Practical Tips for Overcoming Dating Anxiety

Many people experience anxiety during their early dating experiences. Those who have connected via online dating sites/apps may be nervous about the transition from the digital to the real world. Those who are being set up by others may approach the date with very little information about their partners. Finally, those who have met and initiated the date in person may experience anxiety over creating the “perfect first date.”

In each of these scenarios, once the initial introductions and pleasantries are out of the way, daters spend time learning about their partners and assessing whether or not they are compatible, as well as attempt to communicate their interest in one another. Beyond this, daters are focused on reading and decoding their partners’ cues to assess the likelihood of a second date. As a result, first date anxiety is quite common. However, the tips provided below can mitigate the impact of this anxiety. 

Be present

Being present is important and can help you enjoy the date. Being in the moment enables you to actively listen and pay attention to what your partner is saying/doing, which is what will help you decide if you two are compatible. 

Anxiety can interfere with our ability to be present, as we focus more on what can go wrong and jump ahead to worst-case scenarios. For example, if you are too focused on what topic of conversation to bring up next or how the date will end, you are not present. To combat this, centering practices are extremely beneficial. Prior to meeting your date, try a mindful awareness exercise such as focusing on your sensory experiences (i.e. naming three things you can see, three things you can hear, three things you can touch, etc.) or focusing on your breath (i.e. breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, breathe out for a count of six). These simple exercises can calm your sympathetic nervous system and help you transition from a hyper-alert and anxious state to a calmer and more focused one.  

Address the awkwardness of the situation 

Anxiety may be high because you have potentially been communicating with your match on a dating site for a long period of time without meeting in person. This has been amplified by stay-at-home orders as a result of dating during the pandemic. You may feel anxious about whether or not the person you are about to meet will live up the expectations you have based on your online encounters. To help calm these nerves, you can simply share that while you know each other from your in-depth online communications, you also feel as if you are restarting now that you are meeting in person. Your date may feel the same way, and you can take comfort in sharing a common experience. 

Reframe the anxiety

It is also helpful to reframe the way in which you experience your anxiety. You can view it as an asset, rather than a problem. For example, pre-date jitters may energize you and can contribute to a feeling of excitement during the date. By viewing it this way, you may be more likely to welcome it as you approach your match.

Use self-talk

Using self-talk centered on your positive attributes and what you bring to the table may also serve to decrease the anxiety experienced. For example, taking time to note that you are a caring and loving partner may provide the confidence boost that you need before the date.

No matter which method you use, alleviating the pressure enables you to enjoy the process much more. It is also important to remember that a lot of people experience date anxiety during the first several meetings; you are not alone. 

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Marisa T Cohen
Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, is a psychology professor, relationship researcher and relationship coach. Learn more about Marisa at www.marisatcohen.com.

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