Q: I’m back on the dating scene after the pandemic, and I’m finding it really awkward. I think I’ve forgotten how to flirt, and I feel uncomfortable trying to approach someone. I’m usually quite shy anyway, and I used to meet people by going along to events and talking to them, but meeting people in bars always feels like a lot of pressure. I’m not a big drinker either and don’t like being around really drunk people as it feels messy. Most of the events I used to go to aren’t back up and running yet after the pandemic, so I don’t have those comfortable spaces that I am used to. I feel lonely and really want to meet someone as it’s been a while since I had a relationship. I feel like my shyness is holding me back, and I am tired of feeling so awkward on dates. I end up feeling frustrated and like I haven’t shown off who I am and what I am really like. I feel like giving up on dates but, at the same time, I really want to meet someone special. How do I get over this block?
Dr West replies: I don’t think you are alone in feeling shy on dates and finding them to be stressful events. This is part of the reason people do meet in pubs while drinking as it can give a sense of confidence. However, it’s really hard to make an accurate judgement of someone when we are under the influence, and humans are often known to make poor choices when drunk, such as eating an entire kebab at 3am or kissing someone we actually aren’t really into.
You sound like the type of person who values getting to know someone in a relaxed environment while talking about mutual interests. Rather than continue to spend time in spaces that are uncomfortable and, frankly, a waste of your time, spend time researching upcoming events in areas that you like. While not all the events you used to go to might be back, newer ones might have sprung up, or look different to how they were before. Websites like meetup.com have tons of events around the country for a huge variety of interests, from kayaking to comedy and beyond. These are usually framed as ways to meet up and find new friends, but they also have dating-specific events.
Daytime events will also usually be sober events, so that may remove some sense of pressure for you. Sober dating has also increased over the pandemic, and there is a huge increase in outdoor dating, day dating, and going for coffee instead of a pint. There are also explicitly sober events going on around the country, so checking those out on Google might result in finding one close to you.
Dating apps can provide a way to explore digital intimacy and find new partners outside of a pub. Make sure your profile has a few current pictures of you that are clear, smiley, and reflect who you are and what you are interested in — so, for example, if you have any pictures of you engaging in your hobbies, this gives people a sense of the kind of things you are interested in. Make sure to fill out your profile — not too long, but not too short either. Explain what you like to do, what you are looking for, and a little bit …….