioned above. In a recent article for Mashable, Match’s chief relationship expert Rachel DeAlto shares some of her best tips for battling nerves:

  • Show up authentically: this is much easier if you’ve taken our tip above and gotten clear about what you want. If you don’t want to eat inside a restaurant, let your date know. Don’t apologize! It’s also okay if you’d rather start with a few virtual dates. Healthline has a great list of options, from virtual escape rooms to online cooking experiences. Don’t sacrifice your comfort for what you think someone else might want. 
  • Be present: as humans, we are highly uncomfortable with what we don’t know.  We need to fight against our fear of the unknown, especially as we navigate dating. Be present and let yourself concentrate on your date. 
  • Take it slow: it’s okay to ease back out here and to take it at your own pace. You don’t need to do anything that you don’t want to do. 

Don’t worry, dating is supposed to be fun. Be you, try some different things, and meet some great people who, just like you, have been hiding away for the last year.