If you’re back in the dating game after a long-term relationship or a marriage, the prospect of going out on a date can feel unsettling if not downright nerve-wracking. The anticipation and uncertainty — among so many other difficult emotions — all play into the angst.
So, how do you turn that energy into a relaxed quest for fun? Here are 10 tips you can try.
1. Get curious about your jitters.
In other words, don't push away or ignore your anxiety. Instead, let go of judgement and kindly ask yourself where those feelings might be coming from.
Most of us get the dating jitters because we’re overwhelmed by the anxiety of things being unclear or unpredictable. We sit wondering if we’re going to measure up, if the past is going to repeat itself, if the future will be better. In short, we struggle to stay present.
So look at what is creeping up from the past and just take the time to notice it. The real change can emerge by keeping those past wounds from running the show.
2. Notice any beliefs you have about dating and question them.
We create our beliefs based on situations from the past, conversations with friends and even movies and TV. But molding our expectations based on the past and other people’s experiences can put a damper on things (to say the least).
Here are some fairly common beliefs that we all tend to gravitate towards when we’re discouraged about dating: “There are no good catches out there,” “Everyone is already in a relationship," “Only skinny and fit people get dates." Look for any beliefs you have about yourself or dating and actively question them.
3. Know your demons.
I know, you don't want to do this. But it's essential to take the time to consider any patterns from past relationships that you’d prefer not to repeat.
Whether there are ways that you may have contributed to the demise of your past relationships or there are certain unsupportive characteristics that you tend to be attracted to in a partner, get realistic about what you’d like to shed, and what you’d like to keep.
4. Learn what makes you happy when you’re with a partner and when you’re on your own.
This is a critical step, especially if you're stuck in the belief that another person will complete you or is responsible for your happiness.
Ask big, inspiring questions about what your desires are: What do you truly feel drawn to? When are you in flow? What lights you up? What ignites your passion? When do you experience joy?
5. Know your boundaries.
How much time do you need to spend on your own? If you’re a parent, do you want new dates to meet your kids? Do you want to see an STD test before becoming physically intimate? When will you invite a new acquaintance to your house? These are all boundaries that you get to set. It’s important to think them through before getting all tipsy on those new romance hormones.
6. Plan to go on lots of dates.
If you’re looking for a partner, take your time before settling on one particular person. Plan to spend time getting to know a lot of people. You may even want to try dating out of your comfort zone, just to see what you learn about yourself. After all, dating can be thought of as a practice of getting to know yourself better.
Now that these preparatory tips are out of the way, let's consider what happens once you have a date. Here are some further tips that may help calm those jitters:
7. Keep things in perspective.
The first date is just a trial to see if this person is a good fit for a second date. The one question you want to answer on this date is: Did I like being around this person? That’s all. You’re just out, hopefully enjoying yourself, noticing how it feels to be around someone new.
8. Breathe through the discomfort.
OK, this might seem obvious. But we do it during yoga class when things feel tough, so why not for dating anxiety? If you find you're super nervous right before a date, skip the glass of wine or jittery phone call with your friend and instead, try a simple breathing exercise.
Here's one to try: Take a breath in to the count of five, then out to the count of five. Repeat ten times. Try to feel the sensation of the air on your skin. Continue the breath and send warmth all the way across your chest, to your heart and your lungs.
9. Let go of your attachment to a certain outcome.
Most of our anxiety comes from wanting to control what’s going to happen next. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had that magic wand?). So, naturally, unpredictable situations, like a first date, can make us nervous. Try to stay focused on the present moment, really take the time to enjoy what your date is saying and allow yourself to respond.
10. Don’t be afraid to bail.
Sometimes a date just isn’t working and it’s best to keep moving, rather than internalizing the "meh" feelings as some sign of your own inadequacy. So simply thank your date for meeting and excuse yourself politely.
The more connected you are with yourself, the less weight you'll place on some external outcome. From there, the easier it will be to treat dating like just another part of your already-great life!