Romance is wonderful for your health, both mentally and physically. Nothing gets that feel-good factor going like a new love in your life.
But getting to that euphoric state can be tricky to navigate at the best of times – and leave you feeling a bit under the weather with anxiety and low self-esteem.
Right from the jittery worries about first impressions through to keeping the flame alive in a long relationship, most people could do with a bit of help and guidance from time to time.
It’s important to feel at ease with yourself when entering the dating world – but also prepare to be honest and have some fun.
This is often easier said than done, so we’ve spoken to the charismatic king of romance himself, Fred Sirieix from First Dates, to give readers tricks and tips on how to get the best out of romance in any situation.
Relationship counsellor Martin Burrow, from Relate, has also provided expert guidance on how to stay safe, happy and within your comfort zone.
Launching yourself into the dating pool can be intimidating – whether you’re a first-time dater or just a bit rusty at first dates.
Fred says self-confidence is the key. He points out that on First Dates, viewers fell in love with the oldest-ever hopeful featured on the show – 97-year-old Richard.
If he can date, anyone can, whether you’re 20 or an OAP. Fred says: “It’s about confidence and about how much you love yourself. If you have hang-ups they pull you back.
Confidence is attractive, so just go and enjoy yourself – no matter what age you are.”
Martin says feeling anxious about a date is natural. “Remind yourself of your qualities, this can help boost your self-esteem.
“Get yourself out there, whether it’s going to a yoga class, a reading group etc – find something you enjoy and start mixing.
“Focus on being with people whose company you enjoy – if you fixate on solely finding love you risk compromising something really important in a partner.
“If you’re using dating sites and apps, make sure your first face-to-face date is in a safe setting you can leave easily.
Be true to yourself, note what would be a good match for you – and at the same time be aware nobody is perfect.”
Fred suggests a tapas restaurant for a first date. He says: “You can order a glass of wine, and, if you get on, ask for three dishes. Then, if you carry on getting on, order 10 dishes to make the evening last that bit longer.
“If you don’t get on, you can just finish your wine and leave.”
But what if you’re in a longer-term relationship or marriage? The heady days of first dates can sometimes feel distant.
Keeping the spark
As the first-love buzz dies down it can be harder to make time for your significant other – or continue to connect in the way you once did.
But Fred says it takes a joint effort to keep that spark alive. “I think you both have to want to do it,” he says. “In any relationship, something will go wrong – and you have to remember why you were together in the first place.
“And you both have to want to be together. Going out, making love is very important because it connects you. You have to make time for things.”
Fred claims he and his partner schedule times for sex to make sure they do it. He also says it’s important to be realistic and accept no relationship is perfect.
“Sometimes we want to live inside a Disney movie, but life isn’t like that. It’s important to share conversations, to laugh together.”
Martin also gives his tips on how to put freshness into a partnership. He says: “You can meet up as you would on a date.
Get dressed in separate rooms – this helps create the ‘wow, you look great’ factor that couples may not focus on otherwise.
“Always remember you were two separate people when you met and you still are.
“Have your own hobbies where you can go back to each other and share anecdotes. Do different things, in and out of the bedroom.
“Most importantly ask curious questions such as ‘what’s this like for you?’ When doing this you really need to start in a place of acknowledging that you don’t know. You may think you know but that is quite different.
“If you constantly do this the chances are that at some point you will surprise each other and be more curious.
“The plus here is a splash of newness which can be like fresh oxygen to a relationship.”
Dating after loss
Loving and losing someone can be one of the hardest things to handle in life.
But after the grief has started to subside, when should you start looking at finding another companion?
“Dating can be a good way of meeting people, even if you aren’t ready for a full-blown romantic partnership,” says Fred.
He adds that the main question you need to ask yourself is ‘are you really keen on putting yourself out there?’.
He adds: “You should start dating only when you are ready.
“It’s a question of ‘do you want to be dating?’
“You need to be true with yourself and true with the other person and have fun.”
Martin echoed Fred’s sentiment. He says: “Bereavement time frames differ from person to person. Some theories suggest a two-year process is common but it can take much longer.
“Counselling can help people to address the loss they are feeling and begin to heal.”
He also adds that a divorce can also be difficult to recover from – and to start dating after a split only when you feel ready to.
“This depends on the circumstances of the divorce – such as who instigated it, how long the build-up was and how separately you were living,” says Martin.
“The end of a relationship is a grieving process that again differs in length from person to person. There’s no set period of time.
“Be mindful. If things seem to be moving fast and you don’t feel ready then you probably aren’t.
“Again, notice what the focus is otherwise there will be a tendency to settle for someone who you may not fully gel with.”
Fred’s podcast Oh La La is available for download now.
And the new series of First Dates starts on Tuesday at 10pm on Channel 4.