Overcoming Fears Related To Dating
Entering or reentering the dating world can be nerve-wracking for many people. First, know that you’re not alone if the idea of pursuing a romantic relationship makes you nervous or afraid. Next, read on to learn more about why this might be and to discover strategies that can help.
What Causes A Fear Of Dating?
A fear of dating is not uncommon, nor is it unfounded. Getting involved in the world of romance can sometimes have painful consequences. Some common fears include being rejected, committing to the wrong person, feeling pain as a result of a romantic relationship, or not finding someone you connect with and feeling lonely as a result. Those who have been in unhealthy relationships previously or ones that ended in an upsetting way may also be afraid to open themselves up to the potential to be hurt again.
In addition to nervousness about some of these possibilities, a person’s attachment style may also play a role in why they fear dating. Attachment theory contends that the way someone is raised influences their behavior into adulthood, especially as it relates to giving and receiving love. The four main attachment styles are:
Anxious/Preoccupied. A person with this attachment style may struggle with believing they’re competent in or worthy of receiving love from others, but typically trust others to give it. This may manifest as frequent validation-seeking from romantic partners in an effort to quell their fears that they will be abandoned.
Dismissive-Avoidant. A person with this attachment style believes they are worthy of love and competent in giving it but does not trust others to provide it. They may become highly self-sufficient in an effort to minimize their needs for vulnerable interpersonal relationships at all for fear of being let down.
Fearful-Avoidant. A person with this attachment style may doubt their own competence in finding or maintaining a loving connection with someone as well as that competence in others. They may feel anxiety when starting to fall for someone, causing them to go back and forth between pursuing that person and withdrawing out of fear.
Secure. A person with this attachment style has faith in both their own and other people’s competence and reliability in giving and receiving love. They’re likely to be able to form and maintain loving connections because of their healthy view of relationships.
People with any of the first three styles on the list above may face more fear around dating than the average attached adult. Because they doubt their own abilities to love, other people’s reliability in providing it, or both, they may find it difficult to be vulnerable, build trust, or communicate openly when in a relationship. Or, the fear of not having their needs met or being rejected or abandoned may act as an obstacle to them dating or entering into a relationship in the first place.
Attachment stylesare not fixed. Through focused, committed work—often with the help of a trained therapist—you can overcome emotional wounds from childhood or past relationships and develop a secure attachment style.
While dating may still cause you a bit of tension or stress, your work may get you to a point where it’s minimal and doesn’t hold you back from pursuing happiness and fulfillment.
Finally, it’s worth noting that some people may fear or have additional anxiety around dating for reasons unrelated to their attachment style. Social anxiety disorder can cause so much fear, tension, and even physical symptoms like dizziness or nausea that it may prevent someone from entering into dating situations at all. Some neurodivergent people have difficulties accurately interpreting and acting on social cues—especially indirect or subtle ones—which can make dating seem even more daunting. Some people with disabilities may face judgment or prejudice from potential dating partners, which can make the process feel extra stressful. In other words, there are many different reasons a person might fear dating, and addressing each one on your own or with a counselor may help you overcome them.
Tips For Overcoming A Fear Of Dating
If you feel fearful of dating or entering into a romantic relationship with someone, you might consider trying some of the suggestions below.
1. Pinpoint Your Fears
What exactly are you afraid of? To be able to address your fears, it usually helps to identify them first. Are you afraid of getting close to someone and being seen for who you really are? Have past experiences made you fear cheating or tough breakups? Are you worried you’ll have to give up on things that are important to you in order to be in a relationship? Whether unfounded or not, you’ll generally need to pinpoint your core fears around dating and relationships to figure out how you can work through or manage them.
2. Learn To Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries can be a way to keep yourself safe in a new or existing relationship. Learning to do this with a partner can help you feel safer in romantic situations. For example, how much communication do you prefer? If frequent texting with someone new throughout the day makes you feel overwhelmed or like things are moving too fast, you can tell how much communication you’d prefer instead. If you need regular alone time in a relationship, you can let your partner know. If you don’t like to kiss on the first date, or if hand-holding isn’t your thing, you can tell that to the person you’re dating. Setting down boundaries like this may help you feel more in control and less nervous.
