Dating is not a dirty word 

It might seem odd, but for many people the idea of going out on a “date” brings up a lot of tension, anxiety and caution.  This is especially true if you’ve had a bad relationship, or dating experience in your recent past.  If you’re still inclined to avoid dating because of a bad experience, make sure you check out my article about preventing the experiences of the past from interfering with today.

In our society, it seems that there’s so much pressure on people around dating which gets in the way of the dating process. For some people, being single and not dating means that they’re “not good enough”, or not attractive enough, or not nice enough, or (worse still) “not worthy”… It all makes me cringe a little. How much pressure do you think thoughts like that put on us when we’re in the process of meeting new people? I believe lots…

Take a moment now to ask yourself what “dating” really means to you…  Really think about it for a moment… And then keep reading...

Now if the primary ideas that came to mind when you thought about “what dating means to you” weren’t about “having fun” or “getting to know someone”, then maybe you’re putting pressure on yourself about dating too?

Many people have a whole list of things that they think dating means.  Some of these are:

  • Pretending to be happy about everything
  • Smiling all the time
  • Packaging themselves up so that they’re almost perfect
  • Only showing the nice side of themselves
  • Not being too intense, or too light hearted, or too opinionated
  • Having a perfect and interesting conversation
  • Hiding parts of them self that they believe are not as acceptable to other people

If you think about it, there’s a lot of pressure around each of those thoughts.

And let’s be honest.. While you’re on a date with someone new, if you’re putting your energy and thoughts into doing the things listed above (smiling lots, saying “the right thing”, and having the right conversation which is not too political or opinionated) then you’re probably thinking much too much about you and what you’re doing, and not really focusing enough on the potentially great person who is sitting opposite you.

Remember, people who get labelled great conversationalists aren’t typically people who talk a lot about themselves (although they might be able to).  They’re more often people who appear genuinely interested and curious about others…  I like to think of it as having: “Two ears and one mouth”, which means choosing to do twice as much listening as talking.

And, I’m definitely not saying play “20 (or 50) questions” and just ask and ask and ask, because this can be just as annoying… What I am saying is make a conscious effort to not focus on what you’re doing, but to focus on the moment and let yourself be curious about the other person in a genuine way.

Now you might be thinking “but what if my new date is really quiet or doesn’t talk much?”. And yes, I know this happens… So, in that case you might do a little less listening and a “little” more talking that I’ve said above.  But don’t just take over the conversation to make it easy for them, because you may be surprised at what you might learn if you ask a quiet person good questions.  Many quiet people are actually very interesting and have a lot to share when they believe others are interested in hearing from them.

So, to make it easier, how about next time you think about dating, you take the word “dating” out of the equation and just call it:

“Really enjoying a series of moments of getting to know this person”

If, while you’re on the date, you notice yourself thinking about “how you should be behaving” or “smiling” or “talking”, just bring your attention back to your date and get curious about their life.  Connect with them in that moment rather than spend your time in your head “doing the right thing”.

About Paul McNiff

Paul McNiff is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist who specialises in helping people overcome anxiety and make their relationships amazing! Paul works with couples and individuals both in-person and online in Brisbane, and also works with people throughout Australia and globally via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and phone. His passion is helping people to completely overcome the blocks and habits that hold them back in their lives, so they can take back their power and experience freedom, joy, and a true sense of happiness.

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  1. Thanks Paul, this is really helpful for me. I think I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself around dating. This is a good way to think about this. I really just need to chill out and enjoy spending time with someone new, rather than trying to be perfect all the time. Good advice, thanks, Angie

    1. Hi Angie, thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to “be something”, instead of just enjoying yourself in the moment. And if you’re busy thinking about what you should be saying or doing—or how you should be responding, you’re not focusing on the person you’re with. And believe me; they’ll feel that too. So as you say, chill out and enjoy yourself in the moment. Thanks for checking in and letting me know it helped… and good luck with your new relaxed approach, Paul

  2. I always feel so self conscious when I’m on a date. How do I change that and try to just enjoy the moment? Julie

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