New blog – today readers I thought I’d write about a subject that a few people have asked me about which is the subject of dating with anxiety! I mentioned in my introductory vlog for the website (which you can find here) that I’d do this so I’m now delivering on my promise! Anxiety can come in a variety of different forms whether it be health anxiety, social anxiety, PTSD, agoraphobia or another form. When you suffer from anxiety daily life can feel like a significant challenge with even simple things like leaving the house or going to the shops feeling like a massive challenge at times. So something that requires you to interact with others, such as dating, and, even worse, try and impress them feels like one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing things ever!
Common mistakes people with anxiety make on dates and how to avoid them:
Feeling anxious about going on a date can lead to a flood of different emotions and worries filling your mind. From thoughts as simple as ‘what if they don’t turn up’, ‘what if they don’t like me’ to ‘what if we end up getting married’ can soon overwhelm you. For many, this can lead to getting so anxious that you become physically sick or sometimes just canceling the date all together! Other mistakes include:
- Drinking too much before the date – often alcohol can feel like it’s taking ‘the edge’ of your fears. So the idea of having a drink or three before your date so that you are more relaxed and less on edge can often appeal. However, with adrenaline and other chemicals flooding your body it can take a few drinks to feel completely relaxed. By which time you’re completely smashed and turn up and start telling your date all those embarrassing things that you really wanted to keep hidden! So as difficult as it is the best thing to do is limit yourself to one alcoholic drink at most before the date. This also has the added bonus of ensuring that you don’t constantly need to go to the toilet!
- Projecting the future onto your date – often anxious people struggle to ‘be in the moment’ and focus on what’s happening in the future. Instead, we’re worrying about something that might happen 2 or 3 years now, whether it be nuclear war, being alone or having no friends. When on a date the focus of this becomes the person you’re with. So instead of focussing on what the person with you is saying you’re instead wondering what your children will look like, or trying to work out whether you’d have a lot of arguments and end up getting divorced! This is a sure fire way to not getting a second date as the person you’re with ends up thinking you’re bored and disinterested because you’re not paying attention to what they’re saying. When you feel this happen it’s important to take a few seconds to just focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly and calmly. Place your feet on the ground and push down hard – but not too hard! You’ll be surprised at how quickly this centres you so that you can return to the conversation.
- Oversharing – People with anxiety can talk a LOT when they’re nervous. Words stumble and trip out of your mouth at a million miles a minute. This can lead to you revealing every secret you ever had to your potential date. It’s not because you want to scare them off but instead because you’re desperate to make a connection, any connection at all, with the person. When I find myself doing this I try and turn the conversation. So instead of saying 20 things about me I focus on saying 1 or 2 things and then asking the other person something about themselves. It forces me to slow down. Don’t become too mechanical in this though as it’s important to appear natural!
- Feeling the need to apologise for everything – when you’re feeling anxious it’s like your self-esteem decided to take itself for a walk and not come back. You find yourself apologising for even the smallest of things whether they’re in your control or not. Things like the food turning up late or the drink your date wants not being available suddenly become YOUR fault and you end up apologising over and over again. This can often annoy the person you’re with. So it’s important to set yourself some boundaries. When you’re thinking about making an apology ask yourself whether it’s something you’d apologise for when you’re out with someone you’re comfortable with and STOP. Breathe and let the moment pass. You’ll find in a few seconds that the need you felt to apologise has passed by and the conversation is flowing naturally.
- Not being honest – No one likes feeling anxious. It’s horrible. People with anxiety will do anything to try and avoid feeling anxious because it can completely overwhelm them. We can fantasise a lot about being someone else entirely. When we meet people we instantly think they can tell that we’re anxious and know every thought that’s going on in our head. So we often put a front on so that people can’t see what’s going on. But the truth is that they can’t at all! It’s ok to feel anxious. I’ll say that again. It’s ok to feel anxious. Everyone, whether they suffer from anxiety or not, will feel anxious before, during and after a date. So if you’re feeling anxious before your date, or during it, instead of putting a front up why not just be honest and tell the person you’re with that you’re feeling a little anxious and that dating can increase that for you? You might just find that they say they are as well and it becomes a moment of genuine connection for you both. And if they react negatively? Well to be honest that’s a good thing as well. Because if that person can’t cope with your anxiety now then it’s unlikely they’ll be able to cope with it longer term and so probably aren’t a good match for you. This doesn’t mean though that you should straight away tell them about all the details of your mental illness (see point 3 above!). It simply means that if you get to a stage where you feel your anxiety is becoming a bit overwhelming it’s ok to say ‘I’m feeling a little anxious’.
The above points may seem obvious but it’s amazing how when you’re dating with anxiety and feeling anxious they disappear out of the window! So next time before going on a date maybe write down five things you’re going to do as follows:
- Not drink too much
- Stay centred
- Avoid oversharing
- Stop apologising
- Be honest.
If you stick to those 5 principles when you’re dating I promise you won’t go far wrong. It doesn’t mean that your date will end in overall success (you may just not like the person you’re with!) but it will hopefully mean that the date feels easier. Eventually after a few times you’ll find you do the above as a matter of course and suddenly dating becomes less anxiety-inducing.
The other point to note is that there are two of you on a date. So the pressure’s not all on you! Your date is hopefully just as keen to impress you and is probably feeling some pressure as well. That being said it can be difficult to date someone who is suffering from anxiety because they do occasionally get or feel overwhelmed. So, therefore, I will be doing a blog on the subject of dating someone with anxiety to hopefully help people who are dating one of us anxious types! Look out for in the future!
If you have any tips you’d like to share please do use the comments section below. And don’t forget to follow me on twitter, youtube and Instagram under my of handle of @moneymentaluk
Thanks for reading.