Dating again after a decade

I’m newly single after being in a relationship with my ex-boyfriend for almost a decade. As I slowly dip a toe in the dating world I feel like a fish out of water. Recently I downloaded a couple swipe dating apps but they seem shallow and I’ve heard creepy stories from my girlfriends. I’d rather meet men naturally in public but that also seems awkward. What are some ways to meet new people and make a romantic connection in the modern era?

The dating world is your oyster! But you’re not shooting out of the gate because you’re intimidated. Too often people enter the dating arena with unrealistic explanations — putting little effort in yet assuming much gain. Patience, humor and being open-minded are key. You can choose to develop a thick skin or be ultra sensitive while playing the dating game. And a game it sure is!

Start by connecting to your inner confidence. There are few things more attractive than a confident person. A balanced sense of confidence means you are self-aware and value yourself. Find this by journaling a list of qualities that summarize your unchanging essence: qualities that have nothing to do with your job, finances, relationship status or “stuff” you own. Rather, list what you feel passionate about, what makes you laugh, pulls at your heartstrings and guides how you spend your free time.

Now that you’ve tapped into this part of yourself, own it. Respect your path, your viewpoints and what you have to offer to a prospective date. This translates into you being more transparent and down to earth when you meet someone. Being a straight shooter may not be stereotypical Minnesotan behavior, but I can’t emphasize it enough. Direct, honest communication is refreshing and saves everyone time.

Let’s face it, after being in a relationship with someone for 10 years, you may have let yourself go a little. Tap into your sex appeal if you’ve lost it. Show off your best physical assets. A bit of extra attention to your appearance goes a long way. This is me being realistic, not shallow; first impressions matter and we all make quick appraisals based on appearance.

Reacquaint yourself with the art of flirting. Flirting is an important communication skill used by many species and for objectives aside from sex or romance. We flirt to alter the closeness of a relationship, to explore and gauge interest, to achieve a goal (get a free drink or parking spot), reinforce self-esteem or to simply be playful. Much of flirting is about body language — making eye contact, lifting your posture and engaging in subtle touch, laughter and banter.

Summer is here so there are more outdoor concerts, athletic events and art festivals than you can shake a stick at. Go to a restaurant with a wing-woman and sit at the bar, where most singles mingle. Meeting new people who jive with you is the product of (a) getting out the door to events that reflect your interests, and (b) having the guts to strike up a conversation with a stranger, either in person or online. The latter is key; you have nothing to lose if they aren’t in the mood to chat. Once you do connect with someone, avoid mentally jumping ahead to whether he’s “the one” — this puts way too much pressure on the interaction and people can sniff out desperateness a mile away.

There are numerous apps to pick from these days, each having their own personality. Investigate which ones have a reputation for hooking up and which ones tend toward long-term dating.

Notice if you are making excuses to keep yourself from being vulnerable. Keep in mind that the person on the other side of the table or bed is a human just like you, with a history of wounds and scars. Philosopher Alain de Botton proposes that a more suitable question for a first date would be, “So how are you crazy? I’m crazy like this …”

Although there is the potential for hurt feelings, at the core there are no winners or losers, just humans looking for companionship and validation. After all, we are wired to connect.