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Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships—with romantic partners, family members, coworkers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!
Q: How do you get through dating anxiety? I’m a senior in college, and the idea of going on a first or second date often makes me feel sick to my stomach, and I am pretty sure I’m visibly anxious when the date starts. How do I combat this?
A: As a married woman, I don’t get anxious about dating anymore, but I still get what I call the “pre-game jitters.” I get them before work events, like before meeting up with a stranger for a networking lunch, or taking the stage to speak to a sea of unknown faces, or an on-camera interview with a news station as a relationship expert.
Here are a few tips to deal with the pre-game jitters.
Step 1: Flip your anxiety on its head
First, the way you think about your anxiety will affect how your body responds to it. So the next time you have a date and feel anxious, try saying to yourself, “Wow, I’m really feeling excited about this date.” Excitement informs your body that you are looking forward to something, whereas anxiety informs your body that you are afraid of something. Flip it on its head.
Step 2: Ask yourself these questions
Third, it’s probably worth asking where the nerves come from. Are you imagining a disaster scenario? Is it based in fact or fiction? Worst case, your date is boring and there isn’t a connection. Or your date is the most interesting human on the planet and also looks like a young Brad Pitt but the feelings aren’t mutual. Or you discover you had spinach in your teeth an hour after you hug goodbye. You put yourself out there and that’s what matters.
Step 3: Bring it up!
Second, talk about the elephant in the room. If you think you look nervous, then try saying, “I’ve been looking forward to our date. I’m even a bit nervous.” Guess what?! Your date is probably equally as nervous as you and will be put at ease by your gesture of transparency.
Step 4: Be curious
Finally, often on first or second dates, people are so nervous about being interesting that they forget to be interested in their date. How do you know if this is someone that you’ll want to see again if you’re so worried about how you’re coming across? Instead, ask questions and be curious about the person you’re on a date with. You want them to like you for you, anyway.
The more dates you go on, the more comfortable you’ll be. And you’ll learn what you like and don’t like. Emotions are intended to feel and move through. They are like little flags alerting us to pay attention.
The fact that you have dating anxiety right now means that dating is important to you. That’s a good thing. Smile, relax, and don’t forget to have fun. Nothing is sexier than confidence.
More from Asking for a Friend here.