Sex & Relationships

21 Expert-Approved Dating Goals For 2021

Make the most of the new year.

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If 2020 was the year of mindlessly scrolling apps and canceling Zoom dates at the last second, let this year be about having fun and meeting new people again. By coming up with a few dating goals for 2021, you can get back out there — even if "getting back out there" means dating from the comfort of your apartment.

"As for anything, goals are good," Dr. Markesha Miller, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. "They keep us focused and moving in the desired direction." So think of this as your dating checklist. It includes fun stuff to do if you're casually dating, but also has important tips to keep in mind if you're looking for something more long-term, too.

"[These] goals would be especially good for individuals who have decided this year that they are dating with purpose," Miller says. You might, for instance, want to focus on being more open and honest with the people you date, so you end up making stronger connections. Or you might want to spend the year being a bit braver, by actually answering those Zoom and FaceTime calls, and seeing what happens.

Whatever you're in the mood for, here are 21 dating goals for 2021, that just might be worth a try.

Update Your Dating Profile

To kick off the new year, make sure your profile is up-to-date. Switch out your photos, answer all the fun questions and prompts. Basically, give your entire bio a refresh, and you might just have more luck.

"Recent findings from OkCupid show daters who complete their entire dating profile receive 200% more matches," Michael Kaye, the global communications manager for OkCupid, tells Bustle. So you might even want to update it once a month, going forward.

Try A Zoom Date

If you haven't tried a Zoom or FaceTime date, put it on the bucket list. Sure, it's kind of nerve-racking to watch as the call connects and a stranger's face pops up. But it's also a really easy and fun way to get to know new people, without having to leave home.

Go On An Outdoor Date

That said, if your life has been nothing but Zoom dates, plan an outdoorsy get-together, like biking, tennis, walking in a park, etc. "You can be safe and create an environment where you can get to know each other," Rachel DeAlto, the chief dating expert at Match, tells Bustle.

Ask Them To Run Errands With You

If you just started hanging out with someone, don't be afraid to ask if they'd like to join you on everyday outings, like a trip to the grocery store — especially since typical date venues are limited right now.

It'll help you learn more about them, relationship coach Molly Godfrey tells Bustle, including how well you work together. And who knows? You might end up falling for each other in the Trader Joe's snack aisle.

Respond To Texts Within 5 Minutes

If you normally take forever to respond to messages, pick a day where you'll purposefully write back within five minutes, Godfrey says, and see what happens.

It's so tempting to play it cool and act like you aren't checking your phone, especially in the early days of dating. But a lot of good can come from turning the tables, and showing honest interest.

Be Open To LDRs

2020 showed more people it's possible to have long-distance relationships, so don't let a couple hundred miles (or more) hold you back from talking to someone cool. With Zoom and all the other ways to stay connected, "there is no reason to shrink your dating pool," Kaye says.

Date Someone Who Isn't Your "Type"

We all have that one "type" we fall for time and time again. But if your love life hasn't been great, make this the year you branch out.

If you normally date people your age, chat with someone a few years older, Dalesa Martinez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. Or if you usually go for the homebody type, go out with someone who's more adventurous.

Not only is it good to push past your comfort zone and expand your horizons, she says, you also might realize you've had more than one type all along.

Be Cheesy

If you live for all things romantic, don't hold back this year. "Have a picnic via Zoom," Martinez says, go ice skating, or invite your date over for a candlelit dinner. After 2020 you deserve to do whatever strikes your fancy, even if it's "cheesy."

Go On More Second Dates

If your date is awful, or you sense zero chemistry, it's OK to move along. But there's also something to be said for going on more second dates.

"People are usually nervous on a first date, especially in the current circumstances," Julia McCurley, a professional matchmaker, tells Bustle.

If they were generally cool and nice, you might feel sparks on a second date, once they're more relaxed.

