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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

How To Actively Start Dating, When You’ve Never Dated Before

In the digital age, a prospective date could be a swipe or click away. Given the plethora of dating apps and sites that exist to help you find that special someone, it’s not difficult to filter and browse through the profiles of other people who are similarly looking for a relationship. Even offline, it’s easy to get out and meet new faces. For those who haven’t previously dated before, here are four ways you can take the leap into the dating pool. 

1. Take a class at a community center.

If you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill, why not kill two birds with one stone? Going into class, everyone’s starting out on the same foot and open to helping and getting to know each other. Jackson*, a sophomore at York University, took a weekly culinary class where he met his former girlfriend. “I was surprisingly not too bad at cooking but my cute partner was awful at it. We had a lot of laughs throughout the program and ended up going out after the class ended.”

Like Jackson, Aaron*, a junior at Brock University, went on a couple dates with a woman he met through classes at a community center. “I’m a huge rock-climbing fanatic so I go to YMCA regularly to use their rock wall. Apparently, she was also a regular and just as enthusiastic about it so I wanted to get to know her and eventually asked her out.”

When it comes to first dates, Aaron suggests going on a hike or stopping by an artisan bakery cafe. “Going out for coffee or a movie is a little too typical so instead, I’ll schedule a date late afternoon to get some dessert together if she has a sweet tooth.” He says that hikes by the lake or at a park are another neat date idea as “you’re both surrounded by nature and there are fewer distractions.” Basically, creating a unique and memorable experience increases the likelihood they’ll say yes to a second date. 

Related: This Dating App Is About to Change the Game for Women 

2. Talk to family and friends.

You can tell those close to you that you’re single and open to dating because a mutual contact can provide more information than an online profile about who they’re setting you up with. It’s also the safest option because your friends or family know your quirks best, which means there’s a great probability they have an even better understanding of what type of person you’re likely to be most comfortable with than a dating algorithm.

Natalie*, a freshman at Seneca College, went on several prearranged dates that were organized by friends. “It wasn’t half bad and definitely better than I was expecting,” she admits. “The first guy I went on a blind date with was really sweet. He was my sister’s boyfriend’s roommate. I personally feel safer going out with guys my friends recommend because they’ve already vetted the person and can vouch for their character. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have set me up with them.”

After the initial couple dates, Natalie was invited to his place where they cooked a meal together. “He texted me a couple days in advance and asked what type of foods I liked. I said I loved Thai food so he bought the ingredients for pad thai. I had an awesome time making the dish with him and talking over dinner.” She suggests that both men and women take turns planning dates “because that way, there isn’t pressure placed on any one person to be responsible for coming up with fun date ideas.” Also, you get to see what type of person they are through the kind of activities they plan.

3. Create an online dating profile.

Unless you want to serial date, Tinder – which has become synonymous with hook-ups – may not be the best option if you’re hoping for a long-term relationship. Teresa*, a senior at the University of Ottawa, found her current boyfriend after trying a couple different dating apps. She highly suggests that users new to dating apps to use Bumble. “What I like most about Bumble is that it reverses the roles,” she says. “Typically, it’s expected that men make the move but with Bumble, only women can message a potential love interest first.”

Teresa also points out that for shy girls, in particular, Bumble is the ideal app to use if you’re trying to put yourself out there since it puts a clock on each match before it expires. “The key thing to know is that Bumble creates this sense of urgency,” she explains. “After you get a mutual match, there’s a timer that encourages female users to initiate the conversation before it runs out and you aren’t able to connect with the other person.” Other apps she recommends include Hinge (“If you’re concerned about creeps, then this may be your go-to app”) and Coffee Meets Bagel (“they curate the best matches possible for each user”).

For any preliminary dates scheduled with someone online, Teresa highly emphasizes the necessity of meeting up in very public place. “You can’t be too careful,” she points out and recommends that “if the weather’s nice, visit the farmer’s market or places like Toronto’s Distillery District. When I go back home on the weekends, my boyfriend and I love going there because it’s fantastic for dates since there’s an assortment of boutiques, galleries, and restaurants all in one place.” So next time, consider taking your date to some of your favorite spots around the city. They’ll learn about new places they never knew of and you’ll get a kick out of being their tour guide.

4. Find a cause or activity on campus that interests you.  

It’s a sure-fire method of meeting like-minded students. When college clubs are actively recruiting new members, be sure to collect more information by talking to club representatives. Figure out what kind of events are organized throughout the year and how you can get involved. If you meet someone who catches your eye at a club meeting, your shared interests will likely give you plenty to talk about. Isabelle*, a sophomore at Ryerson University, previously dated another club member during her freshman year.

“Since we’re both highly competitive and previously on the debate team in high school, we hit it off instantly,” she says. “We started talking after club meetings and studying together. Sometimes, we’d grab coffee in between classes. He asked me out two months later and we officially started dating then!”

On planning dates, Isabelle says that “being a campus couple, some of the best dates [they] had were incredibly low-key” and involved seeing a musical organized by a school club or volunteering together. Especially as college students, she points out that when you enjoy each other’s company, you’ll both find ways to make the most of your time together without spending a lot.

Related: 7 Flirting Tips to Try This Summer 

Online or offline, you’re bound to meet some interesting people with a bit of effort. If you want to get to know someone better and pursue a romantic relationship, then why wait? Take the initiative to ask them out. I can tell you from my own experience that dropping subtle hints does not work. Jen Sincero, New York Times best-selling author of the You Are a Badass series sums it up when she says that “if you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you’ve [got] to do things you’ve never done.”

*Names have been changed

Amy is a senior at York University, studying Marketing at the Schulich School of Business. A marketing intern for a beauty startup, her interests lie in entrepreneurship, fashion, beauty, marketing and journalism. She has a penchant for pastel jackets, brunch and browsing Instagram. In her spare time, you can find her working on her own startup ideas, trying new eateries with her boyfriend or writing. You can follow her on Twitter @byamylai.