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Worried about getting back out there? (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
It’s been a long old pandemic, and getting back to ‘normal’ can feel alien and intimidating after a year and a half of distance and solitude.
For singletons, the urge to get back out there might be strong, but we’re still in a pandemic after all, and, while there’s light at the end of the tunnel, Covid’s impact on us and society at large is undeniable and unchangeable.
Therefore, it would be little wonder if, after such a fearful time, people are worried about how to get back on the dating scene.
That’s why Dr Katherine Hertlein, expert advisor at sex therapy app blueheart, has put together some advice on how to get the most out of dating post-lockdown.
Be honest from the get-go
Before you jump back on the dating scene, Dr Katherine says you need to have a good think about what you really want and be straight up about it with the people you date.
She says: ‘Do you want to find a friends-with-benefits situation, do you just want to see where things go, or are you looking for a serious relationship?
‘If you’re not really sure, that’s okay too. Just make sure that you communicate your intentions and motivations to your dates from the start – and encourage them to be honest with you, too.
‘Expressing this level of honesty is a great exercise for building trust early on, and can strengthen a relationship should it progress into something more serious.
‘ For potential partners, being truthful signals that they can trust you as a person, and your commitments.’
Date outside your usual ‘type’
This is a good rule regardless of whether you’re emerging from a pandemic – while it’s important to know what you want, there comes a point where you’re just limiting yourself.
Dr Katherine says: ‘When looking at potential dates, many people tend to meet up with people that fit their “type”. This is a problem.
‘Firstly because you can’t judge someone solely based on how they look, their personality type, their job role, or whatever characteristic it is that you’re showing a preference for.
‘Being attracted to someone plays a part in dating, but ultimately it’s about whether you are compatible. Being compatible means having shared core values, respecting each other’s boundaries, being able to be honest and open.
‘All of these things take time to judge, and you shouldn’t completely dismiss someone because they fail to meet your initial expectations.’
You don’t have to rush (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Don’t feel pressured to rush into a relationship
Dr Katherine says you shouldn’t rush into a relationship out of fear.
‘Lockdown has been particularly hard on single people,’ she says.
‘Being cooped up for months without physical touch and feeling isolated can negatively impact your wellbeing. But rushing into a relationship because you’re tired of being single isn’t a positive move for the long term.
‘Take your time to date and enjoy the experience as opposed to making the process all about an end goal. You might start off with the intention of finding a long-term partner, but then find casual dating to be fun.
‘Just be aware of your own feelings and thoughts throughout the process. If something’s not working then don’t be afraid to call it quits, but if you do find someone you’d like to be in a serious relationship with – go for it!’
Have sex only when you feel ready to
Another rule for life, not just the pandemic: don’t rush into sex if you’re not sure that’s what you want.
‘For those who haven’t had sex in months, or have been sticking to virtual sex during lockdown, the idea of having sex again might feel overwhelming,’ Dr Katherine says.
‘When the sex ban is finally lifted, don’t rush into sex if you don’t feel ready to. It sounds obvious, but with experts predicting this summer to be the most lustful yet, it can be easy to get swept into the idea that you should be having steamy sex as soon as you’re allowed to – and that you should be having lots of it.
‘The same experts also predicted a lockdown baby boom, but in reality, people started having less sex. Forget the pressures and know what you want, assert your boundaries and make sure you only do what you’re comfortable with and when you’re ready.’
Acknowledge any sexual anxiety
We’ve been practising social distancing for a long time now, and we are still in a pandemic after all, so any anxiety you might feel about getting physically close to someone new wouldn’t be at all unusual.
Dr Katherine says that anxiety about sex is more common than most people realise – you might even have it without realising.
‘Feeling anxious about sex can manifest in different ways,’ she says, ‘predominantly through symptoms of sexual dysfunction.
‘For example, those who suffer from sexual anxiety can report an inability to hold an erection (for men) or the inability to climax, even if you find your partner sexually appealing. Sometimes it can also cause premature ejaculation or disinterest in sex.
‘Overcoming and resolving issues related to anxiety around sex takes time, but the key is to acknowledge it.
‘You also need to be honest and communicate with your partner what you’re experiencing and the issues you experience. Making them aware will allow them to empathise with your situation, and you will feel more comfortable.’
Don’t underestimate the power of self-affirmation if you’re nervous
While positive affirmations aren’t magic words that will make your all your desires come true, Dr Katherine says they do have the power to reframe the way we think – including the way we’re thinking about sex and dating.
She explains: ‘The power of self-affirmation lies within reprogramming our subconscious to encourage ourselves to believe certain truths or goals. Positive affirmations are used to manifest desires – whether that’s for our relationships, our behaviours, or our personal goals.
‘In saying these affirmations aloud, we are influencing our mind to adopt behaviours and actions that will help us achieve these desires.
‘Don’t be fooled – this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to say things out loud and immediately have everything you’ve ever wanted. What it does mean is that you’re encouraging a subconscious change to your behaviour to better work towards what you want.’
Dr Katherine adds that, if you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed by socialising and dating, you can use this technique and tell yourself ‘I’m excited’ when you start feeling nervous.
‘As you’re saying it,’ she says, ‘Think how much you are looking forward to the interaction and all the potential positive outcomes.
‘This technique can really help those who get pre-date jitters and can help to induce a greater level of confidence.’
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