Have Open Communication

If you spent all of 2020 feeling confused, disappointed, or strung along by your romantic prospects, see if speaking up makes a difference. "Communication is necessary in order to get what you want from yourself and from others," McCurley says.

And that means no longer waiting for your matches to guess how you feel. Instead, be honest from the jump about what you're looking for, and be honest if things aren't working out, too.

Walk Away Sooner

Similarly, if you've noticed a pattern where you hold onto people who weren't fully interested, "resolve to catch yourself making the same mistakes," McCurley says. If someone isn't texting you back, won't plan a date, or won't commit to a relationship, move onto the next one.

Go To Therapy

If moving on is super difficult — or if you've been having a hard time with dating in general — consider talking to a therapist at some point this year.

"It is important to make sure in the dating process that you are healthy mentally and emotionally," Miller says. "This goal helps to eliminate issues with insecurity, self-esteem, trust, previous relationship issues, etc. that may inhibit the dating process."

Talk To Strangers

Whether it's a person in line at the coffeeshop, or someone at the dog park, make a point of being more social (from a distance) and chatting with strangers, dating expert Emily J. Smith tells Bustle. If it feels right, you could even give them your number, and see where things go.

"Just because half of our faces are covered doesn’t mean that 'spark' doesn’t fully exist," she says. "You can still take risks while being safe."

Send Flowers After A Date

"Now that we’re spending more time at home than ever, there’s nothing sweeter than reminding someone you are thinking about them without entering their space," Smith says.

If your dates have been going well and you feel like being cute, consider sending flowers, their favorite delivery food — whatever you think they might like.

Stop Telling White Lies

Do you have little exaggerations in your profile? Do you tell white lies on dates? If so, vow that you're going to be your true self this year, Claire AH, a matchmaker and dating coach, tells Bustle. We all want to be impressive, but it's much better to start off a relationship in an honest way — and find people who like you for you.

Take A Break

Hey, if you aren't in the mood to do any of this stuff, that's OK.

"It can feel like you always need to be hustling to meet people but there is value in taking some time away from dating entirely," AH says. "If you're feeling burnt out or even if you'd just like a break, consider stepping away from intentionally meeting people for romance. It's good to reset."

Read Dating Books

If you're freshly single, or dating for the first time, go ahead and read a few dating books, AH says. They'll help you understand the process, as well as what's common and what isn't, so you can make the most of your swiping.

Figure Out Your Love Language

"There are five love languages: acts of service, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, and physical touch," AH says.

Which one are you? Take quizzes online to figure it out, because "knowing yourself helps you know what you want!"

Sign Up For Virtual Speed Dating

It sounds super old school, but consider giving virtual speed dating a try.

"Swiping is definitely the most popular dating option, but there are other ways to meet people," AH says. "This is a great way to shake things up and see if this kind of meeting clicks for you."

Get More Personal

From the first message you send, to the stuff you talk about on your actual date, try opening up a bit more this year and showing who you are — instead of falling back on mundane chitchat.

"You can even make it into a fun game like, 'Hey, do you want to try something different? Why don’t we try to find three things that we have in common?" Dawoon Kang, the co-founder and chief dating officer at Coffee Meets Bagel, tells Bustle.

Chances are this approach will lead to better conversations and a deeper connection.

Hype Yourself Up

Before you crack open your laptop, or head out for a socially distant date, take a second to look in the mirror and hype yourself up. You could even get motivational and give yourself a quick mantra.

"Some great ones are, 'Wow, I look great!' or 'I’m going to have fun getting to know X,'" Kang says. It'll help shake away pre-date jitters, so you can meet new people, and make the most of 2021


Dr. Markesha Miller, licensed psychotherapist

Michael Kaye, global communications manager for OkCupid

Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at Match

Molly Godfrey, relationship coach

Dalesa Martinez, PhD, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Julia McCurley, professional matchmaker

Emily J. Smith, dating expert

Claire AH, matchmaker and dating coach

Dawoon Kang, co-founder and chief dating officer at Coffee Meets Bagel