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1.Figure out what you want There are any number of reasons someone might be dating, and only one of those reasons is to meet someone to marry. These reasons include exploring their sexual orientation, finding a secondary or tertiary partner, and meeting people in a new city, to name just a few. “It's so important to be honest with yourself about what you want, because otherwise you won’t get what you actually want,” says mental health professional and relationship expert Jor-El Caraballo. “It's so important to be honest with yourself about what you want, because otherwise you won’t get what you actually want." —Jor-El Caraballo, relationship expert To distill your answer, simply ask yourself, "What do I want?" Your answer to this question will guide how you approach dating, including what apps you download (if any), what you put in your bio (if applicable), and how you respond when a potential partner asks you what you’re looking for. 2. Get realistic Beyond figuring out what you want to gain from dating, you need to ascertain how much effort you’re willing to put into it, says Caraballo. After all, wanting to date and actually prioritizing doing it mindfully are not the same thing. So, consider whether there's anything in your life you're willing to give up in order to dedicate more time and energy to dating. For example, are you going to exercise one day a week less? Will you spend less time on TikTok? There are only so many hours in the day, Caraballo says, so unless you figure out what you’re going to cut back on, you’ll have a tricky time adding in dates. As for how much you’ll need to cut back elsewhere in order to date? Ultimately, it's subjective, depending on the current demands on your schedule and the magnitude of your dating, sex, intimacy, and relationship goals. “You should put in as much time as you reasonably can to ensure that your dating life is helping you hit your marks,” says Caraballo. “Those looking for more stable or permanent connections would do well to invest more time into finding their right fit,” he says. Of course, simply dedicating more time to dating won't guarantee that you meet your dating goal (and, in fact, you might meet that goal without any extra time dedicated), but as with anything else in life, directing effort to an intention is a helpful means for achieving goals. 3. Listen more People are often more worried about being interesting than they are interested, says Dr. Suwinyattichaiporn. The consequence of this is that in order to be interesting, you might not be listening well. This can lead to one person leaving a date feeling like they could write the other’s biography, while the other leaves without any information that would actually help them decide if they want to see someone for another two hours. A little self-reflection will help you understand which of the two categories you’re more likely to fall into. 4. Do activities that you actually like “Doing things on dates that you actually enjoy will make it easier not to get weighed down from dates that aren’t exciting or joyous,” says Caraballo. So while dinner and a movie and Netflix and chill may be popular go-to date-night plans, they don’t need to be your go-to date night plans. If you've always wanted to try making pottery, do it with someone you’re interested in courting. And if you love wine-tasting on the weekend, see if you can find someone to join you. You could even invite a date to things you have to get done. For example, if your dog need to get walked, why not invite your right swipe to meet you for a dog-friendly hike or a hang at the dog park. Do you need to go grocery shopping? Why not invite your date to your favorite farmer’s market? Who says errands can't be dates? 5. Actually meet up If you’re just looking for a sexy pen-pal, having a text-only relationship is A-okay. But if you’re ultimately looking for an in-person relationship, Dr. Suwinyattichaiporn recommends trying to meet up ASAP. “Chemistry is different face-to-face than it is via text, so the sooner you know, the better,” she says. If you generally prefer getting to learn more about someone before meeting up with them in person, she recommends FaceTiming the person or calling them on the phone ahead of meeting up. Both mediums will allow you to collect additional information so you can make an informed decision about whether this someone you’d actually want to meet IRL. 6. Ditch the old-school rules As the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. And as far as old-school dating rules go, nothing could be more true. So with regard to questions about how long you should wait to have sex or who pays for the first date, Caraballo says to ignore any preconceived notions. “These dating rules are based on the idea that you must do things right, or you risk losing a potential suitor,” he says, adding that this simply isn’t true. The kind of person who is a good match for you won’t be turned off by things like the speed with which you text them back, for example. What does matter is that you communicate your expectations and ask the same of them: “That kind of vulnerability and courage is a fruitful ground for any kind of connection to grow and flourish,” he adds. 7. Be proactive about bettering your relationship skills You know employers value go-getter employees, and according to Dr. Suwinyattichaiporn, your partners and potential partners will value that instinct, too. “People who are good at dating are proactive about constantly deepening the relationships that they’re exploring so that those relationships don’t get stuck,” she says. “People who are good at dating are proactive about constantly deepening the relationships that they’re exploring so that those relationships don’t get stuck.” —Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, PhD, sex and relationship expert. In practice, that looks like scheduling hang times in advance, actually planning dates, asking deeper questions, being increasingly vulnerable, and fostering deeper intimacy, says Dr. Suwinyattichaiporn. 8. Take a break when you need to Put bluntly, dating isn't always going to be super exciting and joyous, but it shouldn’t weigh you down, consume your energy, or send you into a spiral of hopelessness.
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“If you find that you're starting to get disillusioned, it's completely valid to take a break for two days or two months or however long you need,” says Caraballo. When you have the schedule capacity and emotional bandwidth to show up and be vulnerable enough to date another person, try again then, he says. The only timeline in dating that matters is your own.