I hate dating. I hate the awkward small talk. I hate the uncomfortable silences. I hate when you realize you don’t want to see the person again and you have to talk yourself out of climbing through the restroom window. The amount of anxiety I have when it comes to dating usually leaves me sitting at home on weekends drinking wine on my couch and binging an entire Netflix series in one night.
The thing is you kind of have to date unless you’re okay dying alone on your sofa and your body being eaten by your starving cats. Not that I have cats. Or a sofa.
As my therapist once said, “dating is a bitch.” But we’ve got to try. So here are 8 tips for anyone with SDA (severe dating anxiety).
1. Try talking to people that aren’t Siri or your immediate friend group.
I’m very comfortable being alone, and my anxiety makes it very easy for me to fall into a safe rotation of work/relax/eat/sleep. My life is fine and familiar and low-stress. “Who needs dating?!” I joke, until I’m laying in bed alone, cuddling with my eight pillows, convincing myself not to text my ex. When you’re comfortable, you don’t have to push yourself. So sure, I’m swiping right on Tinder, but I loathe the effort it takes to think of a good opening line. When I go out, I’d much rather make bad jokes with my friends than talk to the awkward guy that asks me to dance. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? You have to go out of your way, or you’ll just end up with a really dope sex toy collection.
2. Understand that people are assholes.
Say you’ve made a move. There’s no guarantee that guy isn’t a piece of human trash. Putting yourself out there takes a huge amount of effort and most of the time it’s for someone who you might not be compatible with. Don’t let that stop you! Keep talking to randos. You’ll eventually find someone who is a least tolerable.
3. Make actual irl physical plans with them.
You found someone that doesn’t suck. Great! The back and forth banter over text might be fun for a little while, but any kind of spark is going to fizzle if you don’t try to meet up. Make plans. Don’t cancel them. The closer it gets to the date, the more you might want to tell them your grandma died and you have to suddenly fly home. Don’t! No matter how nervous you get, it’s probably going to be less awful than your anxiety is leading you to believe. Maybe you’ll get some free food out of it…
4. Mentally prepare yourself.
I like to think of myself as an astronaut, and your date is a new planet you’re exploring. Preparation beforehand makes your departure go much more smoothly than just jumping into the abyss. Breathe. Work out the day of your date so you feel good about yourself. Wear your favorite pair of underwear. Do whatever you need to feel as comfortable as possible before exploring this unknown territory. And don’t forget to brush your teeth before you leave the house.
5. Try unconventional dates.
I hate having first dates at restaurants because there’s a weird set of procedures and expectations hovering over the meal. A literal cloud of anxiety. But who says a first date has to be dinner and a movie? Break the rules! Go play minigolf or go hiking or a hit up your local karaoke bar. You’re both relaxed and having fun and suddenly there’s way less pressure, so you can focus on getting to know each other.
6. Allow yourself to be impulsive.
I’m the kind of person that likes knowing exactly what I’m getting myself into, but romance isn’t something you can organize with Google Calendar. You have to go with the flow sometimes. Don’t shy away from an experience because you’re not 100% comfortable. Go for a long drive. Hit up a bar and grab a few drinks. Kiss him! Or don’t! And it’s okay to go all the way on the first date. Do what you want, but don’t let fear control your actions. We learn the biggest lessons in our discomfort.
7. It’s okay to be anxious.
It’s common to feel anxious about a date, but don’t let those feelings get the best of you. Your emotions are nothing to be ashamed of. Shame works to keep us disconnected, and it can really be a roadblock for people who have a hard time opening up. Vulnerability is not weakness! You are awesome, and your emotions are a part of what makes you awesome. Embrace them! As the magical RuPaul would say, “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?” And if you need more help getting over your anxiety, see #4. Or a therapist.
8. Talk about it.
If you’re nervous and not talking very much, your date might be left wondering if you’re actually into him. Tell your date how you feel and that you haven’t done this very often. Showing your authentic self to people is instrumental in human connection. Be brave. For him, it should be endearing and a sign of trust! If he doesn’t think so, he’s trash anyway and you can do better.
Dating sucks, but hopefully these tips can help you crawl out of your shell. Good luck out there, hermits!