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5 Keys to Dating Re-Entry

4. Model what you want.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Learning to live within the confines of the pandemic, many people severely reduced the number of people they hang out with to stay safe. Those intimate "pods” kept them closer to each other, but unable to explore beyond that cohort to find partners they might otherwise have met were they free to do so.

Familiarity ensures more predictability and security, but it also can make people lazy and unwilling to risk who they are in unknown environments. Conversations are more likely to be automatic and repeated. Boredom can set in, along with nit-picking.

People are at their best when they are open to new experiences and willing to explore and challenge what they’ve known and practiced. They are more alive and more interesting. The balance between security and risk often determines the fate of long-term relationships of any kind, and successful long-term partners practice differences and freedoms within their commitments to each other.

As daters slowly re-enter more challenging social environments, many tell me they don’t feel interesting anymore and have lost their confidence to take the risks that are part of the process. They are also entering a world of opinions and attitudes far more polarized than when they exited. They are more prone to making and receiving instant judgments before they have acquired sufficient information and often feel they might be entering enemy territory without the skills to navigate.

While it was always possible to reject the dating world because of just one too many disappointments, most relationship-seekers still returned or looked for ways to change their attitudes and behaviors when they were ready to search again. Many of their friends would encourage those breakouts and support new ways to make their search models more successful. Now, they are more likely to return to their secure relationship pods and try to find love from a more limited pool.

In short, they are fearful of rejection, perched to run, and lacking the tools to push through their hesitancies. They need new ways of regaining their dating “mojo.” Following are five ways to catapult yourself out of lethargy and insecurity and reenter the dating world ready to explore again.

1. You’re not Alone. So many of my clients think that they should rejoin the dating world as if nothing has happened to them. They are fearful that, if they share the limited world they have created, others will think less of them. In reality, very few people avoided being trapped or limited by what they had to do to stay safe, and they know they’re not at their best when it comes to being ready to embrace and risk what they have given up for a long period of time. Sharing those feelings enables others to come fort, and so it is the first crucial risk to take.

2. Reach Beyond Your “Pod." It is tempting to stay with what is secure and safe, but if you’ve paid attention to the interactions within the space you’ve created over this time, you can pretty much predict most of what the people you’ve hung out with will do and how they think. You’ve more than likely become similar, not challenging your own repeated phrases, opinions, and actions, and only listening to agendas that agree with them. When is the last time you can remember embracing ideas and behaviors that made you uncomfortable, or challenge what you already know? Go to events that expose you to new ideas, even if they are a little uncomfortable. Reach out to old friends who may not have traveled your path and have some interesting things to tell you about.

3. Challenge Your Current Attitudes and Belief Systems. Ask yourself what drives what you think and feel in this moment in your life. Ask yourself where those thoughts and feelings come from and if they are different from how you might have answered before “shutting down.” Were you more multi-faceted, more open, more interested in people, ideas, and things that did not necessarily align with what you were taught before? Do you feel predictable and uninteresting because you can’t think of anything new to say or do, especially things that require challenging your presentation of self?

4. Model What You Want and Who You Want to Become. If you were to create a composite person based on all of the personality components, achievements, and humanness of the people you most want to be with, or become similar to, what would that person be like? It’s always good to model rather than to preach or continually seek. You have a lifetime to change those qualities and practicing them on a regular basis will get you closer to who you want to be, and who you want to be with.

5. Small Town to Greater Perspectives. Imagine that you’ve been living in a small town, with all of the positives and negatives that experience brings. Maybe there are only three flavors of ice cream. Then you are going to catapult yourself into an extended world where there are dozens more. Are you going to take your secure, small-town comfort and only seek the same flavors in the larger world, or are you ready to re-embrace what you used to be eager to seek out and choose?

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