A first date could be the opening of a door to a wonderful relationship and a better life, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't come with its stresses.
Dating can feel awkward, uncomfortable, scary and force us to analyse ourselves and our perceived flaws under a harsh light. Especially if we're dating after a breakup, divorce or long period of abstinence, those fears can feel even more magnified.
However, it doesn't have to be like that. Dating can be a fun, exciting and strengthening process if we can overcome the fears that hold us back.
Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author and founder of online couples therapy platform The Relationship Paradigm. If there's anyone who knows what the majority of us struggle with when it comes to finding love, it's him.
Here, Neil shares with us the most common dating fears and, crucially, how to overcome them.
12 of the most common dating fears
1.I’m not good enough
This is wonderful self-sabotage. Do you feel you are not good enough to meet someone that likes you, wants to see more of you and maybe even have a loving relationship with you? If so where does that belief come from and how is that helping you in your life right now?
Try instead telling yourself that you deserve a good relationship and allow yourself to have one. There is someone in the world who will be what you want.
2.They won’t like me
It is really important to present yourself as the best version of you rather than pretending you are someone different.
If they don’t like you then that shows they are the wrong person for you. So much better to discover that on the first date than have to waste your time with the wrong person.
3.They won’t be anything like I thought
If this is the first time you have met face to face that is very possible.
You may have spent time corresponding online and built up this image of your ideal. They may also have been less than honest with their profile. If the gorgeous 35 year old hunk turns out to be a 50 year old boring man then you have been mis-sold and you need to give them some honest feedback. If the pictures were flattering but the rest is as advertised, then explore a bit deeper to find if there is a possible connection.
4.There will be no chemistry
We make intuitive judgements about a new acquaintance within less than a tenth of a second. Those judgements can be wrong, and it may be helpful to park that judgement while exploring other aspects of the person.
If it feels like you are on totally different planets, check what your head, your heart and your gut are telling you about them. If they are giving you different feelings, then try and work out where the dissonance is and explore further. If they are all in agreement, then end the date gently and move on.
5.We won’t have anything in common
That is possible and if you don’t at least you will have found out the reality.
To find out if you do, ask open questions to understand their past and the future such as ‘and what are the experiences that formed you’ and ‘what are your dreams for the future’.
Spend time listening to them and tune into what floats their boat. Also ensure that you say enough about yourself to help them understand what is important to you.
6.It will be embarrassing
It could be embarrassing if you reveal too much about yourself to the wrong person or too little to the right one. Ensure the first date is somewhere safe, with other people around and when you can end it early if it is not right or extend it if things are wonderful.
A 30 minute meeting over coffee allows you to walk away quickly if they are not right for you. A long, expensive dinner with someone unsuitable could lead to one of you going to the toilet and escaping through the window!
If you are able to, giving gentle but honest feedback at the end is better than disappearing and never speaking again. Something along the lines of ‘it was great to meet you but you’re not what I am looking for. I hope you find someone else.’
7.They will cross my boundaries
What if they want to hug or kiss me and I don’t want to?
Take the lead and do what you feel comfortable with whilst giving them the opportunity to say no. If you are unsure ask them; for example, ‘Is it Ok to give you a hug or would you rather shake hands?’
What if they want sex on the first date and I don’t want to?
Say no! If you like them tell them that and you want to savour the romance before leaping into bed.
8.We won’t have anything to talk about
Start with easy and innocuous conversation, such as ‘and what have you been doing today?’ Allow the conversation to flow gently as it will if you are both in tune.
Silence can be difficult but also very powerful. Filling the space with words is unnecessary and can give a false impression.
9.I don’t deserve to meet anyone nice
You do. Switch off the gremlin inside your head and question where those thoughts came from.
If you are caught in a cycle of being in abusive or bad relationships; that is a choice that you are making for some reason. If it is due to past abuse or circumstances, get some therapy to help you break that pattern.
Look for someone who will appreciate the wonderful person that you really are.
10.What is the next step?
What would you like the next step to be?
If they say what they want, only agree if that is what you want. If they don’t say, express your desire otherwise it could be a sliding door moment and that potential will disappear.
11.How to ask for a second date
There can often be an uncomfortable ending to a date. If you like them and would like to see them again, get clarity. This is so much better than leaving you in uncertainty or missing an opportunity. A great question to ask at the end is ‘and what would you like to have happen next?’
12.It will end badly
What is the worst that can happen?
If you meet somewhere public and safe for a short meeting, you can end when you feel uncomfortable. Stay fairly sober so that you can stay in control.
If they are not what you hoped, or you are not what they wanted, that is disappointing and move on taking what you have learned from that experience.
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