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How to Start Dating: A Guide for Beginners and Starting Again

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

Many say getting back into dating is like riding a bike. We prefer to refer to how to start dating as relearning a language or becoming conversant in a new one.

Some aspects are familiar, some never change, some esoteric ones you’d forgotten about and the fact the culture has moved on. For those learning how to start dating for the first time, it can often feel overwhelming.

But it’s really not when you stop getting in your own way, which we hope to help you with this guide.

9 helpful hints to getting out there and starting dating

With over 20 years of industry experience, you could say eharmony’s become experts on those looking for a meaningful connection online and fostering their potential. Here are some simple tips on how to start the dating journey.

1. Self-Reflection and getting yourself ready

The first thing you need to ask yourself is, are you dating for the right reasons and are you emotionally ready for the demands of a relationship? Dating isn’t a cure for other life problems. Assess your goals, values and what type of partner you’re seeking.

2. Boosting your self-confidence

Self-esteem can have a profound effect on your dating life and sorting it can feel like a Gordian knot of psychological hangups. Here are some quick methods for those starting dating.

  • Reduce negative self-talk.
  • Take stock of your positive traits.
  • Build more healthy relationships in general.
  • Regularly challenge yourself.

3. Set dating goals to help guide you along how to start dating again

This is about self-awareness. Are you looking to explore and keep it casual, companionship or are you looking for something more serious? This will not only affect your approach but also your expectations.

4. Pick the right approach

There’s a time and a place to look for dating opportunities – which is particularly pertinent for those looking at how to start dating for the first time. So look out for cues from people at social events and random encounters and explore online platforms.

5. Follow proper dating etiquette

We’ve done an updated article on modern dating etiquette. But the three main considerations of modern etiquette revolve around who pays for dates (the answer isn’t as simple anymore), properly following up and managing both of your expectations.

6. Try taking things online

This can be a bit jarring for those exploring how to start dating again. Interactions tend to have their own etiquette online that can feel brusque. The key though is building your profile properly and picking the right service for your dating style and goals, not the most popular one, while still being safe online.

7. Cultivate conversation and communication skills

For more introverted people looking at how to start dating, the initial approach and one-on-one aspect can be intimidating. But remember dating is about the journey, not just the destination. Cultivate more engaging conversational and active listening skills by practicing with friends and acquaintances.  

8. Focus on making the first date memorable

First dates are a make-or-break moment in a budding connection. Here are some key areas:

  • Picking the right venue.
  • Preparing some conversation topics as a backup.
  • Keep modern dating etiquette in mind.

Read our full article on making first dates special.

9. How to start dating again by building a connection

It’s important to build rapport as the date progresses. Don’t be afraid to go deep and share openly with each other, within proper boundaries. Chemistry can’t be faked but you can build on what’s already there by being authentic and attentive.

How to start dating: Unpacking various scenarios

Dating can be a very different practice depending on the context. What is dating today exactly? So beyond general tips, let’s take a quick look at some tips for dating in various scenarios.

How to start dating again and also for the first time:

  • At different stages in your life – Dating in your 30’s and 40’s works a little differently from your 50’s and senior years.
  • When you have cultural differences – Different backgrounds and cultures can sometimes prove an obstacle for some relationships, depending on value commonalities. But there can be quite a practical dearth between Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Black, Latin, Arab values in a relationship, especially when particularly culturally disparate or insular.
  • When you have different religions – This isn’t as insurmountable as you may think and can often be overcome with effective communication and compromise. It’s just that Christians, Jewish people, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus not only have very different statutes on values and conduct but also vastly different afterlife notions, which may be disquieting for some couples that these concepts are important too.
  • When you’re LGBTQI+ – These relationships, for example, gay or lesbian dating, have become more commonly accepted and normalized in this social climate, particularly in flourishing urban areas.
  • Why you’re single – Dating can be a distinct process depending on whether you came from a divorce, were widowed, single parenting or bad break ups.  

How to start dating – The FAQs you need

Dating can be complex. Particularly in today’s world where everything seems to be moving so quickly. So we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about how to start dating, how to handle the process and how to grow it into a relationship.

How to start dating for the first time?

Context is important here. When it comes to how to start dating, the definition that springs to mind is young adults exploring dating life. To them, we’d advise patience and self-care. These things develop organically with your social life. As you grow more confident, dating starts to feel like a natural aspect of interactions. 

However, some people may only get into dating in earnest in their early-to-mid twenties, or even thirties. While perfectly normal, many older people looking at how to start dating feel a bit stigmatized. But 1-in-3 American adults have never been in a romantic relationship so it’s far from unusual1

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Know what you want from dating before you start
  • Take it slow
  • Accept that rejection is just a part of the process and learn to shrug it off
  • Be open about your lack of experience– it may scare off some (the wrong type) but that’s fine
  • It’s going to take practice so be kind to yourself on your first few attempts
  • Rely on your friends for support
  • Enjoy yourself– dating is about having fun

And remember, a lack of dating experience doesn’t mean you lack life experience or maturity. Those qualities will serve you well in modern dating.

