How I stopped and how you can too.
I got engaged for the first time when I was 19. It sort of felt like playing pretend grown-up. We moved in together and played pretend house. He didn’t like how I loaded the dishwasher, and I didn’t like how he had an ex-wife and a toddler. It was a match that certainly hadn’t been made in heaven.
After we broke up came a string of men who were Mr. Rights only if it was really dark and I was wearing sunglasses.
I knew these relationships weren’t going to last, just like I knew that engagement wasn’t going to last either, but I jumped into each one full-hearted.
When a nice guy came into my purview who wanted to have a real relationship based on trust and care, I sprinted in the opposite direction.
It took me a while to realize that each time I bypassed real relationships, I was turning down my own happiness. I needed to quit letting fear lurch me from one inappropriate relationship to the next while fleeing from any good guy that came near me.
Fear ran my dating life, which means I…
- didn’t make any moves because then I couldn’t get rejected.
- went after people who seemed like “guarantees.”
- went after people I never wanted to actually be with long-term.
- sabotaged relationships that had true potential.
For years, I ignored, avoided, or ruined any chance I had of having a truly fulfilling relationship with someone who was suitable for me.
Chris Peterson, a pioneer in the positive-psychology field, says that, “healthy relationships may be the single most important determinant to happiness.” Pretty hard to get into a healthy relationship when you keep avoiding anything that might seem a little a hard.
The steps I had to take to quit letting fear run my dating life felt so uncomfortable. I had to acknowledge that I deserved something better than what I’d been getting. I also had to quit running from the men who were offering me the mutual respect and care I said I wanted.
If you’ve found yourself in this same place, here are the steps I took to get over that fear.
Step 1: Identify when your fear is running the show.
Are you afraid to call, text, message, or otherwise ask someone out? Are you postponing texting, calling, or otherwise making a move on someone you’ve already met/gone on a date with?
Are you being hyper-critical? Overthinking or obsessing over inconsequential details? Feeling ashamed or like you’ve already “failed” before you’ve even done anything that could be considered a failure?
Do you suddenly start withdrawing and making up excuses not to see him or her anymore? Pick fights? Start believing he or she’s cheating on you/doesn’t think highly of you, etc.?
Step 2: Acknowledge what’s really going on.
Let’s say you have a crush on someone, and you find yourself not wanting to call them, even though they gave you their number.
Ask yourself: “Why am I afraid?”
You can answer this question by recording a voice memo on your phone, typing it out in your Notes app, or doing some quick journaling. Maybe you come to, “I’m afraid they’ll reject me.”
Once you’ve figured out why you’re afraid, move onto step 3.
Step 3: Rewrite the script.
You don’t have to keep doing what you’ve done. Frankly, if nothing changes, nothing changes, so you want to do something different!
To help yourself get there, take what you came to and rewrite it. Change “I’m afraid they’ll reject me” into “I am comfortable taking risks,” or “I’ll never know if I don’t try.”
Tell yourself that whenever your fearful self starts whispering that dumb crap in your ear.
Step 4: Take action.
Go do the thing you’re afraid of! Get on a dating app. Ask them out. Text or at least talk to him or her. Kiss them. Date someone who challenges you. Tell them you want commitment when you do. Fail and fail again. Own what went right and what went wrong and just keep at it. Don’t make excuses instead of acting.
The relationship that I have today is because I quit letting fear run my life. It was hard work to get here (read: I’m an idiot that needed to work on some things), but it’s not hard work to stay here (read: because it’s awesome).