You may know that online dating is a valuable platform for meeting new people, but you may find yourself anxious and uncomfortable with the process and all of the uncertainty that comes with it. From being ghosted or rejected to getting your hopes up prior to meeting in person only to determine you are not a match, there are a wide range of highs and lows that come with dating.
When you find yourself in a state of dating anxiety, it’s important to remember the way you talk yourself through it is going to bring you relief — or more discomfort. In fact, you may not realize that your attempts to stop feeling anxious are actually causing more dating anxiety. For example, pushing away, resisting or refusing to accept anxious thoughts will only make them persist and worsen. Also, some of the behaviors that are commonly used to manage anxiety may work against you as you date. Acting clingy by texting someone too often, or resorting to calling and hanging up until your crush answers the phone, may result in someone wanting space or to stop dating you. Giving someone else power over you and overly relying on them to free you from your worries is a recipe for disaster. There are better ways to control impulsive behaviors and handle anxiety to ensure you don’t push potential partners away.
How can you ideally handle those moments when you are sitting at a restaurant wondering if you will be stood up, or are obsessively checking your phone waiting for an incoming text from someone you like? How can you be less anxious and more resilient during the low moments in dating?
1. Experience your feelings without judgment. Understand emotions are simply information and they aren’t “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” There is nothing wrong with you for feeling anxious, so there is no need to judge yourself. Reflect on the following questions: what is this feeling trying to tell me? What is this feeling attempting to teach me? Is something out of balance? What may need attention? Use the answers to identify any fears that may need some attention, better management or resolution. Above all, approach your feelings with acceptance and curiosity.
2. Remind yourself you can handle any outcome. Yes, you may feel disappointed if you don’t hear back from someone you like or a developing relationship ends, but the powerful nature of your feelings will pass. By definition, feelings change and evolve. Your feelings in the moment may be all-encompassing, but they will get easier to sit with through time. Whether you are upset that someone went MIA or are feeling discouraged by very few first dates leading to second dates, know you can handle all outcomes and all related emotions. Commit to floating through the tricky times with ease and a hopeful attitude.
3. Work toward becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. Life is uncertain. Dating is the same! It is a vulnerable risk worth taking. The endless “what-if’s?” that your mind makes up will be exhausting if not managed effectively. Remind yourself that many of the very things you fear are not actually happening in the present (and may never happen). If you avoid dating altogether because of your anxiety despite a relationship being a major goal, you are bound to feel worse.
4. Create a full life outside of dating. This strategy is a must for your emotional well being. If your entire existence is about dating and finding a partner, each disappointment (or second that goes by without hearing from your crush, date or partner), is going to feel unmanageable. Develop a healthy self-care regimen and other interests, hobbies, plans, and relationships outside of dating. While dating has to be a priority for positive results, investing in other interests and relationships will allow you to feel more stress-free and supported.
5. Focus on what you can control. It’s a given that you can’t control every last detail of life and dating, but there is a lot within your control. For example, you can control the frequency of communication, pace of dating, and who you decide to message, reply to or meet in real life. You can control dating logistics, such as where to meet, what to wear, and how long a date lasts. Dealing with anxiety may make you feel out of control or hopeless, so it’s important to remind yourself of your ability to make choices.
6. Remember not being picked by a partner or being single does not mean something is wrong with you. You are not unworthy or inadequate in any way, shape or form. Be compassionate with yourself. Understand that dating takes time and there are often many losses that come with it. Don’t let your worth be determined by what someone else thinks of you.
Dating will naturally bring some anxiety, but there’s a lot you can do to better manage negative feelings and events. Through healthy self-care and anxiety management strategies, as well as greater acceptance of your feelings and tolerance of discomfort, you can approach dating from a more empowered, go with the flow stance.