How to get back in the dating game

So you’ve found yourself single after years of marriage or a long-term relationship? The first thing you’ll notice is that how we date has changed massively with apps such as Bumble and Tinder. And that’s a good thing, because who has time to hang around bars hoping to spot a handsome stranger?

You probably met your ex the old-fashioned way – at work, in a pub or in a club, remember them? - so embracing new technology can seem daunting at first. Actually, it’s terrifying, especially if only one person has seen your pants for ten years.

Even the thought of having to get dressed up and spend the evening talking to a stranger seems impossible, but here are my tips for getting the nerve up to date again (by someone who’s thought: “No way”, done that, been dumped and still finds all this dating business surprisingly fun). Grab a glass of wine, we’re going in…

You’re in control
First up, don’t panic: a first date is more about having a flat white, not dragging a man back to your ladylair.

Put yourself out there
Stuck where to start? You can fill in a profile on a dating site such as match.com or download Bumble, the free app where women have to make the first move. This one takes a bit less work.

Put in some brief details and a couple of photos and see what’s out there. Swipe right on the hotties and left on the notties. You’ll only see people who’ve swiped right on you, so cast your net wide for a better chance of matches. If you want to suddenly feel popular, lower your age range to 28. And if you’d rather be realistic, cast your geographical net wide.

Start the chat
“Hey” is your most basic opening line, so it’s much better to point something interesting out about their profile, from “Nice dog! Is it yours?” to “Is that tiger still alive?”

If you don’t make the first move, matches disappear within 24 hours, so get in there and if at any point you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, unmatch and they disappear. Yes, it’s ghosting, but other people have no qualms about doing it and if you haven’t met yet, your dating karma is clear.

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Choose your photos wisely
When it comes to profile pictures, selfies are hard to get right so enlist a good friend to take some snaps instead. If you have children, bribe them to do it – yes, it might take 39 attempts, but they’re more likely to make you laugh and catch you at your most natural.

Safety first
Keep communication on the app and don’t give out your phone number until your instinct tells you to. There comes a point in every woman’s dating career when she gets an unwanted photo involving bad bathroom tiles and a distinct lack of pants. Delete, unmatch and move on.

Make your move
If you match with someone and the chat’s going well, don’t send too many messages before asking them if they fancy a date – unless you want to end up in the friend zone.

Take the plunge and ask them out for coffee. Make the first date a short one because “micro-dating” is a thing now. Never commit to dinner or a whole evening - dining with someone who dribbles carbonara down their front or talks to your cleavage is awkward. An hour is long enough to gauge whether you like someone, so coffee or a quick drink after work is perfect.

The great thing about having lots of first dates is you only need one killer outfit. Buy one thing that makes you feel confident, the more distinctive the better so your blind date can identify you: “I’ll be the one looking like Miley Cyrus’ mum in the white cowboy boots.”

Fancy a second date?
Dating is a numbers game, and although the first four matches might have shoes or conversation that make you want to run, the fifth could have perfect teeth and make you laugh for hours.

The odds of falling in love within ten minutes of meeting someone are pretty slim (but be warned: it can happen), so the more first dates you have, the more confident you’ll become. Anyway, a bad date always makes for a funny story on a good one.

Manners, not games
Dating apps give you more choice, which gives some men the illusion they’re Brad Pitt, so don’t be surprised if you think you clicked, but he doesn’t suggest a second date. Just move on.

Playing games takes a lot of effort, so keep your post-date communications straightforward. If you’re not interested, let them know if they contact you again. “It was lovely to meet you, but I’m busy with my job/children/goldfish so am taking a break from dating” is better than ignoring messages. And if you enjoyed a date, send a message on the way home to tell them, then get ready to do it all over again but without the urge to run.