Patrick was sober for 1,005 days when he started considering “going back out there and dating again.”
A 40-year-old single dad of one, Patrick says that “my fear of intimacy is really what had me start drinking in the first place.
“So it was kind of scary to me to put myself out there again, not just to have to eventually share my history and my present, but also to face that fear of being close to another human being,” he shares. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve been programmed to process things with fear. I self-sabotaged for the longest time and even now, with an awesome therapist and a really great support group, I sometimes find myself falling back into old thinking patterns and connecting dating, or any kind of potential intimacy, with my anxiety.
“I don’t want to have to be stuck in these thinking patterns forever, so I really put my whole back into challenging these negative thought cycles so I can be with someone, so I can love someone. So I can be loved back, with all the parts of me even I’ve had a hard time loving.
“That’s what a lot of us are looking for, right?”
Patrick’s right – with work, even the most negative thinking patterns can be changed and improved, rerouted into something that works positively for you. Even the most anxious people can have a successful and happy dating life, even if that means having a therapist on standby for the most difficult moments. If you’ve got anxiety and you really want to start (or keep) dating, here are a few things you can do to make the experience a little bit easier on yourself.
Identify your automatic thoughts and challenge them. A lot of people with anxiety may not even realize that the thought of dating automatically comes with negative thoughts, like “I’m not good enough for anyone,” or “They’d never go for me,” or “What if I’m alone for the rest of my life?”
Address those thoughts. Could you truly be sure you’re not good enough for anyone, that no one would ever go for you, and that you’ll be alone forever? Well, sure, anyone could be alone forever, but that would be by choice, not because you’re so unlikeable. Remember to identify negative thoughts and replace them with something brighter. “I just haven’t found anyone for me yet,” sounds wildly different – and more empowering – than “No one will ever like me!”
Name all your positive attributes. Are you a great cook? An awesome listener? A good friend? A voracious reader? An intelligent conversationalist? A compassionate person who loves to help anyone out? There are so many things about you that you can find that are wonderful, and it’s about time you tell yourself what those things are.
Switch your focus. On a date, if you’re so anxious, do the one thing that makes other people warm to you, guaranteed. Ask about them.
When we’re anxious, we tend to go within, thinking about ourselves and everything we’re doing that could possibly be seen as awkward, ugly or odd. So take the focus off yourself and start giving your date all the attention – ask them what they like, what their interests are, what they hope to do eventually. Compliment them. Not only do people love talking about themselves, they also appreciate a companion who seems genuinely interested in learning about who they are.
Be honest. There’s nothing more disarming than a vulnerable, honest person. Instead of trying to “be cool,” and pretending you’re more confident than you are, just say it: “I’m really nervous.”
Chances are, your date’s just as nervous as you are, which will help both of you immediately and authentically connect.