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Dating Maze #339: Dating Anxiety
Dating Advice 339

Dating Maze #339: Dating Anxiety

Things are going great, but I'm terrified of what might happen next.

by

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am 27 years old and have had a very good life so far. I have a loving, accepting family, many friends, and no issues or problems to speak of. I have been on the dating scene for a little while now, and have been going out with a really great guy for the past few months. I find him genuine, sensitive, smart, attractive, and with life goals very similar to mine.

My problem is that I'm scared! I worry that every date will be the last, even though I can tell he is interested in me. When I hear the details of how a friend of mine was proposed to, I get nervous when I imagine it happening to me. When my friends tell me about how well their dating lives are going, I am thrilled for them and want to hear details of what’s going on, etc. But when it's me as the main character, I get very nervous and can't deal with it!

This is holding me back from becoming emotionally involved with this man and I want to get over this. Why do I believe that these romantic stories can happen to anybody else, but not to me?

Talya

Dear Talya,

It’s easy for us to see why you’re feeling anxious about the relationship you’re building with this young man. The idea of deciding that a particular person will be the one you will marry and spend your entire life with, is indeed scary. In fact, when it comes to such momentous steps in life, most “normal” people feel some anxiety!

They’ll wonder if their looks will appeal to the person they’re meeting for the first time, and if someone they’ve been dating a while will like what they’re wearing. They’ll wonder whether if and when they’ll start to feel a connection with the person they’re dating, and once they do, they’ll worry whether he feels the same way. As the dating gets more serious, they may worry that things are going too well, or what their first argument means, or how the other person will react to a deeply personal revelation.

Your friends may only seem to be floating through courtships.

Most daters have concerns like these, and it is very likely that your friends, who seem to be floating through their courtships, are experiencing many of the same worries that you’ve expressed in your letter. Some of them may be just as anxious as you are, but are doing a good job of hiding their feelings because they don’t want other people to know what they are going through.

It seems that you spend more time dwelling your anxious thoughts than many of your friends do because by nature, you’re more of a worrier than they are. It’s important for you to understand that someone who tends to be more anxious than others about many aspects of life is likely to be more anxious about dating, too. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you – some people are simply more sensitive in this area than others. But it does mean that you will need to learn techniques to calm yourself and lessen the intensity of your worrying.

Tips & Techniques

Here are a few suggestions to help you in this area:

First, make sure you have someone you can talk to regularly about your dating. It should be someone who’s been married for at least a few years, who has a good attitude about marriage and a lot of common sense, and whom you feel comfortable confiding in. Experience has shown that most daters benefit from having a mentor to answer their questions and share a married person’s perspective. An anxious dater can particularly benefit from someone who can help them understand whether they’re experiencing free-floating anxiety, or if there is a genuine concern that needs to be addressed.

Write down what specifically makes you feel anxious.

That “free-floating” anxiety seems to be what you’re grappling with right now, meaning that it isn’t based on anything concrete, but on general worries about what might happen in the unknown future. It will be helpful for you to spend some time figuring out exactly what you worry about. Set some time aside, grab a notebook or pad and a couple of pens. Think about each of your dates, and write down exactly what occurred on the date that caused you to feel anxious. If you are feeling anxious about future dates, write down what specific thoughts make you feel anxious. When you’re finished, review you list and see if there is a common theme of anxiety triggers.

Your next step will be to find ways to deal with this anxiety. One way is to talk about the specific triggers and themes with your mentor, discussing what’s so scary about them, and how you might be able to use a “reality check” to respond to each fear. Many people find that this technique helps to lessen their anxious feelings.

Another way to keep yourself from dwelling on anxious thoughts is to introduce distractions. You can try something that occupies your hands as well as your mind – crafts, needlework, poetry or baking. Exercise is also a great way of calming anxiety, so consider taking a walk, riding your bicycle, or swimming laps. Reading, listening to music, or playing a video game may also work for you.

Another very effective technique is to try to “be” in the present. Take one day at a time, appreciating the moment, and try very hard not to project what the future will hold. This technique can be very helpful when you’re on a date. If you start to think about what the man you’re dating will do next, or if he might be the right person for you, push the thought away and make yourself focus on what the two of you are doing, talking about, hearing, seeing, tasting, and experiencing.

By implementing these suggestions, you may not become 100% worry-free, but you should see a big improvement. If you decide you’ll do better with a professional’s help, look for a therapist who uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help reduce anxiety.

Genuine Concern

Until now, we’ve given you suggestions about handling the kind of generalized worry that many people experience when dating. We realize that, in the course of doing the writing exercise we suggested, you may discover that something you’re worried about has a concrete basis. It could be a disagreement you had, something he did to upset you, or an issue you believe needs to be discussed. Here’s where your mentor can also be a big help. She can help you look at the issue from different perspectives, and help you decide how to deal with it on your own or together with this young man.

The important thing to remember is that dating can be a scary time, and many people are just as anxious as you are. We hope that you’ll use our suggestions, and will move forward through the dating maze with confidence, and (relatively) worry-free.

Rosie & Sherry

Published: August 6, 2011


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Visitor Comments: 7

(5) Anonymous, April 30, 2012 4:39 AM

From the Original Poster

Hi everyone, I am the one who originally asked this question. I just wanted to share that Baruch Hashem I am engaged now, not to this man, but the right one. They say hindsight is 20/20, and now I see that his goals weren't as matched up with mine as I thought. This fact was apparently bothering me, although I didn't know it consciously. You may wonder how I didn't realize that we had different goals; the truth is that I realized we had disagreements, I was just not able to distinguish between healthy differences of opinion (which will occur between any two people) and substantial differences in life goals. Sometimes a mentor will not help! For example, he wanted something for his future kids that I was not crazy about (religiously speaking). My mentors did not have the same sensitivity towards this as I did and assured me it was not a big deal, so I continued to see him. I realize now that I am engaged (to the right person) that it really was a very big deal, as it represented a difference in lifestyle. My challenge was to discern the differences that were too big for me to handle, that were holding me back. Hashem, in His kindness, finally took the struggle away from me (after a few years on the dating scene) and presented me with the man who so clearly was everything I needed. I only wish the same clarity for everyone else who is dating. Thank you, Rosie and Sherry, for all your help.

Anonymous, October 22, 2012 12:27 AM

Mazel tov! It's so nice to hear what happens in the end, and I'm so glad it worked out for you. You and your husband should always feel as happy and have the same amount of clarity as you do now!

(4) JT, September 12, 2011 12:29 PM

Dating anxiety is real and something we need to focus on

I deal with this on a daily basis in my work as a dating coach, and I really like your post. Dealing with social anxiety is something guys really need to focus on in order to improve the quality of their dating (and everyday) life. It’s inevitable that we’re going to have to deal with these negative thoughts, but it’s how we deal with it that counts.

(3) David, August 21, 2011 4:52 PM

Embrace Uncertainty

Embrace uncertainty and replace it with faith. I don't know why this works and it does not mean the emotions will be easy, but it does. I was raised by a single mother who taught me to be to be strong mentally without any bottom line and to consider fear with the derision it deserves. I did not realize what a gem I had as mother. I have during my adult life. Health and wisdom are the most precious of all.

(2) Anonymous, August 12, 2011 12:12 AM

Another Idea!

I deal with free floating anxiety and what works for me is to come up with the worst (funny) case scenario. My ideas were negative so Rosie and Shari wouldn't like them, but they got me through and I had things to make me laugh.

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