Dating in today’s fast-paced, dating app-filled world can be really tough. I know this from experience, but also because single women come into my office every day looking for help on how to sort through all the pressure, expectations, and confusion of being single and dating. This is probably not a surprise to you.
In my work as a psychotherapist, my clients tell story after story about how difficult it is to go on one first date after the next. While not all of my clients pursue psychotherapy specifically for dating guidance, their goal to be in a fulfilling, healthy relationship often comes up during treatment.
I’ve noticed that there are four big fears that my single clients—both men and women—share. They have found profound relief in naming those fears and redirecting them into a more positive internal narrative. If you’ve experienced these fears as well, rest assured that they are just fears and not a prediction of the future for you.
Here are four common fears I hear, along with some helpful tips for moving past them.
01. ‘I’ll never meet someone.’
Dating can be exhausting. Many of my clients bemoan that they’ll never meet someone and have started to believe that they’ll be single forever. Many like to joke about becoming cat ladies (or dog ladies) but behind their joking is a belief that they really are going to be alone.
The trouble with dealing in absolutes (i.e. “I’m never going to meet someone,”) is that, if you repeat it to yourself often enough, you’ll start to believe it’s really true. When you lose hope, you close yourself off to new opportunities of meeting someone interesting.
The key to combating this fear is to change your internal dialog. Instead of thinking in absolutes (i.e. “never” and “always”), try to frame your frustration positively: “Just because I haven’t met anyone yet doesn’t mean I won’t meet anyone in the future.” Remember, you aren’t a fortune teller (and neither am I). If you think you’ve exhausted the dating pool, let your outer circle of friends and acquaintances know that you are actively dating. They may be able to introduce you to people you haven’t met before.
02. ‘Why would anyone want to date me? I’m not attractive/interesting/smart enough . . .’
I hear fears like this expressed often from my single clients. They list all of the things they believe are wrong with them (i.e. they need to lose weight, they are not pretty enough, they are insecure) as if these perceived flaws make them un-dateable. Sound familiar?
It seems to me that a lot of the women are searching for explanations as to why they are single and too often they look for answers in comparing themselves to friends on Facebook and Instagram. When you compare yourself to others, especially on social media, it’s easy to find real or imagined flaws that chip away at your self-esteem. But remember, no one is perfect, and what you see on social media often is just what that person wants you to see.
Avoid allowing your self-esteem to be dependent on your social media feeds. Your source of confidence has to come from within. Relying on external sources of affirmation won’t be enough. When you are confident in who you are, you interact with others in a different way. It’s hard to pin down but we can all sense when someone is confident in who they are versus someone who isn’t confident. So, instead of rattling off a list of your imperfections, try instead to intentionally focus on your positive qualities.
03. ‘I’ve had too many weird/bad dates, so I’ve given up on dating.’
When you have had a string of bad dates, it can be easy to want to quit—and taking a break from dating apps and online dating might be just what you need. But often we draw hasty conclusions, like giving up on dating, that are based on fear and dating burnout.
While it’s tempting to think of these less-than-stellar dates as evidence that you are fighting a loosing battle, try to see them from a growth mindset instead. Think of them as opportunities for you to learn about yourself and what you are looking for in a relationship.
If you have been on a streak of particularly bad dates, maybe it’s time to change up the way you approach dating? That might mean taking a different approach to online dating or even taking a more casual approach to dating (so that you feel less pressured). It doesn’t matter what that change looks like as long as you don’t let those weird dates hold you back from searching for a meaningful relationship. That’s not fair to you!
04. ‘A relationship isn’t worth giving up my independence.’
Not all the single women and men I work with are frustrated with being single; many of them are afraid of being in a relationship, too. Some equate being in a relationship with giving up their independence. They see independence and relationships as being mutually exclusive when, in fact, thriving relationships should include a healthy dose of independence.
Yes, compromise is required in relationships but it doesn’t mean that you have to give up all of your drive and ambition once you’ve entered a committed relationship. Instead of focusing on what you will have to give up when you’re in a relationship, try to focus on what you will gain. Yes, you may not be able to spontaneously book that weeklong trip to Guatemala like you’ve done in the past, but you’ve gained an invaluable source of emotional support, a traveling companion, your biggest cheerleader, and someone who cares about you, just as you are (Bridget Jones’ Diary, anyone?). That makes the trade-off completely worth it.
While it’s natural to have some fears about being single and to wonder if you’ll ever meet the one, it’s important that you don’t let these fears take over your life. Acknowledge that you have these fears but don’t stop there. Make a plan to challenge them and make changes in your life to prove these fears wrong. You have the power to make changes and create opportunities for yourself. What are you waiting for?
Photo Credit: Elissa Voss