Jordan Daniel Lantz is a marketer and writer focused on the ups and downs of queer dating. His current project, The Guy and the Grub, is a personal blog that grades both the restaurants he visits and the guys he dates.

The dating experience can have its share of stops and starts. Take it from someone who has often hopped in and out of the dating pool. It’s important to recognize that dating again can sometimes feel like going back into the ocean after seeing Jaws, especially if you’ve experienced a tough breakup or a rough bout of bad dates and Halloween-level ghosting. But it doesn’t have to be so menacing! 

Dating after a break can also be a fun and affirming experience if you do it with the right attitude and tools.  So here are my five tips for when you’re reentering the dating pool. These lessons are taken from my (many) mistakes along the way as well as some sage advice from people who have walked in your shoes before. Now, let’s dive in…

Tip 1: Heal what’s bruised.

The first step to dating again is to identify what’s hurt you before. If you’re toiling over a tough breakup or you’re bruised from a few too many rejections, start by healing wounds from the past. If left unaddressed, these pesky plights can keep you from presenting your best self, or lead you to someone who isn’t right for you. If accessible, consider therapy or talk to trusted loved ones. This can help you identify what might be holding you back and face it so that you can wholeheartedly welcome in someone new.

Tip 2: Phone a friend!

Sometimes it’s hard to see our own green flags. When I’ve recreated a dating profile after a hiatus, I’ve always sought the advice of my closest friends who can see the best parts of me that my high-anxiety (and sometimes self-deprecating) mind can’t.

Recreating a whole dating profile can seem daunting, but why not have a little fun with it? I remember a couple wine-fueled nights with my best friends going through which pictures I should include, which tags best define me, and what witty responses I should include in my bio. It’s a great way to spend quality time with your friends and hear from them about what makes you a catch. This has the added benefit of a free confidence boost!

Tip 3: Quit the comparison game.

If you’re restarting dating, it’s easy to compare new possible partners to that person from your past.While it’s human nature to use the most recent experience as an analog for the future, it can unfairly cloud your judgment of the new person in your life. You can find yourself either longing for those qualities you miss in the one who came before, or intentionally going with someone completely different and that relationship still not be right. Do your future date, and yourself, a favor by carefully considering what it is you actually want in a partner. What are your non-negotiables? What would you like to see more or less of in a new partner? Be honest in defining what qualities are important to you and stick to them – they’re important for a reason.

Similarly, try not to compare yourself to your date’s ex. I speak from personal experience when I say it’s so tempting to find your date’s exes on social media and go down a spiral of comparing your face, body, friends, or job to theirs. Remember there’s a reason they are on a date with you right now. 

Tip 4: Take it slow…

When it comes to reentering the dating pool, imagine there’s a giant “No Diving!” sign overhead. It’s better to wade in than jump. When it comes to one’s own happiness and heart, taking the time to feel comfortable with each step is important.

In the past, I’ve feverishly swiped through dating apps, or been so glad to have matches that I’d amass them and never reach out, respond, or invest. Rather than treating the apps purely as a numbers game, try engaging fully with 2-3 people at a time. If something sparks, explore it! If not, engage in another bite-sized chunk so you don’t burn out.

Speaking of burning out, make sure you reserve your energy. Remember: if you’re too tired to go on a date, don’t plan a date. Take time to let yourself breathe to know what’s right.

Tip 5: Know your value.

Now I’m saving the hardest for last. It’s one thing to have your closest friends or a flirty guy tell you that you’re stunning or smart or sexy – it’s another to tell yourself! In a world where we have immediate and unfettered access to anything on the internet and social media, it’s easy to compare yourself (remember that earlier tip…) to perfect strangers, celebrities, or people from our past that evoke envy. When you feel yourself slipping into self-doubt, take a moment to remind yourself of your best qualities – say them to yourself and make sure you believe them.
In the dating world, knowing what you bring to the table and exuding confidence is a turn on. So don’t skip the step that makes you most attractive to others! For the right person, it won’t be the brands you wear or the career you have or the people you know – it will be how well you know yourself. Knowing yourself and accepting how you’re showing up to a date allows you to focus on getting to know the person sitting across from you and whether they are a match for you!