I have always been an anxious person, a constant worrier, and while I know that my anxiety is very minimal compared with that of many people, I still find that it can have a huge effect on my social life and relationships. Before dates, even fifth or sixth dates when I’ve gotten to know someone well, my stomach is in knots and I experience extreme nausea and my head spins with all the scenarios of how I will inevitably mess things up.
I thought until recently that my anxiety was getting better because first dates no longer caused me such severe anxiety. Unfortunately, that was only because, after over ten failed first dates in quick succession, my expectations were nonexistent. I viewed first dates as a more or less necessary evil, an evening during which I would quickly know if there was something there or not and didn’t have to worry about impressing my date.
And then I had a good first date. With all the instant sparks and easy rapport. He was exactly what I had been looking for on paper, and for once, that translated into reality too.
That’s when I discovered that my anxiety had merely been in hibernation, waiting for the time when I finally cared about seeing someone again. Then, the second (and third and fourth and fifth) date jitters hit me. These were so much worse. Now, I actually had someone who could hurt me if I never heard from him again. And that’s exactly what the anxious little voice in my head told me: he was about to ghost. After a few months of dating, most of the nerves are now gone and I can be comfortable before and during dates, a lot of the stress has subsided. Here are a handful of tips to help anyone with anxiety navigate the world of dating.
1. Always remember the worst case scenario. This sounds counterintuitive, but I promise it helps. People with anxiety, myself included, often conjure up images of how they might ruin the evening or their chances with a new date. But when you put aside all the embarrassing things you might say or do and focus on the actual worst outcome, it doesn’t seem so bad. Chances are there will be an awkward pause or two and then the evening will carry on as normal. Or you might never hear from them again. After a first date, this is always a possibility, regardless of how well you thought it went. And yes, if they ghost after two or three dates it might sting a bit more, but you realize neither of you knew each other that well and will move on to the next date. Which brings me to point number two:
2. In the early stages, try not to trap yourself. This is something I still struggle with. If I like someone, I almost immediately start imagining all that we could be together. He becomes some magical being who possesses the ability to draw me out of my shyness and anxiety. He finds himself at the top of a high pedestal, and the fall from that height isn’t fair on him. My advice to combat this is to not lock yourself into a relationship mindset after the first few date. Instead, keep yourself grounded in a reality that allows him to have flaws and allows yourself to stay jittery and anxious without feeling the pressure to suddenly evolve into a charismatic social butterfly before his very eyes.
3. Be busy before the date. Easy to understand: the more you have to do, the less time you have to overthink. But still give yourself enough time to get ready and not have to run to the pub…
4. Be honest about your anxiety. Once you get to know this person better and have started feeling a lot more comfortable around them, be open about how anxious you get. My honesty on this subject has always made the relationship better. When I told my current boyfriend about how quickly my mind jumps to conclusions, like how I assume he’s ghosting me after a week of silence, he really worked to assure me of his feelings and to communicate in a way that made me feel secure in the relationship.
5. Please be patient. This is one for the people dating someone with anxiety. Please be patient with us! Our tendency to overthink or get overwhelmed in these hyped up, tense situations are not a reflection of who we are at our best. Once we get to know you better, a lot of the anxiety with fall away, but until then, be a bit patient and understand that it can take a little bit longer to really get to know us.