The Scoop: Many singles took an extended break from dating during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with vaccinations and reopenings underway, it’s time to start looking for love again. Matchmaker Claire AH, the Owner of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking, wants to help people enjoy dating again with the right attitude and a focus on fun. She offers tips for singles getting back in the dating game, including slowing down, getting creative, and finding volunteer opportunities to help make sparks fly in real life.

It’s no secret that stay-at-home mandates and social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic were tough on singles. But now, with vaccinations increasing and businesses starting to reopen, people are ready to date again. Matchmaker Claire AH, Owner of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking, has tips to help.

“It’s been a weird year. Well, a weird 18 months now,” Claire said. “If you’re feeling like you want to get back into it, know that you might feel a little rusty at first, and that’s OK.”

Photo of Matchmaker Claire AH
Claire AH of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking offers tips for singles preparing to start dating again.

The first thing Claire wants singles to know about this new era of dating is that they’re not the only ones who haven’t connected romantically in a long time. The person they date is likely in the same situation, so it’s normal to feel a little awkward at first.

Still, some singles may feel even greater hesitation about getting back out in the dating world. In those cases, Claire recommends talking with a coach about ways to overcome obstacles.

For example, singles should have a clear understanding of their boundaries — especially in terms of COVID-19 — so that they can express them clearly, even before the first date.

Just as singles have different expectations about sex or other physical expressions during dating, it’s fair to want to meet outdoors, wear masks, or suggest other safety measures that make a date more comfortable. If the other person balks, they might be giving a clue about their ability to respect boundaries.

Boundaries surrounding health measures may be just the beginning for many singles. While it’s important to take health seriously, Claire said dating again should also be a lot of fun.

1. Go In With a Positive Attitude

Those who are getting back into the dating scene may feel overwhelmed. To get over the anxiety and fear, Claire recommends that singles focus on ways to go into the experience with a positive attitude.

“Having some sort of a pre-date ritual is important to ensure that you’re in the right mindset,” she said.

She said her clients often pump themselves up for a date by carving out time to get ready in front of the mirror, so they spend as much time as they need to feel prepared and look their best. Others prefer to listen — or even dance to — upbeat music with optimistic lyrics.

Screenshot from Friend of a Friend Matchmaking website
Claire AH suggests singles stay optimistic and maintain a positive attitude.

Another idea to improve your attitude before a date is to give yourself a pep talk in front of the mirror. Positive self-talk is a powerful way to provide support and gain self-confidence.

Claire also likes the idea of remembering how much love is already in a single person’s daily life. If they have pets, she recommends spending some extra quality time with them before a date. Sometimes, a quick call with a loved one before heading out the door can be a great way to smile and get in a good frame of mind.

After all, while dating can feel like a serious endeavor, it’s also just a way to have fun.

“Getting to know yourself and what you want and don’t want can actually be a very pleasurable experience,” she said. “Allowing yourself to be excited (within reason) is a very freeing and positive feeling, too.”

2. Mix Up Your Date Plans & Dating Strategies

Once singles decide to focus on the positive and keep a great attitude, the next step is to ensure the date isn’t boring. Claire recommends choosing something new, like a restaurant, activity, or even exploring different parts of town.

Singles who mix up dating activities can keep things fresh and exciting, she said.

“A date can be anything you’d like,” Claire said. “If you’re both active, why not try an outdoor fitness class together and then grab a smoothie afterward? If one or both of you have dogs, take them on a walk to the dog park. You’ll have dog antics to comment on even if you’re struggling to find the right words.”

Other ideas include finding a new cuisine that neither person has tried before and making a reservation at a restaurant that serves it. Or a couple could make a date out of visiting a farmer’s market and getting inspired with the fresh ingredients to prepare something together at home. Of course, if there’s a strange ingredient, it could be fun to pretend the date is an episode of “Iron Chef.”

“Find a way to include games,” Claire added. “I’m also never opposed to using Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions to guide a date if both people are game. Even just one or two as an ice breaker can be fun in the right context.”

3. Keep an Open Mind

Of course, not every match comes from an online dating app or a seasoned matchmaker. Claire said she also recommends that singles who are ready to date again should get out in the community and make real-life connections. One of the best ways to do that is through volunteering.

The Friend of a Friend Matchmaking logo
Friend of a Friend Matchmaking helps clients find quality matches for satisfying dates.

“Find in-person volunteer opportunities where you’re likely going to be around other volunteers,” she said. “You’re doing good; you’re showing that you’re an outgoing person who wants to make a difference, and you’re getting out there.”

Volunteering is a way to do passionate things while keeping an open mind, whether it’s rescuing dogs, building houses for low-income families, staffing food banks, or creating open spaces in neighborhoods. Singles never know what kind of philanthropic partners they may meet during community service initiatives.

Even if most of the people volunteering nearby are married, or not someone you’re romantically interested in, new friendships from a shared experience can lead to a meaningful match.

“Everyone has a single friend or co-worker or cousin, so you never know,” Claire said.

4. Take Things Slow

Finally, Claire said that singles in the post-pandemic world should know that it’s more important to find someone who’s a good match for them rather than jump into a situation that isn’t healthy or right. More people are slowing down the process, and she said she thinks that’s a smart move.

“They’re spending more time getting to know each other, sure, but they’re also spending more time getting to know themselves,” Claire said. “Some of this comes from feelings of isolation and rumination on why they’re single, but a lot of good can come from that if they look at things realistically without catastrophizing.”

She said many of her clients have started to analyze their narrow preferences and be more flexible about finding a good match. It takes time to get to know someone, so moving past superficial obstacles can help singles identify what they want and need in a relationship.

By moving slowly, it’s also easier to be more creative with dating. Video dating has grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Claire also suggested a few ways to add excitement, so it doesn’t just feel like sitting on a couch. For example, daters could have wine tastings, participate in a virtual lesson, or explore a different culture together — all through a video call.

“They could have that same spirit for in-person dating, too,” Claire said.