There is a narrative I have often heard claiming that the beginning of the relationship is the best part.
You should get butterflies; you should be excited and consumed by the possibilities lying ahead.
For some people, this is their reality. For the rest of us, a good date ends in absolute terror because we realize that we could end up liking someone who is either seeing other people or is going to ghost us.
Although I am in a long-term committed relationship, all it takes is a friend telling me about her first date to send me reeling back into that anxious post-first-date feeling. Whether from meeting someone in person or online, I felt panic if there was any connection.
Here is how I eventually managed to navigate the anxiety that started whenever I started catching the feels for someone.
I didn’t put all of my eggshells in one basket.
When I was in high school, I developed the biggest crush on my neighbor, who lived next to me in my small town.
Surprisingly he seemed to feel the same, as we went on several cute dates or “hang-outs,” and he gave me the first kiss that produced butterflies. He was swamped with the wrestling team and began asking if we could wait until the end of his season to be together. I kept asking if he was serious because it felt like he was blowing me off, but he insisted he was crazy about me. I ended up waiting to date him, a new turn of anxiety coursing through my body every day as I waited to hear from him hopefully. Then one day, I got online and saw that he was in a relationship with someone new.
I felt like an absolute fool that day, but it was an important lesson. When you prematurely put all of your eggs in a basket, you could be played. I’m not saying that you need to date twenty people at once, but don’t assume someone exclusively sees you just because of several good dates.
I forced myself to recognize when someone wasn’t emotionally available
I would put my effort into trying to make things work with someone when it simply wasn’t right or a good fit for more time than I want to admit.
When I first moved to the new city I live in now, where I ended up meeting my future husband, I went on plenty of dates. Most of them were fine, but there was one man that I connected with instantly. When I saw him, I felt like my stomach dropped; he was incredibly handsome and just had a charisma about him that I couldn’t describe. We had a wonderful date, and he mentioned that he had just gotten divorced after getting married extremely young.
A prior version of me would have brushed off his comment or convinced myself that things could work. I felt the usual anxiety creeping in for several weeks, wondering why he canceled plans last minute and wanted him to like me so badly.
Then I realized that I deserved better and that he wasn’t in the same place that I was, which was being ready for a healthy long-term relationship. I let him go.
I accepted that I got easily attached.
Some people can go on a date after a date and enjoy keeping things casual.
I’m not that person, and even though there was a time when I wanted to be “cool and casual,” it quickly became apparent to me that I caught feelings all too easily.
Because I knew that I would get easily attached, I was careful with my second and third dates. Instead of giving everyone a chance, if I didn’t feel good right away or believed that there was potential for something more than casual, I cut things off to prevent wasting both of our time.
When I started dating my now fiance, I felt like my stomach was going to fall out of my body for the entire three months before we were official. While trying to take things at a healthy pace and not seem overly eager, I wanted to enjoy the beginning stages. Yet until we had “the” conversation about being official, I was constantly fighting off the panic that was threatening to take over.
Dating isn’t easy, and there is no rule that you have to enjoy it necessarily. But you know what? When you meet someone special and realize that you have a unique connection amid all of the noise, the beginning stages are entirely worth it.