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Ask Ellie: Successful dating requires knowing yourself

Dear Ellie: Me and many of my single friends, women and men, are bursting with the need to start dating again in real life, not just online. We’ve been careful, masked, distanced, and trying to “stay safe” for so long that some are losing hope.
Advice columnist Ellie

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: Me and many of my single friends, women and men, are bursting with the need to start dating again in real life, not just online.

We’ve been careful, masked, distanced, and trying to “stay safe” for so long that some are losing hope. We worry that, even if fully vaccinated, people will find it hard to get close enough to see if there’s real interest on both sides in seeing if dating can lead to a relationship.

Some of us who used to swipe for sex hook-ups will never go there again. We want more. But we fear there’ll still be a lot of people on dating apps who just want to get physical again. What’s your advice as the pandemic eases up?

Restless But Cautious

Dating apps have been trying to adapt to the pandemic throughout. Say Allo, for example, introduced postponing visual contact by using a “blurred” photo during several exchanges of messages to see if there’s common interests.

Hinge, calling itself a matching site, offers “hybrid” dating: i.e., users see six photos, answer questions about themselves. If someone expresses interest, that’s a match. Several days of chatting is recommended before an in-person date. offers skills training to help achieve emotional safety and deeper connections.

Beyond these commercial promotions are some actual dating specialists and coaches, such as San Francisco-based Logan Ury. Besides being Hinge’s director of relationship science, she has more than 10,000 followers on her own.

A Harvard psychology graduate, she next ran Google’s behavioral science team — called the irrational lab.

Her just-published book is called How to Not Die Alone.

The matter-of-fact title is typical of Ury’s whole approach to dating, which she applies to questions such as yours, whether through an app or on your own:

“You’re headed on a path [whether in a relationship or single]. But if it’s not the path you want, check in with yourself about where you’re heading. Because if you have behaviour patterns holding you back, nothing will change.”

Her motto: “Find a partner, not a pen pal,” also applies to so many people who write me about so-called “relationships” that are actually just constant messaging. “They create a fantasy in their head about it being a ­relationship.”

Another helpful motto is “Define the relationship,” meaning: “We make assumptions that we are surely in an exclusive relationship. But if there’s no conversation about it, if you’re afraid of the answer, you might be on the same page, or not. In that case, find out now.”

Ury has written in the New York Times’ Modern Love section about her own relationship — a seven-year Facebook friend from her undergraduate years whom she met again when working at Google, became friends in person and married him without an app or dating site.

No, I haven’t forgotten the reader’s question. One last Ury acronym is FODA — Fear of Dating Again. Those who are feeling it are not alone. You’ve been locked up one way or another for some 15 months.

My advice is take time right now to consider what you’re really seeking from dating. You’re not the same as you were, before you had to protect yourself and others from trusting strangers and physical contact.

Know your goals now, and the values that you hold dear. Be proud and comfortable about who you are and what you bring to a future relationship.

Then, whether meeting new or familiar people at interest or chat groups or dating apps, give yourself and dating in real life, a real chance.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the woman constantly body-shamed by a senior relative (June 5):

“I’ve also struggled with my weight. Through DNA analysis, I discovered that it’s mostly related to genetics.

“My DNA analysis is transferred to, a website/app that tracks my food/weight/exercise etc. It advises me that under 1,200 calories puts the body into starvation mode which lowers the metabolism to protect itself.

“It also advises according to my DNA that a high protein diet works best for me. I eat 100-115 grams of protein daily, control carbs and fats, and eat 1,400-1,500 calories daily maintaining my weight. A larger person would probably lose weight at this calorie count.

“It’s not easy, but the high-protein diet has worked for me for three-plus years. At 70, I no longer fear the scale.

“Please advise your letter-writer to research scientific advice for weight management. DNA analysis is very helpful.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Dating successfully calls for knowing yourself first.

Send relationship questions to

Follow @ellieadvice.