Dating and relationships have changed more than I could’ve imagined over the last 18 months, and even that might be quite the understatement.
Despite what you might be thinking, some of these changes have been super positive, with a lot of us even hoping these changes are here to stay. In a survey of 2,900 single or casually dating Americans taken earlier this year, Plenty of Fish found singles are prioritizing forms of intimacy beyond physical. We’re talking emotional and intellectual intimacy, which, for obvious reasons, was hugely beneficial while singles were forced to try to connect with others while social distancing.
So, What’s New in the World of Dating?
Just as in life, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Some of these shifts have inevitably presented new challenges for singles who are trying to date today. ICYMI, Plenty of Fish just released their 5th annual list of Dating Trends, where they polled 6,7000 singles to get a pulse on all things dating. They found that singles are simultaneously experiencing clarity and uncertainty around relationships and dating. 70% of singles are hopping on the bandwagon of a new term, Hesidating (/hez-i-dayt-ing), which means they’re feeling indifferent about dating, unsure if they want to date seriously or casually because life is so uncertain. It’s not surprising that so many of us relate to a term that essentially means we really don’t know how we feel…
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s also noticed people in long-term relationships breaking up more frequently, seemingly after gaining more perspective and clarity around what they’re looking for in a relationship during COVID. Defined by Plenty of Fish as Resigning (/ri-zahyn-ing), this trend might actually be a good thing – we’re raising our standards and don’t want to settle! One-in-five women have done this, and 1/4 of Boomers, which could mean people might be doing this after decades of being together. People are rewriting their stories, and that’s something to celebrate!
Given all the new trends and changes, here are my tips to prepare for dating in 2022:
1. Stop Analyzing and Start Feeling.
You might find yourself too busy analyzing your date to actually be present and enjoy the moment. You may find yourself focused on how your date eats, how they speak or what their five-year plan looks like, and ignore how you feel in their presence.
Instead of engaging with our dates, we’re running calculations in our head and Gambiting (/gam-bit-ing). In other words, treating the date like a calculated game of chess instead of making space for genuine connection – and feelings! If you’ve done this, you’re not alone – 31% of singles admit to Gambiting, including 1/3 of Gen-Zers.
So what can singles do to let go and enjoy the journey as opposed to trying to control the destination? Start by checking in with your body…
- Are you tensing up?
- Can you relax your jaw?
- Breathe a little deeper.
- Tune into their voice.
- Allow yourself to enjoy whatever appeals to you about the date — whether it’s the food, the environment, or their captivating eyes. Okay, maybe you’re not dining with “The One”, but hey, you can always make a new friend!
Paying attention to these kinds of things can help you understand how you feel about your date — and more importantly, it can help you recognize how you feel about yourself in their presence. This is often a much better test to see if the connection is real, rather than any formula or checklist you might come up with in your head.
2. Lean Into the Awkwardness Instead of Avoiding It.
So many people avoid dating (especially first dates!) because we’ve been conditioned to avoid anything that makes us anxious. Relatable, I know… but hear me out. Awkwardness can actually be a part of the chemistry you experience at the beginning of a relationship and nerves can heighten attention and attraction.
To put yourself at ease though, one way to reduce these feelings is to plan dates that are low pressure. Instead of sitting through a lengthy face-to-face meal and serious conversation, get together for a short walk outside, meet on your lunch break, or tack your date onto plans you already have with friends. Not every connection has to begin with intense one-on-one time and sometimes getting to know someone with other people around can be more fun!
On the other hand, if the awkwardness stems from being unsure of how to interact given the current COVID era, just be upfront about your worries! Send a quick message to your date asking about their expectations when it comes to physical contact. This helps avoid Handticipation (/hand-tis-uh-pey-shuhn) – AKA the anxiety that comes with not knowing what physical boundaries to expect. Preempt the awkward hug or handshake dance with a flirty and fun, “are you a hugger or a shaker?” If you’re not ready for first-date kisses or sleepovers, simply let them know before you meet up.
3. Open Yourself Up and Get Vulnerable.
Real talk. Maybe you feel like you’re holding yourself back — in love and in life. Maybe you find yourself making excuses because you don’t want to be vulnerable, like criticizing the dating scene (e.g. nobody wants a real relationship these days) or getting hung up on the past (e.g. I always attract the wrong type). But, the reality is that you can either make a change or make excuses — you can’t do both simultaneously!
Some degree of vulnerability is essential to creating connections. So, in 2022 resolve to let the excuses go and get (at least a little) vulnerable. A good first step? Forget your dating “must-haves” and embrace being open, honest, and having fun while dating.
A great way to be vulnerable in a low-pressure way? Rather than simply talking about your work, your family, and your goals, talk about your big dreams and passions: talk about the causes that matter most to you, what you would do if you weren’t in your current job, or even something a bit more fun – like favorite karaoke songs!
Whatever your dating journey looks like in 2022, make sure you’re having fun and enjoying the ride. No matter what, you’ll always have a good story.