How to start dating again?

Perhaps you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship or took some time off from dating. Regardless, jumping back in that dating pool can feel intimidating. It can feel like dating culture has moved on without you.

The first thing you need to look at when figuring out how to start dating again, is if you’re really ready. Some people get a knee-jerk reaction to hit the apps and find a rebound relationship to ease the feeling of loneliness and failure from their previous relationship. But you need to grieve. Those wounds must heal before you can date normally again.

Start off slow as you rediscover everything you love about dating life. Pacing yourself keeps you better protected as you rediscover aspects like rejection, dating etiquette, healthy relationship building, dating disappointments and how governed by luck it can sometimes feel.

It’s also important to remember that dating again is going to summon some negative memories and hangups. Try to avoid talking about your ex with dates and don’t think of it as starting over again. Reframe it as the beginning of a completely new adventure.     

How to find a date in modern dating?

Dating and its definition haven’t changed much. Modern singles aren’t having a new brand of conversation, we haven’t developed radical novel methods of making each other laugh (unless you missed the introduction of GIFs and memes), and the rulebook for building healthy intimacy remains intact.

What has changed is people’s motivations. Singles date less out of loneliness and more to experience connectivity and intimacy. So modern singles are less available but more communicative and emotionally expressive when they do date.

Here’s how to make the most of it.

  • Gender roles have relaxed, so all singles should be proactive in their search for love
  • Ignore hook-up culture and situationship singles– just be clear on your expectations with others
  • Don’t date to fill a hole in your life. Dating isn’t there to fix you
  • Avoid acting desperate or needy
  • Focus more on attracting the right people than having wide appeal
  • If you haven’t yet, it’s time to explore online dating  

You should also reevaluate how you define a date as you consider how to start dating. People have become more sparing with their free time. So dates can now be a quick coffee after work, a burrito outside a food truck or just a walk in a park. This is often just to establish initial chemistry.   

How does a first date work?

First dates are certainly distinct from other dates and tend to have a structure, dating etiquette and range of emotions of their own.

If you’re dating someone you already know, the first date will be about the possibility of shifting the nature of your relationship. Consider whether there’s enough there to make it worth taking that step.

For online dates, you’ve likely chatted a bit and have some ideas about them, but you’re still going to feel some nerves and apprehension. As relative strangers, building rapport, interest and trust are most important.

Here’s how to start dating the right way from the first date:

  • Plan ahead and focus on something you’d both enjoy but remember not to make it too elaborate
  • Keep in contact beforehand to show you’re invested and to keep them invested
  • Never show up late
  • Body language is far more important than words on a first date, as you haven’t built rapport yet– make sure it’s open and responsive
  • Ask open-ended questions that you can use to springboard into other topics
  • Be upfront about your expectations to make sure they’re aligned
  • Don’t hog the conversation

One of the most important first date tips: Remember to always be yourself. It takes courage and vulnerability, but you want to end up with someone who gets the real you.

How to start a relationship?

Taking dating to the relationship level is a big step. The first thing you need to ensure is you’re doing it for the right reasons, which should center on a genuine desire to be with that person, not just to be in a relationship. You also need to ask yourself what contributed to the end of your last relationship on your part, and have those aspects changed?

If you’re quite sure this is the one, here’s how to start dating for a relationship. The first thing is consistency. Remain a present and dependable aspect of their life to start building the trust and intimacy that will be the mortar of your relationship’s foundations.

You should also be open and communicative with the other person about your feelings to make sure they’re in line with yours and that they’re in the right space for a relationship to begin with. Also, just because you’ve decided to move forward with them, never stop evaluating as the relationship grows.

As it deepens, focus on how they make you feel. Can you be vulnerable, courageous, anxious and honest with them? Is intimacy deepening or are you stalling? Remember to always maintain your own power and individuality so that if it doesn’t work out, you can carry on in a positive direction. 

Looking for further online dating tips?

Feel like online dating doesn’t work for you? It’s probably nothing you can’t fix. Take a look at our online dating tips and how-to guide.

How to start dating with eharmony

Starting dating with us couldn’t be simpler because we do all the heavy lifting for you, connecting you directly with other authentic, relationship-minded singles with whom you already share a high degree of psychological compatibility, thanks to our sophisticated Compatibility Matching System. We also let you quickly filter based on factors such as age, education, desire for children, religion, region and so much more.

What is dating without a little excitement and boldness?

It sounds a bit sappy, but we’re all different and distinct and, yes we’re just going to say it even if you don’t believe it, special. So it stands to reason each dating journey would be equally as unique. Even when you can’t see it, someone out there is waiting to discover you.

When wondering how to start dating, you just need to focus on self-reflection on your values, what you want from the experience and what you think is holding you back and, most crucially, learning from experiences as you continue along this exciting pathway.

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