November saw Stress Awareness Day and International Stress Awareness Week, let’s talk about the stress of dating and the impact stress has on our mental health. Dating is often very stressful and can be experienced as something emotionally demanding to the point of despondency. It’s very common, and at one point or another many of my clients will talk to me about it.
There are a number of things that make dating stressful. From serial disappointments in dead-end dates, to the taxing element of having to yet again tell a stranger about your life history in the hope they will approve of you, to the painful realisation that you are going to have to say ‘no thanks’ to someone you have decided not to take things further with. It can be tiring, demotivating and demoralising, and then you have to pick yourself up and go back out there.
While these are common experiences, they do not have to be the only ones. Dating can be fun, exciting, uplifting and connecting. What about the disappointments and timewasters? Well they will always be around and it is about dodging these as much as possible – it’s about being in the driver’s seat on your dating journey. Here are my top tips to navigate the stress of dating, so that you may better enjoy looking for your person.
It’s OK to be disappointed if it doesn’t work out
Accept that it is ok to feel down and despondent about dating. It happens. Similar to when you lose your cinema ticket, the moment you accept it’s lost, the quicker you move on from the initial disappointment. It’s just a blip. (Should the feeling of despondency be more than a blip and take weeks to get over, consider talking to your gp or a psychologist as your mental health might need professional support).
You can take a break from dating
Your body might be telling you to take a break, even just a little one. This is a cue for you to reach out to friends, hobbies and activities you enjoy. And if you don’t have any of those, maybe it would be an idea to think of ways to get some. Essentially do something ‘nice’ for yourself. Give yourself a dose of dopamine, whether that be hanging out with friends, scoping out books in your favourite book store, popping over to your nan’s for a cuppa. You get the idea. And if your reaction to this point is ‘yes, but’, I would invite you to think about whether you are inadvertently sabotaging your dating experience.
Ask the right questions
This is perhaps one of my biggest mantras. When you are dating you must ask the important questions up front. I am not talking about a clipboard type interview, but an appropriate mix of information gathering and socialising. You need to find out important things about your date in order for you to decide whether you are compatible. The questions depend on your values and what is important to you in a relationship. For example, you might be a night owl and would hate to have your partner get up before the sun rises. This then becomes a really important question to ask potential partners. You may not care about sleep patterns, in which case, learning about your date’s circadian rhythm is not part of your due diligence process.
Manage your expectations
Dating is the ‘mate selection process’. You are not in a relationship until you have both discussed and agreed to the relationship. Many people think that if they have gone on 5-10 dates that ‘things are serious’. You might be dating or seeing someone, that is engaging in activities that involve a sense of privacy and intimacy between two people and it feels like you are a couple, but really, in my book, you are not yet. Don’t confuse ‘we are dating/ seeing each other’ with ‘we are in a relationship/ this is my partner’.
Be kind and tell the person if it’s not a match
Get over your fear of hurting others. Realise that you can never not hurt or disappoint people. Ok that was an awkward sentence, but think about it. You have no control over what other people think or how they would respond to you. At best you can use simple, straightforward and clear language. It is worse to string someone along, than to break-up with them at the point when you have checked out with them. Besides, you never know whether they would feel some relief too. Being polite and kind about it can maybe ease things, but you are doing yourself and them a favour by letting the dating ties go. If it’s too agonising to tell them in person, I think it is ok to write a text or letter or leave a voice note.
Give yourself permission to have fun on dates
Enjoy the company you are with. If you have done your due diligence, you should at the very least be on dates with someone whose company is enjoyable to you. So while it might not be Mr, Mrs or Mx right, you are spending quality time with someone and honing in on your dating skills while out doing fun things!
Don’t spend all your time on dating
Don’t focus all your time on finding your forever after. Dating is something you do alongside the other commitments you have in your life. You still have a life right? Job, kids, family, pastimes, groups, activities etc. They make up your identity. You still need to continue to curate and maintain your sense of self. If you lose sight of yourself, you risk falling into despair.
If you can adopt the above points you are less likely to feel as stressed. You may still feel that dating is stressful, but applying yourself mindfully to the process, you can better look out for your mental health and start enjoying it more. If you think you might like to learn more about how to best manage the stress of dating, get in touch to learn more about Maclynn’s date coaching sessions.