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Getting Back Out in the Dating World

If you’re feeling reluctant to get back into dating, you're not alone.

Key points

  • With anxiety on the rise, fear of re-entering the dating world is on the rise as well.
  • Love is a deep set of emotions characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment.
  • When people love and value themselves, they can re-enter the dating world with more confidence.

If you’re feeling pangs of reluctance about getting back into the world of dating, you’re not alone. Let’s explore why we’re hesitating, and how to step back into the dating world with more confidence than ever before.

William Shakespeare, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, said it best: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Finding love has never been without its challenges, but these days, as the world slowly opens back up, getting back into the dating scene is proving to be quite challenging. A number of acronyms and terms have sprung up in to label the reluctance to get back into the dating game, like FOMU (fear of meeting up), FODA, and Hesidating (hesitance around getting back into the dating game). While these terms lends certain levity to this trend, the problem is very real for many people who have endured unprecedented levels of social isolation over the past two years.

Anxiety on the rise

As a result of the global pandemic, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is on the rise. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is defined as "an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social anxiety disorder have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions." According to many mental health experts, including the WHO, it’s dramatically on the rise in the wake of the pandemic. Previously known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is related to scrutiny, judgment, embarrassment, and criticism by people. Disconnection, withdrawal, and isolation characterize the feelings and actions of people suffering from social anxiety. People suffering from SAD struggle with irrational fears of being singled out, judged, ridiculed, ignored, or ostracized in social situations. They may feel awkward, insecure, and bad about themselves.

People with social anxiety often sometimes avoid situations and experience tremendous distress and fear as they suffer through some, if not all, social settings. Especially now, as many people are feeling less than optimal physically and mentally and out of practice after close to two years of social isolation, many settings or situations — like online dating, meeting someone for the first time or going on a blind date — that would cause most people temporary, passing nervousness, cause people with social anxiety overwhelming and long-lasting distress. A lot of people are feeling like they should be getting back out there, but they're dreading it.

Love, chemistry, and, feeling complete

What exactly is love? And why do we spend so much time and energy thinking of it, yearning for it, and looking for it? True love is not a term with a single meaning or definition but includes a reciprocal, unwavering, unbreakable, and unparalleled fondness and devotion between two people. True love is also what we do. Love requires action to thrive and is demonstrated through the devotion of time, energy, and care to a partner.

One online definition of love describes romantic love as offering: “intimacy, commitment, and passion. Scientists, by contrast, define love in a more formal way—for example, as the constellation of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions associated with a desire to enter or maintain a close relationship with a specific… person.” Love is a deep set of emotions characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It entails closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust. Love can range in intensity and include happiness and, excitement, joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment, but can also include wanting ownership over another, jealousy, losing oneself, and creating self-doubt and stress.

As to why we are so compelled to seek out a romantic partner, relationships can enhance meaning, purpose, motivation, and self-esteem.

Many times, we are attracted to and feel chemistry with people who complement our issues or complete us, that is to say, have traits that we wish to possess. Often, the chemistry between two people is actually, familiarity… and familiarity is simply what we are comfortable with. At times, familiarity can lead to repeating blueprints and patterns we learned from past relationships modeled by our family, our parents, or other role models.

The key to finding the best possible match

We can make a relationship work with many people, but when looking for love, the goal should be to find the best possible match.

When it comes to dating, the best way to proceed is at our highest and best. First and foremost, we all need to work on being the best versions of ourselves that we can be — on our own! Self-love evolves into a fulfilling true love with ourselves and with others. This needs to be the goal for us individually and in our coupleships.

When we’re in a good place

When we are in a good place in our own lives, we are better equipped to attract and choose a better partner, as we are not making choices out of fear, lack, and desperation. We are in tune with ourselves and our emotions and are more inclined to make choices in alignment with our authentic selves, and less willing to abandon who we are because we genuinely know and like who we are.

A life-changing self-reflective dating exercise

I often challenge my patients who are looking or longing for a romantic partner to undertake this three-part exercise. Part One: Make a list of your ideal partner. Be thorough, and put it all down, from values, qualities, and attributes, like education, career, self-care, and having finances in order. Put that list aside for a day or two. Next, you’re ready for Part Two: Go through that detailed list you’ve made, and honestly see how you measure up! How do you fare in terms of the qualities you are looking for in an ideal potential partner? Where do you fall short in the attributes and qualities you value enough to include on your list? Be honest with yourself. The more you come clean about your shortcomings, the more effective — and life-enhancing — this exercise will be. Part Three of this exercise is where the rubber hits the road. It’s where you begin the important work of becoming the person you want to attract. Like, after all, attracts like, first and foremost.

More confidence than ever before

We need to make our own lives rich and full. When we are living life as our best, authentic selves, we don’t tolerate mistreatment and red flag behaviors like control, disrespect, and manipulation. We're able to recognize troublesome behaviors and are more willing and able to walk away from red flag scenarios with others. And when we are in a place where we love our own lives, we are far more likely to attract someone ready, willing, and able to enjoy our authentic true selves. When we are living a life we want, when we love and value ourselves, we are ready to re-enter the dating world with more confidence than ever before.

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