3. Try To Keep A Positive Perspective
Rejection and emotional pain are sometimes part of dating. Feeling your feelings is often an important part of working through them—but once you’ve done that, focusing on the positive may help you move forward instead of letting a bad experience hold you back. You can look at both positive and negative dating experiences as just that: experiences. Point out to yourself what you learned from each one, or the good memories you may have made along the way. Remind yourself that the experience made you a more well-rounded person and better equipped to face the next situation.
4. Consider Speaking With A Therapist
A trained therapist can be an invaluable resource as you move through the dating world. Their job is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can tell your fears and other feelings so you can work through them together. A counselor can help you identify and work through past emotional wounds that may be holding you back in your dating life now. They can assist you in building up your communication skills or your self-esteem, or tell strategies for managing conditions like anxiety. In other words, they can help you find the tools to pursue a fulfilling dating life, if that’s your goal.
Before you can love anyone else, you need to love and have compassion for yourself. Many of us enter adulthood as our own harshest critics, and there's no need to feel helpless. We can talk to ourselves in a harsh, critical way that we would never use with our family and friends. You need to work on understanding and accepting yourself in order to be able to have a healthy relationship with other people.
In addition, it’s important to have hobbies and goals that truly enrich your life before you add a love partner into the mix. What do you enjoy? Where do you want to be in a year? Asking yourself these questions will help you fill your time with positive activities that support you to better enjoy your life and feel fulfilled.
Know And Communicate Your Needs
Some people find meeting with a therapist virtually to be more comfortable and convenient. Research suggests that therapy done in an online format can provide clients with similar benefits to in-person treatment for a variety of concerns and conditions. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp can match you with a therapist who you can talk to via phone, video, and/or chat so you can get the guidance you seek from the comfort of your own home. You can find client reviews of BetterHelp therapists below.
Remember that everyone is different. The most effective format of therapy for you is the one that makes you feel most comfortable. Providers are available both online and in-person to help you work through the fears or other challenges you may be facing.
“I’m really happy I got to talk to Mark, he’s very delightful, he helped me go through some tough times. Helped me reduce my anxiety and deal with my attachment issues. Very respectful. Very professional.”
“Jodi has been of great help and has helped me work on a few different aspects of my life. I’ve struggled with intimacy-related issues that have caused my self-esteem to dip, as well as career path anxiety. He’s been a great help in guiding me to feel better about everything which has allowed me to continue to improve and get better. I’ll definitely be coming back to him in the future if needed.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can Someone With A Fearful Attachment Style Fall In Love?
People who experience romantic attraction can fall in love and have relationships, regardless of their attachment style. However, working through past emotional wounds in order to move toward a secure attachment style may benefit them. Therapy can be useful for this purpose.
What Causes A Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style?
Fearful or fearful-avoidant attachment may stem from traumatizing behavior a child’s primary caregiver displayed during their early years. They may also have been involved in emotionally difficult situations that caused them to have a negative perception of close relationships.
Do People With Fearful-Avoidant Styles Get Attached?
People with this attachment style may experience negative emotions and a strong fear surrounding intimacy and closeness. This can make it difficult for them to become attached to a romantic partner, particularly if that person also has the same attachment style.
What Does The Fearful-Avoidant Style Look Like In A Relationship?
According to attachment theory, a person who has a fearful-avoidant attachment style will typically maintain a certain distance from their partner. They might want to have control over the relationship and how intimate it becomes. They often want their partner to stick around, but may avoid getting too close.
How Do People With A Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style Handle Breakups?
Someone with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may attempt to prolong the breakup to avoid feelings of rejection. They may also become angry with their ex and communicate with them in negative ways. It’s also not uncommon for someone with this style to pursue an ex in order to deal with feelings of abandonment.
How Do You Fix A Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style?
Even though fearful-avoidant attachment is something that typically develops when you are a child—and thus may be deeply ingrained in your thoughts and behaviors—it can often be worked through. Talk therapy is a common way that people cope with insecure attachment styles. Through therapy, an individual may be able to better understand the source of their fears and work to change their thought patterns.
Do People With A Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style Love Bomb?
Someone with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may love bomb a new partner in order to simultaneously fulfill their desire for attachment and also maintain control in the relationship. In addition, love bombing can be a way for them to win their potential partner over in order to try and ensure that they will not leave.
Dating can seem scary or intimidating to many people for all kinds of different reasons. If you’re interested in dating but need guidance on managing your fears in order to put yourself out there, a therapist may be able to help.