Dating with Anxiety

Dating with Anxiety

Dating is hard! Add in a pandemic and then anxiety, and it can become crippling. It can cause some people to give up and not want to even try dating anymore. But if you are seeking a relationship, it is definitely worth it! In this post, I will share some things I learned through creating and leading singles workshops through The Gottman Institute. Hopefully, some of it will help you.

Indecision and Online Dating

There can be too much choice in online dating. Columbia professor Sheena Iyengar’s research showed that an excess of options can induce indecision and paralysis in decision-making. Her experiment involved jam samples at a grocery store. When they offered six types of jam as opposed to 24 types of jam, people were ten times as likely to buy jam from the smaller sample number. 

This same indecision and paralysis can happen in online dating. You can combat this by having only one or two apps/dating sites that you use. Also, limit the time you spend by setting a timer. For example, thirty minutes to an hour a day searching or swiping and replying to messages is one way to go about it.  Try to use a site that gives you more information than less about your potential date. For example, allows you to find out if the other person wants kids, what type of work they do, their hobbies, etc. Some apps like Hinge give you very little “extra” info about a potential date, and this can be hard if you have anxiety. Usually, more information is better in terms of combatting anxiety.

Meet in Person

Don’t spend too much time talking online—a week or two at the most—then meet to see if you have chemistry. Helen Fisher, noted anthropologist and consultant for, states that it is best to avoid long online exchanges. The only way to know if you have a future with a person is to meet face-to-face since “the brain is the best algorithm.” Laurie Davis, author of Love at First Click, recommends no more than six messages before meeting since that gives you enough information to know if they are someone you’d want to date. Meeting someplace public is always the best option for safety reasons. 

People still meet at work, through friends and neighbors, or at school, but no matter how you meet a potential partner, you still have to go on dates! When meeting up with someone, you can pick a spot you are comfortable with like your favorite coffee shop, a walk in the park you love, etc. This can give you a home-field advantage feeling. 

Be Interested Instead of Interesting

Remind yourself to be interested in your date rather than trying to be interesting. The concept of being interested in the other person versus trying to be interesting is so important if you have nerves and anxiety when you think about going on a date. Think of how good it feels when a friend or date asks you deep and meaningful questions about you and your life. It feels good, right? Try this on your next date and prepare to be amazed at the positive result. Doing this will help cut down on nerves since you don’t have to worry about trying to look cool or interesting yourself. I recommend downloading the Gottman Card Decks app and looking at the open-ended questions and date questions card decks. There are some fun and engaging questions in there that would help you to feel prepared with some engaging questions so that you can be prepared to be curious. 

All in This (Anxiety) Together

Also, remember that your date might have anxiety also. This is common, so don’t feel like you are alone. Use whatever coping skills you have when you are preparing for or actually going on a date. Remember to breathe deeply, have some positive affirmations in mind, or sometimes even have a comfort object with you like a favorite piece of clothing. 

I went through eight years of being single, and many anxiety-filled dates to get to my current partner. In fact, we are engaged and very happy together. You got this! It’s not an easy path, but it’s worth it and you will find the right person if you put in the effort and time. 

Want to learn more about dating the Gottman way? Tune in to IG Live tomorrow at 9 am Pacific / 12pm Eastern on Instagram to see me and fellow Master Trainer Dave Penner discuss What to Look for While Dating and other relationship advice.

Also, we are hosting the upcoming Gottman Method workshop, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work for Singles. During this live virtual event, Dave and I will teach you how to manage conflict, create common ground, and achieve greater levels of connection.  Join us on February 26, 2022, online via Zoom. Register HERE.