Help me not screw things up
March 10, 2012 8:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep being my confident and independent self around men I'm seriously interested in?

Sorry if this question's been asked before, but it's hard to search for.

When I start liking a guy (not casually like prior to making a date, but seriously when it comes to being exclusive and other serious milestones), my behavior changes. I become more obsessive about what he's doing and analyzing things he's said, I find myself daydreaming about him instead of working or reading, I censor myself more in conversation when I'm around him because I'm worried that I'm going to say something stupid (and thus end up not saying as much), I find myself hesitant to make lots of plans in case he wants to see me, I become more self conscious and down on my appearance and body.

I have even done this within relationships. I have a bad history with it. It mostly pops up when I'm feeling insecure about things and really care about how they work out.

I don't want to be like this. I recognize it's the exact opposite of attractive. Normally I'm very independent, confident, and outgoing and men like me. How do I maintain that when I start to fall for someone or I'm worried about where things are headed?

I've read Why Men Love Bitches and found it helpful. But I'm wondering if anyone has any other specific strategies to share. I don't want to follow some prescribed stuff like the Rules. I want my behavior to come from an organic place of confidence. (But if there are any good fake it till you make it tips that's good too.)

posted by unannihilated to Human Relations (9 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. Make sure you do the exercises.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

One tip I've used successfully to combat this in my own behavior is the "lean back". Right now you're leaning forward emotionally, physically and behaviorally.

Take a deep breath, relax your body and mind, be silent a moment and lean back. Be calm. Observe. Feel grounded in your body. Connect to your inner source of sensuality and confidence and enjoy the warmth of your own inner radiance, essentially. Be as self-assured. Do everything slowly and deliberately-- gesture, speak, move and think with purpose and pleasure. Be sensual. Be yourself.

Practice this as a private reset when you feel yourself getting anxious about a man, whether you're alone or with him.

And, weirdly enough, leaning back creating positive, peaceful, sensual personal space seems to draw other people in-- must be one of those principles of the Tao.

PS Your feelings are really normal. I don't know anyone who isn't distracted by these thoughts and feelings when in love or infatuation, especially when things are coming to a make or break point in the relationship.
posted by devymetal at 11:01 AM on March 10, 2012 [45 favorites]

You are aware of this pattern and how you have not enjoyed being that way in the past. When you catch yourself beginning to start it again, stop and be aware - also seconding most emphatically what devymetal said.
posted by infini at 11:12 AM on March 10, 2012

To be honest, there's not a whole lot you can do short of being aware of it, trying to distract yourself as best you can, and trying to conceal it from the guy to not freak him out too much.

You can try to CBT yourself until you're blue in the face but what you're describing is a real physiological response called Limerence. Some people get dealt a genetic hand that causes them to be profoundly effected by the phenomenon, and you appear to be one of them. Everybody falling for someone gets it to some degree, but some people get a slap and other people get knocked the fuck out.

People who have not experienced their face hitting the mat will give you all sorts of strategies to cope, but I'm not so sure they understand where you're coming from (sort of like a thin person telling someone overweight to 'just eat less'). It's chemical. I've know a few people who get thrown into a big bout of obsessive compulsive behavior due to the chemical push over the edge they got when in the thick of it.

You could probably get on an anti depressant to chill the chemicals out, but then that just creates a whole new set o' problems.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 11:20 AM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 11:20 AM on March 10, 2012

Oh my goodness, me too! I go through the same thing every freaking time. What I'm doing more of now is to remember my lesson when I was a little girl. If my parents saw I was throwing a tantrum or becoming too pouty, because of something I wanted badly, they would tell me to stop crying or else I'm not gonna get it. Once I stopped... I got it! Through my years, this helped me in remaining calm and not feeling as if my life will suck if I don't recieve the very thing I wanted. For me, on some level, relationships are the same way. When I breath and focus on doing what I love to do, it helps regulate those "crazy in love" levels in my brain so I can be myself again. Cause the other person wants to connect with YOU not so much your love, but you.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 11:26 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Paraphrasing Jon Kabit Zinn here on mindfulness by "putting the welcome mat out" for these feelings, whether it's limerance, infatuation or something else. Let them in, acknowledge their very aware of the sensations they cause within you and breath (not forcefully, but as if this very moment dependents on it). devymetal and feel the beat of the rhythm of the night also bring forth very valid and useful points.

Good luck
posted by wallawallasweet at 11:39 AM on March 10, 2012

The Rules is actually a good solution for this kind of thing. Seriously. You don't have to take it 100% seriously, but it's a really good guide in a lot of ways.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:50 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

One concrete thing you can do is go ahead and make plans anyway. When you feel yourself holding back on committing to something because he might want to see you that weekend, commit to it. Don't hold your life in stasis waiting for someone else, no matter how fabulous he is. Remind yourself that any reasonable person who is dating you (or who wants to date you) is not going to be put off if he calls and says, "Hey, you want to get together on Friday?" and you say, "Could we meet up on Saturday instead? I've got my moon-dancing class on Fridays." Doing things other than waiting by the phone will not turn you into an undesirable person.
posted by colfax at 4:54 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

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