Most of the advice in this article will apply to both guys and gals, and we promise it’ll only be awkwardness (or embarrassment, if you’re awkward in your non-dating life) for a limited time. Plus, this stuff is good for everyone involved, and this isn’t a dating guide that’s all grim and gruff. (If that’s what you want, though, there are plenty of options for those of you who enjoy reading some hot button topics.)

Now, your first inclination may be to banish any notions of dating entirely from your mind, whether you’re a man or woman. We aren’t asking you to give up your love of a good, old fashioned hang-out—you’re welcome to stick with traditional ways of meeting people, going to events, and doing your best to meet new, interesting people. Instead, we’re suggesting that you carve out a little bit of time—an hour or two on a weekend, for example—and practice the full spectrum of dating in a short amount of time.

It can be a matter of life and death, and it can bring you closer to someone you love than you could ever imagine. The number of people who are going through a relationship hell is huge, and that’s why we’re writing this.

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Here’s a brief example of what you can expect:

Someone puts you out in a dating pool

You never actually really meet the person you are going to be dating online. That’s a myth. What you see is what you get.

One of your friends or family goes out and buys your attention on a dating site. You don’t know what they’re buying or what they’re doing—but then, after the minute you get matched, they tell you exactly that, before you can say anything. It’s not that they’re jerks; it’s that they’re not in your awareness yet.

Someone you know joins a dating site

It’s bad enough that your cousin, best friend, or someone else you don’t like gets on a dating site, but when you first find out, you’re not allowed to go on it, either. You’re grounded. You want to be vulnerable, but you can’t. Instead, you’re forced to listen to your friend say, “we’re getting back together” over and over, or ”
We don’t just love you for being confident. We like you for it, too.

The Basics

While the tactics you employ might change as you get older, the concept remains the same: Do what works for you. Are you more of a romantic or a practical person? Is chivalry more important to you than spontaneity? There’s not a “right” way to do things, you just need to find a style of dating that’s comfortable.

Accepting that your style is different from the one that works for everyone else is an important first step. If you believe that other people have their own set of rules that are mutually exclusive with yours—or that dating is going to be inherently frustrating because of it—it’s time to move on.

The biggest tip for beginners is to start with the things you’re good at. Are you super-punctual? You probably have no issue standing up for yourself or being assertive. If you have strong social skills or work well in groups, don’t use them as your only weapons. By tailoring your strengths to your weaknesses, you create a more balanced approach to dating.

If you hate social situations and feel completely out of your element, you’ll have a more enjoyable experience if you’re in the middle of a group or with a friend who can be your wingman. Don’t ever feel ashamed of who you are. Why should you? You’re fabulous!

Your Friends: the First Date Mentor

It’s not surprising that the people you know from your single, pre-existing social circles are the people with whom you’d choose to date: Your friends are always going to be open to the idea, and you have a built in built-in support system. If anything goes wrong, they’ll be there. But if you meet someone who isn’t in your circle, there’s a good chance that they won’t be on your friends’ social radar, and if they do happen to catch wind of your single status, they might not be thrilled.

Don’t worry, though. Your friends will be (and should be) fine with this, and your dating strategy doesn’t have to be kept secret. Tell your closest friends—and, especially, your non-dating friends—about your intentions. Ask them what they think about the idea of you dating someone who isn’t in your circle. Many people will instantly understand. Others might be awkward about the subject, but only because they genuinely care