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How to Date When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

A woman learning how to date after taking a long break laughing while using her phone.

Getting back into the dating scene after a long break can be overwhelming. Where do you go to meet people? Should you try online dating? Do people still play hard to get? These questions and more can leave you feeling a little clueless, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Dating is a combination of luck, trial and error, and putting yourself out there. That combination is different for everybody. There is no one right way to date; the more you practice, the more you’ll understand what combination works best for you.

Still, if you feel like you’re stumbling through dating world and aren’t sure where to start, here are some helpful things to remember.

Embrace the bad dates.
Dating is a process. You’re probably going to go on a date with somebody that’s totally wrong for you. And that’s okay! Actually, it’s more than okay—it’s a good thing. Bad dates make you a better dater. In order to learn what qualities you like in another person, you have to witness firsthand the ones you don’t like. Try not to let a bad date get you down, because believe it or not, it helps lay the groundwork for better dates to come.

Try online dating.
These days many single people have tried online dating, and with good reason. Remember what I said about learning what qualities you like and don’t like in a mate? When you online date, you can be selective and set parameters for who you want to meet. Online dating also allows you to communicate at your own pace, removing the pressure of immediate face-to-face contact. So there’s no need to rush into things if you’re still testing the dating waters.

Go out with friends.
Ready to meet someone, but don’t know where to start? Grab some friends. When you’re with your friends you naturally feel more at ease, so striking up a conversation is much simpler. Plus, studies have shown that being surrounded by friends boosts your perceived attractiveness. Has anyone offered to set you up or gushed about how “you’d be a perfect match for so and so”? Take them up on their offer. Group hangouts are a great way to meet new people and feel comfortable doing it.

Just start with hi.
It’s probably the simplest and most effective pickup line in the history of the world. And unless you say it with the intensity of a scary lurking clown, it’s totally non-threatening. So when in doubt just introduce yourself and say hi. Think of it like a regular conversation and you won’t be as nervous. Of course, be aware of boundaries. Like with any pickup line, if the other person is clearly not interested in talking, don’t force a conversation.

Know that you’re not alone.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: When it comes to dating, nobody really knows what they’re doing. People who tell you they have it all figured out are either lying to you or lying to themselves. Dating is difficult! Putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to love is brave. So if you feel a little lost, know that many others feel the same way you do.

You’re not alone, and you got this.

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