Dating is awkward, sweet and challenging -- often at the same time. But don't worry, we've got more than a few tips for surviving the dating scene and improving your dating experience.
Title image by Tina Mailhot-Roberge. Photos by Lasse Kristensen (Shutterstock), Ed Yourdon, Paul Iddon, madmolecule, Venimo (Shutterstock), keren-seg (Shutterstock), karen roach and EMIL AZIATIK, Ed Yourdon, Lars Wichert, madmolecule.
10. Don't Be Scared of Online Dating
Many people are still on the fence about online dating, but these FAQs can help clear up any misconceptions you might have about online dating and help you give it a try. Online (or offline) dating can take up a lot of time, but you can fit it in even with a crazy schedule.
9. Improve Your Online Dating Profile Photo
Your profile photo isn't just there to show prospective dates how good-looking you are, it can also tell others some important things about you, if yours showcases you being active or with your pets. Check out these tips for more useful profile photos, but don't worry if yours isn't "perfect" -- a more down to earth photo instead of a glamour shot can make you seem more approachable.
8. Meet New Potential Dates By Going to the Right Places
It's hard to meet new people, much less lifelong friends or potential partners, after uni. Even if you are using online dating, it's still a good idea to physically get out there -- to places where you might find others who share your interests and increase your chances of finding your next date. Here are some suggestions on how to meet new people in the real world (besides the bar).
7. Figure Out Your Major Deal Breakers
We all have things we definitely don't want in a partner. Make a list of five reasonable deal breakers (such as drug use or lack of direction in life) at the start and you can avoid wasting precious time. Three personal habits -- regarding punctuality, orderliness, and thriftiness -- tend to be the biggest deal breakers.
Be realistic, however, with your expectations for yourself and prospective dates. When you're older and perhaps re-entering the dating scene, your deal breakers might include "want kids/don't want kids" or just, at first, "must own a bed frame".
6. Find Out More About Your Date Before You Meet Him or Her
We're not talking getting all internet stalker creepy, but a little online research can help you vet your next date and stay safe when you're meeting a stranger you'd only met online. A simple people directory or public records search could help you verify the person you're meeting is who they say they are.
5. Set Yourself Up for the Perfect First (and Second and Third, etc.) Date
When it's your first date, you'll probably want to make a great first impression. The basics -- dressing nicely, being polite, being a good listener, and otherwise using good communication skills -- will go a long way.
For more advice, check out our scientific guide to the perfect first date, which includes things like asking riskier questions and minding your body language. Even if the first date doesn't go well, though, don't worry; we've all been there and some of us have even gone on to successful relationships after embarrassing beginning dates.
No matter how many dates you've been on, you can also make every date night count by making special meals, planning amazing dates, going on conversation-sparking activities (such as taking a class together or going for a hike), or going on double dates.
4. Put the Phone Down
This goes along with having better dates and communicating better, but it deserves its own mention. Your relationships will improve and you'll better connect to your date when you check your phone only when you're alone.
It's annoying when others can't help looking at their phones when we're around, but we might be doing it too without realising. Consider turning off your phone notifications when you're on a date. With your mobile out of sight, you could even get faster service at restaurants.
3. Make Difficult Dating Decisions Easier by Knowing What You're Getting Into
These heady decisions will require you to think things through before committing. If you're still stuck, these four tricks can help you make a more logical decision, although sometimes you just have to follow your gut.
2. Know When It's Time to Breakup
All couples go through relationship hiccups (often stemming from common communication mistakes). You can recover from a bad fight by facing the issue(s) straight on and also stepping back a bit, but after repeated heartache, it might be time to call a relationship off.
Breakups suck and the hurt can stick with us for a long time, but sometimes you just have to move on. (Change your ringtone and otherwise banish your ex from your daily digital life to get over it more quickly.) You might possibly be able to get along with your ex after a breakup, but don't worry if that's not possible.
1. Find Out If You and Your Date Are Compatible for the Long-Term
On the other side of the spectrum: When a relationship starts to get serious, you might wonder if the other person is The One and you can finally stop dating. Ask three questions -- related to horror movies, travel and living on a sailboat -- and you might better gauge whether your date is the perfect match for you, according to data from OKCupid.
You'll probably also want to know if you're sexually compatible with a partner or if your sexual differences are deal breakers. Long-term relationships and marriage are hard work -- but so is dating. It's the little things that make relationships last. By the way, there's a maths formula for dating and deciding whom to marry! (But don't take it too seriously, love isn't about cold-hearted calculations.)
Bonus: Ask Dr. Nerdlove
Dating "doctor" Harris O'Malley regularly dishes out advice for more complex or awkward dating issues on Kotaku, such as: what if you just want casual sex, your boyfriend/girlfriend is a terrible kisser, or you keep getting friend-zoned.