A practical, unsexy guide to dating after a long-term relationship

A practical, unsexy guide to dating after a long-term relationship


Written by Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

Getting back into dating after a long-term relationship can be a daunting prospect. Here’s how to take it in your stride.

Dating can be a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times, let alone when it’s been years since you last had to put yourself out there.

While the end of any relationship can be heartbreaking, trying to move on from a long-term relationship can be particularly difficult – not only does being single feel like unfamiliar territory, but the end of a relationship you thought would work out can really mess with your confidence.

However, just because you might be feeling a bit rusty, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to enjoy dating again. So, to help you get back into the swing of things, we asked three relationship experts to share their top tips for getting back into the dating game. 

1. Be upfront about what you want

Knowing what you want – and being upfront about it – will make the dating process a lot smoother.

Being honest about what you’re looking for – both with yourself, and the person you’re dating – is one of the best ways to take the pressure off when you first get back into dating.

“If you’ve just got out of a long-term relationship and you’d prefer to keep your options open before jumping into anything new, that’s completely fine. However, if you’re ready to get back out there and find your new flame straight away, that’s also totally OK,” says Laura Wilkinson-Rea, UK senior director of communications at Tinder.

“Ultimately, just be honest. We know that our members value authenticity above all else, and if you’re upfront about who you are as a person, you’re more likely to find a match that’s right for you.” 

2. Don’t rush into things – take time to reflect 

When you’re used to the seriousness of a long-term relationship, it can be tempting to rush into something new in order to have that feeling once again. But taking it slow is your best bet, according to Logan Ury, Hinge’s director of relationship science.

“It can be tempting to jump into something serious with someone new because you’re more comfortable being in a relationship than being single, but push yourself to step outside that comfort zone,” Ury says. “Intimacy and connection grow over time. Give yourself time to enjoy each stage of the romance.” 

She continues: “49% of Hinge UK users say they adopted healthy new dating behaviours during the pandemic, and 61% of them said they’re taking time to focus on themselves before diving into a relationship. Let that inspire you to do some self-reflection before jumping back into dating.

“Think about what you’ve learned from the relationship. What were the best parts of your relationship, the ones you hope to replicate in the next one? What are the things you want to leave in the past, and will do differently next time? Self-reflection is one of the best ways to break bad dating habits and find your person.” 

3. Focus on connections 

The type of connection you have is the best way to tell whether a date is going well.

Working out what you want from your next relationship can be tricky when you’ve been with one person for so long, so if you’re finding it hard to differentiate between a good or bad match, try to focus on the small moments.

“Success on Bumble, and in relationships in general, is about finding meaningful connections, not having the most matches,” says Dr Caroline West, Bumble’s sex and relationships expert. 

“So, if you’re able to find joy in those moments in conversation, whether subtly flirting or discussing your favourite TV show, that’s a sign to continue – slowly but surely. And when you want to take this face to face, begin with shorter dates, like going for a walk or getting a coffee.” 

4. Start small 

Modern dating can be incredibly overwhelming. Not only are there so many apps to choose from, but the number of people available to swipe left or right on can make finding someone feel like a massive task. However, when you’re just getting back into the dating game, you’ll want to start small.

“You’re just getting back out there, so don’t overdo it by going on a date every night,” Ury suggests. “Give yourself time to ease back into the act. Go at a pace that feels sustainable. I’d rather you go on one date a month than one date a night and end up burning yourself out.” 

West also recommends keeping things small to stop yourself from getting overwhelmed: “Dating with intention is a trend currently being seen globally, with the majority of people on Bumble saying that they are now more upfront with partners about what they want, otherwise known as ‘hardballing’,” she says.

“It’s refreshing and empowering to put yourself first by dating with intent, rather than stepping out with people that aren’t aligned with your beliefs or way of life. Consider limiting yourself to two or three matches at any one time, so you can have in-depth, meaningful conversations with one another.” 

5. Have a pre-date, or get creative 

Having a pre-date could calm your nerves.

Going on a first date with anyone can be daunting, let alone when it’s the first date you’ve been on in years. So, to ease your nerves, try redefining what a ‘first date’ looks like.

“If you’re feeling nervous about your first date with someone new, then ahead of all IRL dates you can put the vibe to the test using Tinder’s video chat feature to break the ice,” Wilkinson-Rae says.

“You could also then opt for a more unusual IRL date to take the pressure off conversation, whether that’s heading to a comedy club or introducing a little healthy competition in a game of mini golf.” 

Images: Getty

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