Hesitant to start a new relationship after a previous one ended bitterly? The key is to ease your way into the new one.
Clinical psychologist Judith Sills likens re-entering the 'dating game' to making a comeback to a foreign orbit in her book Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex And Love When You've Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, Or Distracted (Springboard).
"Re-entry is a tricky time and it requires more preparation and self-awareness than merely how best to market yourself with a great computer profile. (Though such advice helps - no question about it.) If you are looking for a safe and happy landing, re-entry needs some solid understanding of the process, and a damn good heat shield," The Daily Telegraph quoted Sills, as writing.
But it's worth the effort, says Sills, after all, "At the other end of re-entry is connection, and that's worth a lot of shake, rattle and roll."
Psychologist Elisabeth Shaw says: "People often feel defined by their last 'failure' and until they start to look ahead, the memory of that last person in their life can hold them back. It is worth getting back to dating, once you feel ready, as it helps remind you about the good parts of yourself and that there is hope for the future."
Here are some simple steps to help you date smoothly again:
1. Boost self-esteem. It's hard to attract someone if you don't feel attractive, inside and out. "It's about saying, how do I feel about myself? Am I presenting myself in the most attractive way?" says Shaw. Update your wardrobe, join a gym, broaden your interests through education, clubs or hobbies.
2. Be ready. Is your ex-partner's name coming up a lot during dates? Are you hoping to make him jealous? Then you're not ready to date, says Shaw. "Spend more time trying to resolve your issues and make peace with them," she says. You also need to be open to the idea of dating, says Sills. "Turning single involves a shift of perspective that might rewrite your past, recast your future or redefine some central aspect of your sense of self. Getting in sync with your new single social identity, feeling comfortable with it, and seeing it through positive eyes - all of this is part of what makes getting naked again plain work." Speak with friends or a counsellor to work through outstanding issues.
3. Be proactive. Divorced mother of two, Phoebe Lee, 43, says, "I hate it when someone says they have the perfect guy for you and never deliver. Ask them to set it up." You can create your own opportunities, too, say Barbara and Dick Jarvis in It's Never Too Late: Finding Love At Any Age (Lothian). They suggest volunteering, browsing in bookshops and art galleries. "Maybe you could help things along a bit," they write. "How about making a change from the people you regularly deal with, such as your bank, garage, or medical centre? If you meet someone appealing, catch their eye, make light conversation, be friendly."
4. Find fun friends. "Partnered girlfriends might love to see a girlie movie, but it may not be what you're wanting," says Shaw. Ask friends and family to put you in touch with other fun-loving singles.
5. Take it slowly. Build up confidence with double dates and online chat sites, and be aware of your vulnerabilities. "If you meet someone who's very attracted to you and you've come out of a relationship where you haven't felt attractive, that can be very seductive," warns Shaw. "But you could be comparing apples with oranges and you need to get the relationship to the point where it's more established to judge it."
6. Not dating, socialising. Relax your attitude and reduce the pressure, says Shaw. "Just think, 'I'm meeting a person who may or may not go on to be a friend of mine'. Not, 'Oh my God, this might turn sexual!' Talk it down."? Fess up. The more genuine you are, the more relaxed you'll be. "If you say, 'This is the first date I've been on in a while and I'm quite nervous', usually the other person will say, 'So am I'," says Shaw. "Then you can both let go of your nervousness."
7. Get with it. If you're offended when a date texts instead of phones, or you can't remember how to bring up the subject of safe sex, speak to single friends, chat online and learn how things are done now. The good news, says Shaw, is the essence of dating hasn't changed. "You can be 60 and thrown by the hot flush of romance as much as you can when you're 20."