What You Need To Know If You Haven't Dated In A While

Photographed by Refinery29.
There are plenty of reasons someone might not have been on a date in a while. Maybe they were in a long-term relationship that just ended. Maybe they were hurt so badly in their last relationship that they wanted to take a few years off. Maybe they felt really good being single, or had no time to date. No matter the reason, it can be scary trying to get back into dating if your last first date happened several years ago. You might feel that you're out of practice. But, more importantly, you might be entering a dating landscape that looks totally different from the one you left behind.
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We reached out to several dating experts to see just how much dating has changed in the last few years, and what anyone who's getting back into dating should know.
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Make sure you’re starting to date for the right reasons.

First things first: If you're choosing to start dating again after a long break, make sure you're doing it because you feel ready. "If you’re trying to fill the void left by a previous relationship, chances are you’re going to bring the accompanying baggage along with you," Pricilla Martinez, a life coach with Blush. Your goal should be to enhance your life with a relationship, she says, which only you can decide to do. So don't start dating again just because you feel lonely, or because your BFF says you need to get back out there. Do it because you want to.
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Communication, compromise and patience.

If you've been single for a long time, it can be easy to forget how to share your space and start relying on or including someone else, Martinez says. "I think it can hard for people who have been happily single to get back into the swing of things in a relationship," she says. "Sometimes your independence can be mistaken for selfishness." So you'll have to learn to navigate dating with openness and communication, and be aware that your actions could be talking for you. Independence is important, but you also don't want anyone to think that you don't value their opinions or needs.
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Get to know your single self.

If you're choosing to date after having been in a long-term relationship, then the best tip may be to take a break instead. "Don’t rush into another relationship because you’re feeling societal pressures or lonely. I urge you to take your time," Martinez says. Get to know who you are as a single person and reflect on what your last relationship taught you because your needs may have evolved. "You have to re-evaluate what you’re able to offer in a relationship to make sure you’re ready," Martinez says.
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Understand your fear.

Dating is always a bit scary, but it can be especially terrifying if you haven't been on a date in a long time. Instead of letting that fear overcome you, try to figure out where it's coming from. Often, Laurie Davis Edwards, Founder of The Worthy One, finds that her clients feel that they're not good enough or deserving of love. And that makes them afraid of rejection. "When we are afraid of something, it changes our behaviors," she says. But getting to the root of your fear can help you get over it. And then, dating becomes fun again.
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Say yes to the maybes.

If you're online dating, the options can feel endless. So instead of just a yes or a not, you might find yourself breaking the list of possible matches into yes, no, and maybe. Don't discount the maybes, Davis Edwards says. "Nearly every client of mine who is in a relationship fell for a maybe — someone they were unsure of on virtual paper," she says.
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The path to commitment has changed.

Once upon a time, people generally dated only one person at a time and settled down quickly. But now, people are more and more likely to date around before deciding if they want a serious relationship with one person, Davis Edwards says. "So these early stages of a relationship often look and feel different, although where you're going is still the same," she says. Instead of dating for a few weeks and then deciding to be partners, you might hookup for several months. Getting into a relationship might take longer and it might feel like you're not allowed to tell someone how much you like them, but remember that it's flattering to know that someone is into you. So feel free to be honest.
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Online dating is here to stay.

Maybe you're one of few people still untouched by online dating, because you were in a long-term relationship when the Tinder revolution hit. So you're just now starting to online date. The first thing to know is that there's no shame in meeting someone online. "Even as early as five or six years ago, people might have been a little bit more hesitant to say they met online because the stigma wasn't quite removed from the old days," says Joshua Pompey, a matchmaker and founder of Next Evolution Matchmaking. Now, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's been single in the last few years and hasn't tried online dating, he says.

So go ahead and set up your profiles, and don't be afraid to ask your friends for help if you're lost. And know that the end goal is the same, no matter if you meet someone online or in person. "How you meet someone is only one part of developing a relationship," Davis Edwards says. "Today, technology plays a big role in that, but it's easily learned."
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Dating "rules" have changed.

Daters have always been told that they have to abide by certain "rules" (often, the pressure is higher for straight relationships), but the rules have definitely changed in the last several years. "In this day and age, I believe it's okay for a woman to reach out first and put herself in front of the type of men she wants to date," Pompey says. Of course, it should have always been okay for a woman to take ownership over her dating life, but a straight woman asking a straight man out definitely was seen as more aggressive in the past. Now, many dating coaches encourage everyone to be more bold and make the first move if they want. "Everybody's so busy and trapped in their routines, so unless you put yourself in front of them, they never know you're out there," Pompey says.

He'd also argue that the rule around playing hard to get has stopped making sense. Since everyone has a smartphone in their hand 24/7, waiting three days to reach out after a first date isn't a good move anymore. Instead, it can send the message that you're not really interested. Now, you should be sending a text by the time you get home from your date to set up a second one.
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