Sometimes dating can seem like a race to an engagement-ring shaped finish line. That's especially true if all your friends are getting hitched while you're dealing with the uncertainty of trying to connect with new people. "Entering the uncharted waters of dating can be a bit unsettling," says Barbie Adler, president and founder of boutique matchmaking firm Selective Search. Here, a few things to remember to make dating more delightful than discouraging.
1. Bad dates happen to good people.
Some dates are so awful, you want to lock yourself in your apartment, watch Netflix, and never come out, just eternally questioning what you're doing wrong. "The trick is to not take it personally," says Adler. "Just because a date doesn't go as planned or there isn't any chemistry doesn't mean you're lacking." Sometimes you and a date won't click, and that's OK.
2. Have fun!
Potential romantic partners can usually tell if you're dating with the sole mission of falling in love. "It's important to enjoy yourself when dating," says Arlene Goldman, Ph.D, a licensed psychologist and sex therapist with a private practice in Philadelphia and co-author of The Secrets of Sexual Ecstasy. That means realizing that not every person will be The One, but you can still have a fun along the way.
3. Don't OD on social media.
Is it tempting to scroll through a date's Facebook to glean some hints about who he is? Yes, but that doesn't mean you should give in. Beyond the cursory checking your date out, don't dive deep into his digital footprint. "Take your research with a grain of salt, and make sure you put the emphasis on learning more about that person through live connections over the phone, or better yet, in person," says Adler.
4. Be yourself.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to be perfect to end up with someone incredible. "Don't be afraid to show who you are," says Goldman. Yes, even if that includes some strange-but-lovable qualities. "The right person will love your quirks, or at the very least accept them," says Goldman.
5. Do you actually like this person?
You may be laser-focused on what the other person thinks of you, but be sure to flip the script. "Are you dating this person because you really enjoy being with them, or just because you want to be in a relationship or get married?" says Adler. That's not to say it's wrong to have relationship goals—just that you should make sure to pursue them with someone you're actually gaga over.
6. Take your time.
It can be all too easy to rush into something because it seems like everyone else is riding off into happily-ever-after. "Finding love is not a sprint," says Adler. "Don't become discouraged if you don't find a connection right away." Instead, see each not-quite-right date as a chance to hone what you're looking for and get excellent at putting your best, most charming foot forward. After all, practice makes perfect!
7. Remember, you're your own person.
When you're infatuated with someone, you might want to drop everything that doesn't involve spending time with the object of your affections. No matter how quickly you're falling, holding on to your sense of self is essential. "Eventually you'll want to get back to your friends and activities," says Goldman. Plus, when you include a new person in your life rather than making your entire life revolve around them, you can better evaluate how they fit into your long-term future.