Dating is harder than ever with our newsfeed being bombarded with wedding photos and the endless opportunities that our dating apps seem to offer us. You would think exposure to so many faces and resources would make it easier to meet someone. But coming from someone that has had countless bad dates, it would seem natural to slip into attitudes of self-doubt and insecurity.
Is there something wrong with me? Should I wear a dress or pants? What if I don’t have anything interesting to say? How do I know if he wants a relationship or just sex? These thoughts are just a small glimpse into the insecurities most of us have before going on a date or even just being around someone that we like. Gut-wrenching butterflies do not only affect those that have been diagnosed with a specific anxiety disorder. These are all expected emotions, feelings, and attitudes that we all experience when beginning a new relationship or trying to find one.
Choosing a romantic partner is one of the most important decisions you will make. They are who we share our ‘moments’ with and who we blend our identities with. Relationship anxiety can be exacerbated by the constant flood of images and wedding announcements from your newsfeed, group chats, and social media. Whether our anxiety stems from trying to make that witty comment on Tinder to initiate a conversation or hoping that you run into your crush, here are some ways you can deal with relationship anxiety.
Tips for Overcoming Anxiety
1. Be open and honest with your partner about what is causing you to feel insecure. Honest communication can give our partners insight into how to support us emotionally.
Often, we may project our insecurities or biases onto our partner even though they originate from ourselves. We want this person to like us, especially when everything feels so unsure at the beginning of a relationship. But if you can communicate these thoughts and feelings with your partner, it may shed insight into a more accurate picture of yourself or strengthen the bond between you.
2. Know what you want from a relationship.
So many times, I had been with men that just didn’t want the same thing I did. I, so desperately, wanted a relationship or wanted certain men to like me that I would convince myself that these physical relationships meant more than they actually did. My gut would tighten, and I knew within myself that something was wrong or felt off. When I was actually open and communicated what I was looking for, I instantly felt better even if it meant that I was rejected. Re-claiming what I want in a relationship made me feel powerful and confident regardless of the outcome. I no longer feel like my whole body tightens when I manage my behavior to fit what I thought that these partners wanted. Rejection gave me the power to feel open to new possibilities, and I felt authentic with myself because I dared to voice what I wanted.
3. Choose vulnerability
Impression management is the phenomenon by which we consciously or unconsciously attempt to influence others’ perception of ourselves. We are all guilty of this, from the baseball player trying to impress the recruiters to the lawyer in a power suit as she stands in a courtroom. Our love lives are not devoid of this either. The fear of being judged builds as we strive to find the perfect profile picture or struggle to land that witty opener just to get that first date.
If you haven’t seen 40- year-old Virgin, Steve Carell plays a down-to-earth, nice guy who works in an electronic shop who spends his time playing video games and collecting action figures. His friends advise him to get over his virginity, hide his action heroes, and even subject him to painfully waxing his chest to woo the beautiful store owner across the street. In the end, Trish found all of these ‘flaws’ incredibly endearing. Steve Carrell’s love story highlights how being our true vulnerable selves creates emotional intimacy and trust with our partners.
I think that a lot of times, we give ourselves very high expectations that we need to look a certain way, be a particular person, or have a certain job to be deserving of love. Don’t put pressure on yourself that you have to be a certain way or a type of person for your partner.
4. Don’t read too much into anything.
Sometimes when we are on a first date or just meeting someone that we might like, we begin to feel socially anxious absorbing all of the nonverbal cues that we can to determine whether or not this person reciprocates our attraction. All of a sudden, we become Sherlock Holmes trying to gather as much information about the relationship we can, but remember that any anxiety you might be experiencing can be biasing your gaze to attend to more negative information to actualize a false image of yourself. Keep in mind that this person too is also looking for feedback and that their ‘negative stuff’ is coming from themselves: not you.
Dating is frustrating. We all secretly hate those people who found the one after one Tinder date, while the rest of us are lucky enough if someone even responds to our messages. All of this advice is easier said than done, but allowing ourselves the emotional space to have these ‘negative’ emotions brings us closer to knowing what we want and giving us the power to be our authentic selves.