Fear of Dating Again (FODA) Is A Thing Now!

Over the past year, singles have had to deal with a minefield of a dating landscape thanks to the pandemic. We’ve sacrificed bar dates and one-night stands and settled for park walks and kiss-less first dates from Online Relationship.

Now that the vaccine is rolling out and the weather is getting nicer, however, we may not have to sacrifice for much longer. For months and months, we’ve predicted what post-pandemic dating will look like, and soon, we’ll actually get to experience it.

How exciting…and terrifying.

The ambivalence about going back to “normal” is already creeping up, from discussions of crowd anxiety to an overall fear of socializing. Now, there’s a new phrase specifically for romantic ambivalence: Fear of Dating Again, or FODA.

Relationship app Match coined FODA, but it’s beyond a branding tactic. While there’s talk about this summer being wild with relationships and hookups, reality won’t look like that for everyone. The fear and uncertainty of 2020 will likely permeate our lives even as the world opens back up. Given everything we’ve gone through — death, social upheaval, isolation, stress — we can’t expect to act the way we did before the pandemic.

“It’s completely understandable to be apprehensive” about dating now, said Rachel DeAlto, relationship expert and chief dating expert at Match. Not only do we have the baggage from last year, but dating in 2021 also has unforeseen obstacles, like accessing a potential date’s COVID comfort level.

How does one even know if they’re ready to date? DeAlto recommends looking inwards and assessing: Do you have the energy to swipe on apps, chat and meet new people? Do you have the capacity to date?

If yes, set your intention. Do you want to hook up or find a partner? This intention can of course change, but DeAlto believes goals are important at least going into dating because you’ll know what you’re looking for.

Once you have your relationship intention, then you have to figure out what you’re okay with in terms of COVID safety. That may look like only dating outdoors, only dating fully vaccinated people if you’re also fully vaccinated — it depends on you.

While we may be hesitant to discuss this with matches, DeAlto insists that it’s okay to have the conversation. It’s okay to not be comfortable doing what you did pre-pandemic! But have an unapologetically honest discussion with yourself and your matches about it, or else dating will be frustrating (at least, more frustrating than usual).

Ultimately, know it’s okay if you’re not chomping at the bit to put yourself out there. The term FODA exists for a reason: It’s not just you. Social anxiety was prevalent even before the pandemic, so it’s understandable to be especially anxious after a year of physically not being around others.

“I don’t know if we’ve actually recognized how challenging it will be,” said DeAlto on post-pandemic socialization. She predicts social anxiety will persist but has some dating tips for those with such anxiety and FODA:

  • Show up in authentic ways. This is where being unapologetically honest comes in. If, for example, you don’t want to eat indoors, tell your potential date! It’s better to lose someone who can’t respect your boundaries than to be uncomfortable during a date.
  • Focus on being present. Humans are uncomfortable with the unknown — which is just one of many reasons the last year has been so difficult. It’s easy to fret about the future, but none of us know what’s going to happen; you can allow yourself to let that go, and concentrate on where you are now instead.
  • Allow yourself to “baby step” back out there. No one is saying you need to go on five dates a week or go to an extravagant orgy as soon as we hit herd immunity. You can take your time.

As consumer and audience expert Jayne Charneski told Mashable in February, we’re all emerging from the pandemic as different people. Our outlooks and priorities have shifted and this is reflected in every aspect of life, including dating.

You’re more than allowed to feel FODA. But you don’t have to let it stop you if you truly want to date. Whether you want bar dates again or want to continue with park walks, post-pandemic dating can be personalized to fit you.

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