The stress of dating can be overwhelming, but with a more intentional and targeted approach, you're less likely to trigger anxiety - and the process may even be fun.
Ever wondered 'Why is dating so stressful?' the truth is that there are many factors at play: from the pressure to put yourself out there, waiting for responses and indeed - dealing with rejection or ghosting.
In this article, we'll look at some of the steps we can take to date with a calm demeaner - and in tern, enable ourselves to make sound decisions.
Here are seven tips to help you to navigate the online dating game.
It's a case of 'trial & error'
When you’re talking to someone - or out on a date with them - your goal should be to get to know them. Sure, you may ultimately want to get married and have kids, but the reality is that meeting lots of people who aren't right, will ultimately help you to know when you've met a date with future, long term potential. That's part of the process.
It's not the end of the world as you know it if a date doesn't work out - and it's important not to catastrophise or make this part of any 'I never meet anyone nice!' narrative. There is usually no need to become anxious about your perceived failures: they do not define you.
It's easier to remain calm about your date if you don't have such great expectations of them. Approach everyone with an open mind. If you're solely focused on a future with someone who you barely know, you’re also objectifying them, as you’re using them to fill a role in your life (i.e. to get married).
This also increases the chances you will end up in an unhealthy relationship triggered by your own panic and stress, as you will be more prone to ignoring misalignments or red flags.
Know what you're looking for yourself
A key cause of anxiety further down the line in a relationship can be the sudden realisation that your intentions are mismatched. You may genuinely not care if someone does or doesn’t have kids or is a different religion from you at the moment. But it’s important to get clear on the things you do care about - to prevent issues at a later stage.
You may not figure out what you do and don’t want until you have specific experiences related to those things. But it’s important to get as clear as you can on your wants, needs, and deal-breakers. If you’re not clear on what you want, you’ll end up spending too much time with people who have the characteristics and aspirations for the life that you don’t want.
it's easier to fall into the wrong relationship than it is to leave the wrong person.
Tell the truth - from the offset
Many people are tempted to embellish the truth or indeed, full-on lie about various elements of their personality, work or lifestyle. This might help you to secure swipes, likes, and even dates - but if you've said that you're 6ft 2 on your profile when you're in fact only 5ft 4? That's going to cause some serious pre-date stress for you (and awkwardness for your date) when it comes to meeting up in real life.
If you're totally honest from the start, then you won't have to anxiously wonder when the time is right to confess the truth (or hide the fact that you're not actually part of the cast for Magic Mike Live!..).
The truth really does set you free - especially when it comes to dating. Full disclosure from the start removes any anxiety and means that you can actually look forward to an honest and open relationship, based on complete transparency, balance and trust.
Trust your gut - if it feels wrong, you're probably right
When it comes to dating, quality is always better than quantity. Both your time and energy are valuable. If you’re messaging multiple people with whom you’re not feeling a connection, then it’s best to un-match and move on - anything else is just cruel and a waste of everyone's time.
If you’re getting a bad vibe from someone or you feel anxious about talking to them, go with your gut and un-match or send them a message saying that you're no longer interested.
Following a dating hiatus, you may well receive a huge dopamine boost - along with a jolt of anxiety shoot through your body at the thought of getting back into dating. Just make sure that you don't jump too willingly into any date just to prove to yourself that you can.
It’s good to stay open to possibilities outside of your 'type' - and we're all for Open Casting - but draining conversations or bad feelings are reasons to un-match. And any signs of disrespect should be an immediate pass. A comment like “You have a beautiful smile” has a completely different vibe from “Nice legs.”
If it doesn’t feel good, and you feel more stress following your interaction than you do excitement, then it's probably time to move on.
Don't put off a proper date for too long
The longer you wait, the more time your anxiety has to build - or indeed, for any spark to fazzle out.
There are plenty of people on dating apps who simply want to text forever. They may simply want a friend or a cure for loneliness. They may be even be in a relationship and want an ego boost.
If the conversations are not meaningful, you'll eventually lose interest and stop talking - that can feel draining, causing disappointment, or in some cases anger which is the bedfellow of stress.
The purpose of messaging is to assess if there’s a potential connection. And if there is, to move forward with a date. People can be very different in person than they are on a message, so it's important to establish this and not take weeks or months to find out for sure.
Yes, there may be some deal-breakers that need to be discussed first, depending on your preferences, and an initial phone or video call can also be a good idea.
The date should also be proper, meaning in a public place. This does not mean it needs to be expensive; walks or coffee sates are fine, as they provide for an easy escape if needed.
Again, nothing is more stressful - or awkward - than being sat at a table, about to embark upon a nine course tasting menu with someone who you are simply not interested in.
Don’t Take It Personally
This is probably one of the biggest causes of dating stress, and might be one of the hardest perspectives to change: dating and rejection go hand in hand.
Waiting days or weeks for a reply that never comes can do some serious damage to our sense of self-worth, but to shift away from feeling like you are being 'rejected' by someone, it can be healthier to see it as simply 'not a good match'.
There are 7.8 billion people in the world, and each has a varied array of interests, preferences, and values. People want different things and they have different deal-breakers. Many are also subject to 'paralysis analysis' - and are so overwhelmed with choice that they actually don't end up connecting with anyone at all.
In short, don't stress about it. It is not uncommon for someone to want to be with someone else because they’ve created an image in their head of who they want the other person to be. This is typically the case in relationships that initially move too fast. As the relationship unfolds it becomes apparent that the partners are misaligned. But often the people stay together because they are each focused on the potential of the other person.
If someone has preferences that don’t align with who you are, then they are not a good match for you. You deserve to be with someone who does not want to change fundamental aspects of who you are. And you deserve to have a relationship that is not riddled with conflict.
Reframing your mindset around this concept is difficult, but it’s one of the best ways to improve the state of your mental health as it relates to dating.
Protect and Value Yourself
This is the most important thing to remember when it comes to dating, and if you want to avoid finding yourself in an anxious cycle: you need to value yourself more than you value being in a relationship. You need to protect yourself physically and emotionally.
And you always need to be willing to walk away at any point in the dating process. This means being willing to walk away from a conversation, a date, or indeed, a more established relationship. If you’re not being treated well or even if you simply feel uncomfortable, you need to honour yourself first and foremost.
If someone’s words or actions cause you to feel uncomfortable or disrespected, and your levels of stress increase when you interact with them, then the situation is unlikely to end well. Try to enforce very strong boundaries in this area, and don't sacrifice your own standards just for the sake of being 'nice'.
Dating can be stressful at times, and typically involves a lot of trial and error. Some people meet the love of their lives right away, but for others, it can take years. And although you may feel frustrated or lonely at the moment, you won’t be happy if you’re in a relationship with the wrong person.
Being alone is much better than being in a bad relationship. Someone who is calm, independent, and takes dating in their stride is more likely to make sound decisions on their dating journey, which increases the chances of a positive longer term outcome.
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