Need help to start dating

Dear Alice,

I am beginning my sophomore year in college. Last year, I was disappointed to not become friendly with any women. I have been back a week and I'm looking to turn my situation around. I would like to start dating once and for all. Any suggestions?

— More for the Sophomore

Dear More for the Sophomore,

Welcome to the world of dating! While you only asked for suggestions on how to date women, it may also be beneficial to talk about how to build relationships in general, as successful dating techniques are quite similar to the ones used to make friends. Asking questions, learning about someone else, and letting them learn about you is the best way to develop a relationship with someone, both romantic and platonic. There is no consistently successful way to meet people you’re interested in dating or being friends with. Also, risk is almost always involved whenever you initiate an activity, whether that be suggesting a cup of coffee or asking someone on a date, so it's key to think about how willing you are to take those risks and put yourself out there.

As for meeting people, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, both on- and off-campus! When you're on-campus, you could meet people with similar interests through clubs, study groups, classes, religious organizations, school sponsored occasions, events within your major, and extracurricular activities. All of these activities provide opportunities to meet and get to know people in general. As for meeting people off-campus, standing in line at the bank, grocery store, library, and cafe or restaurant are all good opportunities to meet and talk with new people while waiting. You could also explore opportunities to meet new people through an online dating service or activity meetup websites. Furthermore, you could also hang out and talk with others in a group setting as a way to meet people. This creates a more casual environment for getting to know people you might want to know better and can help remove some of the pressure from having to sustain a conversation solely on your own. However, this technique isn't for everyone, as some may find groups overwhelming and prefer to have one-on-one conversations with a new friend. What makes you feel more comfortable? Do you want a friend to introduce you to someone at a party? Or would you rather approach someone after class on your own? Answering these questions could help you find a technique for meeting new people that feels most comfortable for you.

When you find someone you'd like to see again, you could start by telling them how much you've enjoyed talking and getting to know them, and then ask if they'd like to get together some time. Sometimes, people who trying to start dating others may have a fear of rejection, which can make it difficult to ask someone out in the first place. So, being prepared to receive either a "yes" or "no" is crucial as it can help temper the expectations. It's true that sometimes the person being asked out will say "no" for any number of reasons. Remember that someone (maybe more than one!) will likely say "yes".

When someone agrees to spend time with you and you're deciding on where to go, picking a place where you feel comfortable and that you think your new friend or date might also enjoy may help. You may want to give them two or three options, such as, "We could have coffee or tea at __________, ice cream at __________, or brunch at __________.  What are you in the mood for?" If you're not interested in going out somewhere, you might find that spending about an hour talking and getting to know each other feels more comfortable.

Ending an outing can sometimes be awkward since it's not always clear what the next step may be, so it may help to have an exit plan in mind. For example, after about an hour, you could say casually, "Well, I have some studying to do, but I can walk you back home, if you like, and then maybe we can get together another time," or, "I'm enjoying spending time with you. Can you stay another hour, or would you like to walk around for a bit? Then I'll need to get back to studying." Be sure to let your friend know you had fun (if you did), and would like to hang out again (if you want to).

Through dating, people learn more about the qualities they value or find attractive, as well as those that they dislike or can't tolerate. Dating also is a way to build friendships. You can get to know different people, regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue a romantic relationship with them.

Best of luck!

Last updated Nov 26, 2021
Originally published Aug 31, 1994

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