Dating can be scary: You’ve got such high hopes and you’re putting your heart on the line, so it makes sense you’d find yourself a little freaked out now and then. But don’t let your jitters ruin a rendezvous. Here, we address some of the most common insecurities that people are plagued by during those early dating stages. Our simple tips will help you turn your worry into a “Wow, that was fun!” feeling.
Dating Insecurity #1: “I’m not my date’s type.”
Stressed that Mr./Ms. Might-Be-Right won’t approve of your looks, outfit, career, personality, dating history, and so on? This line of thinking won’t do anything but make you a nervous wreck. A better bet? Flip it. “The purpose of a date is to decide whether you want another one, not whether the other person likes you,” says Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., author of Secrets You Keep From Yourself: How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness. So just act as if your date is the person who’s auditioning for approval — because it’s true. “This will allow you to relax so you can enjoy the moment,” says Dr. Neuharth.
Dating Insecurity #2: “I’m going to do something stupid and embarrass myself.”
You worry that you’ll spill coffee in your date’s lap, choke on a bite of food, slip on the sidewalk or have some other mortifying mishap… and suddenly you’ll be every shade of red and your date will think you’re a fool, right? Think again. Even if something like this were to happen, here’s the upside: showing your vulnerabilities can actually endear you to your match. “Some happy couples’ fondest memories and oft-repeated stories are about early embarrassing moments, like snorting when laughing or dipping your sleeve in soy sauce,” says Dr. Neuharth. “When you see another person being embarrassed, it humanizes that person and you feel a natural kinship.” So if the unimaginable happens, laugh (instead of freaking out or apologizing over and over all night) and embrace that you’re now part of the “embarrassing dating moments” club.
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Dating Insecurity #3: “What if I have to let this person down eventually?”
“Before a date, I always worry about how I’ll handle things if I don’t want to see the guy again and he’s into me,” says Christina Avion, 32, of Los Angeles, CA. “I feel terrible about the prospect of having to reject someone and can work myself up into a real state over it.” Hey, it’s nice to be concerned about your date’s feelings, but a candlelit dinner doesn’t equal signing up for happily ever after. “As the saying goes, you can’t make a good omelet without breaking a few eggs,” says Dr. Neuharth. So quit over-thinking things and deal with turning the person down when, and if, it’s actually necessary. Should that be the case, Dr. Neuharth suggests replying with “I don’t think we’re a match” or simply “No, thank you” when you’re asked for another date. And while it feels like you’re delivering some huge blow, have some perspective: “Letting someone down shows that you respect the person’s time, and most adults can take care of themselves,” says Dr. Neuharth.
Dating Insecurity #4: “I’ll accidentally offend my date.”
You roll your eyes at the mention of a pretentious film festival only to realize your dinner partner was actually inviting you along. How do you recover? “If you offend someone, the magic words are simply ‘I’m sorry,’” says Dr. Neuharth. You can’t possibly know everything about your date, so you may unintentionally cross a personal line. If you apologize sincerely but your date is still touchy, then you probably wouldn’t work out with that person long-term, anyway. But if he or she appreciates your contrition, you can move on to more interesting (and neutral) subjects.
Dating Insecurity #5: “I’m so bad at making small talk.”
Feeling conversationally challenged? Whether you tend to talk a mile a minute or go silent and slack-jawed, hiccups in first-date banter can induce panic in some people. “I went out with a guy who barely spoke, so I found myself spilling personal information about myself, my family and my job just because I couldn’t handle the silence,” admits Jennifer Byrne, 35, Minneapolis, MN. If you tend to blab when you’re nervous or to fill an awkward silence, remind yourself that it’s not your job to carry the conversation singlehandedly. “Your date is capable of coming up with things to talk about, too,” says Dr. Neuharth. “Pause, listen or even break the ice by saying, ‘Don’t you hate awkward silences on dates?’” A tactic that’s good for people who tend to clam up? Always have a couple of great conversation-starting questions in your back pocket, like: “What’s the one weekend activity you never get tired of?” or “What adventures do you hope to have before the year is over?”
Dating Insecurity #6: “The ending of a first date always feels awkward to me, and I almost never get a second date out of it. What’s the point in trying?”
Stressing about saying goodnight before you even order dessert can look like this: Kiss or no kiss? Shake hands? Go for a hug? Ask for another date? The best solution is to let your gut guide you. If you had a good time, say so with feeling. If you didn’t, just say “thank you.” And if you’re not sure whether to smooch, just smile broadly, squeeze your date’s hand and turn to depart. It gives your date the perfect opportunity to make a move without any weirdness if he or she doesn’t go for a kiss. “If you two clicked, there will be more dates and the endings will become easier and probably more delicious!” says Dr. Neuharth. Which is a nice thought that you can use to calm your nerves during a date.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Maxim and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she’s published two books:The Real Reasons Men CommitandSex Comes Firstand is the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.