Now that we’re finally coming out of COVID-19 isolation, many of my clients want to fall in love. For most people, finding love means jumping into the dating game. However, before you start down the path to love, the process is more enjoyable when you’re clear on what you’re looking for: Do you want to find your life partner? Meet a bunch of new people? Have fun? Get laid? Boost your self-esteem? End your loneliness? Regardless of your reason for meeting new people, here are some “Love Basics” to consider:

When you meet someone new, stay in the present moment: don’t project into the future (no wedding planning) and don’t flood your new love object with baggage from your past. Pay attention to how you feel: are you enjoying being with them or are you mentally planning your shopping list for Trader Joe’s?

Write down how you want to feel with a potential love partner. Too many of us focus on what they look like or how old they are. We may miss out on some really great people if we are obsessed with the externals. In the long run, it’s how we feel with someone that will make us happy (or miserable).

Don’t look for love when your life is a mess. Instead, work on yourself until you get to a place where you feel good about yourself and then put yourself out there to meet new people.

Lighten up: dating is not brain surgery! You can make it a tedious experience or (mostly) enjoyable. Even if you find yourself stuck having a drink with someone totally incompatible, can you still enjoy their company? If they’re a definite “no” in the partner department, imagine that they’re a stranger you’ve met on vacation and will never see again. Can you find anything pleasant to talk about with them? Dig a little deeper.

Be kind to yourself, especially when your love-hunting isn’t going so well. A wise friend once told me when I was doing a little internet dating: “Only date when you’re enjoying the process. When it becomes a drag: stop for a while, then hit ‘refresh’ and jump back in.”

Activate your “Drama Detector” so that you can quickly spot people who: (1) demand too much from you, (2) call/text too often and too soon, (3) tell you “I love you” when they barely know you, or (4) share way too much personal information on your first meeting. Unless you love drama, politely set some firm boundaries with these folks and move on.

Don’t confuse “dating” with “hooking up”. Dating is a word that sounds old-fashioned, but the idea behind it is to get to know someone – all of them – mind/body/soul. Hooking up is about sex. In general, it’s better to get to know someone before you have sex with them: you may have mediocre sex with a great man/woman because you don’t know them and have no idea what they like (and vice-versa). Or, you have may have awesome sex from the get-go, but then there’s nothing more “there”. Hooking up is fine, but it’s very different from being in love.

If you’re looking for love, be willing to be open and vulnerable, but go slowly. Allow your vulnerability to come out in small ways, like talking about something that’s important to you. When you open up in a thoughtful, measured way, it invites the other person to do the same. This is how you build intimacy, e.g., emotional closeness, trust and safety.

Psychological research has identified qualities that make someone likely to be a good person to fall in love with: a woman or man who is open to new experiences, agreeable, responsible, kind to others and – most importantly – makes you feel good about who you are.

If you want to fall in love, but feel that it’s a losing game: don’t panic! No matter how old you are, what you look like or what your relationship history is, it’s never too late for find love. Feel free to use the ideas in this column.

Make this your Summer of Love.