Written by Whitney Hawkins
Dating is awkward. Throw some anxiety in the mix and you’ve got a disaster on your hands.
Somewhere along the way we developed extremely unrealistic expectations about dating. Who decided that every date should end in hand holding and a romantic first kiss under the stars? I blame The Notebook.
Bottom line, it’s not realistic.
These unreasonable expectations may have you uttering phrases like, “I’m just like focusing on me right now” to your friends at brunch every Sunday or avoiding dating altogether.
Even for the most relaxed individuals, dating can be an extremely anxiety provoking situation. But, is your dating anxiety so bad it’s keeping you from finding love?
People get anxious about dating for a variety of reasons. You may find yourself asking these questions before and after a date:
1. What if the date doesn’t go well?
2. What if it doesn’t lead to anything?
3. What if I don’t know what to say?
4. What if they don’t like me?
5. What if they stand me up?
6. Will they ask me out again?
7. Will they text me?
8. Will they think I’m smart, attractive, funny, (insert adjective here)?
The questions are endless, but all of them are rooted in fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable. Often this fear stops us from taking chances on people who may be good for us, because we are just too afraid to find out. They cause you to go out on a date thinking only about one person in the room: yourself. You are concerned about what the other person will think of you, what you will say, and every other detail in between.
These concerns will make your anxiety so obvious. You’ll probably start biting your nails, twirling your hair, or shaking the table with your aggressive foot tapping.
So what if the date goes wrong; what if it goes well? Your anxiety doesn’t want you to find out.
Researchers Kashdan and Roberts found that your decision to focus on your anxieties (like “what if he doesn’t like me?”) or curiosity when meeting a new person determines how the social situation will be experienced. Through two experiments, they discovered that social anxiety contributed to negative feelings about social interactions. However, curiosity contributed to positive feelings about social interactions. Regardless of the individual’s level of anxiety, those who were curious enjoyed social interactions more than non-curious individuals.
So how can you avoid anxiety during a date? Be curious. Ask genuine questions about the other person, just make conversation. Maybe you’ll even enjoy yourself!
Dating has become such a numbers game. We use algorithms, apps, and carefully executed plans in order to have some semblance of control over our dating lives and our futures. We have transformed a personal experience into a mathematical equation that needs to be completed by an exact date.
Anxiety, at its core, is the fear of the unknown. With an activity like dating, so much can be left up to the imagination – creating a toxic cycle of negative thinking and control seeking behaviors. With any anxiety provoking situation, where so much is out of control, control what you can. Focusing on getting to know the other individual, reframing your experiences, and minimizing your expectations can make dating a little less painful.
Whitney Hawkins is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern and Certified Stress Management Coach providing services in Miami, FL.