Is my anxiety ruining things or is something really off (dating)?
March 28, 2016 1:18 PM   Subscribe

About a month ago I started seeing a guy with whom I felt an instant spark (very rare for me). Almost immediately my anxiety kicked in and I started worrying that he wouldn't like me, was taking days to return my emails, etc. Then he told me he really likes me and my anxiety switched around to maybe I don't like him and almost compulsively looking for flaws / red flags.

At the same time, I started to realize that I felt kinda ambivalent about him after hanging out. He has a lot of great qualities - cute, funny, we have a lot in common personality wise, but sometimes I find my mind wandering when he talks. I began to feel very anxious that I was ruining things by not feeling for him what he is feeling for me.

I've told this guy I'm not on the same page and he has expressed that it is ok, he is willing to just see where things go and he will be fine with whatever I decide, but now I am just getting a gut feeling that he isn't right for me and I'm sad / anxious about it.

I haven't had the best run of relationships - both of my past relationships were with narcissists who seemed AMAZING at first (never 'meh'!) and ended in either me being cheated on or emotionally abused, so dating this guy has VERY different in that regard. He totally respects my boundaries and really seems to care about me. And we have an amazing physical connection, but the anxiety is haunting me.

I realize I sound like a giant neurotic mess and I'm not like this in other parts of my life in spite of having a general high level of anxiety. Something about relationships really aggravates this in me. I am almost asexual in how rarely I am attracted to anyone, so I don't get a lot of chances to practice.

Should I should keep seeing this guy and just see how things develop in spite of my anxiety or tell him we will just have to be friends? I really don't want to end up hurting him. And how can I get a handle on this anxiety now and in the future?

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you want to keep seeing him?
posted by aniola at 1:29 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah I think that's key. If you want to keep seeing him in spite of your anxiety then go for it. But if you don't... eh. Plenty of fish in the sea.
posted by good day merlock at 1:32 PM on March 28, 2016

Remember, you can always stop seeing someone at any time for any reason. Take it one date at a time.

Do you not want to see this guy again? Great, don't go on another date with him.
Do you want to see this guy again? Great, go on another date.

If you do go on another date, repeat. Do you want to see him again? Yes? Good, proceed. No? Good, stop.

Keep checking in with yourself. You have permission to leave at any time for any reason.

As long as you're honest, and you're on the right track with that, telling him you're not on the same page right now, then you're fine. Be honest with him, be honest with yourself, and take it as it goes.

You should see a professional about your anxiety. If it's affecting your life you need to talk to someone about it.
posted by phunniemee at 1:33 PM on March 28, 2016 [14 favorites]

Instant sparks can be dangerous. It can mean that your hormones are making more of a decision than your head or heart. And feeling your desire for him being greater when he was less accessible, is also about something different than your head or heart. That being said, if you can just stay aware of these things, accept them without drama/anxiety, and put them aside a bit, you can move forward with the dating part and see what happens. As they will fade anyways in the long run.
posted by Vaike at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2016

I too, experience a lot of the same anxieties you go through. I chase after the dream and then when I really get to know them... I start picking them apart like crazy. However, what works for me is understanding I'm not going to like them the same way other people might because of my past experiences with abusive relationships. It doesn't matter how wrong or right it may seem, if you check in with your feelings and remember to keep asking yourself if you are happy about a particular situation, you may be able to understand where your feelings are, at a more realistic approach. Don't try to predict the future, just go with as is to lessen your anxieties. Every couple will go throughout annoyances, also. Real relationships aren't just made up of fairy tales or romantic comedies. Ask if they make you feel good to be yourself is also another great reflective question!
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 1:40 PM on March 28, 2016

Something about relationships really aggravates this in me. I am almost asexual in how rarely I am attracted to anyone, so I don't get a lot of chances to practice.

These two things (in sentence one and sentence two) are probably related. The fact that not many men turn your head and your lack of practice may be a source of your relationship anxiety. Can you work through your mental scenarios somehow? Journal? Blog?

You are probably having The Blue Screen of Death because every little thing gets magnified in your mind and you don't want to just DUMP on this guy and obsess over every little thing, yet you feel the need to. So you withdraw from him and get anxious that it will all go wrong.

It might help to write about it for yourself and, when you have gotten through the worst of it, maybe put some things in writing that you want him to hear but are too anxious and tongue tied to talk about with him.
posted by Michele in California at 1:51 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used to have a ton of dating anxiety, so I kind of get where you're coming from. Every time something started feeling good, I'd either start worrying about losing it, or jump to the conclusion that something had to be wrong with the person. It did more harm than good, and I think I knew that, but that knowledge didn't help me stop.

The question "do you like him?" might not necessarily help you; it might just trigger a different spiral of anxiety. Maybe you haven't figured out if you like him, or maybe you like him but. Those are okay, for now. You don't have to force your thoughts into yes or no.

The question that did help me was "will I be okay if this ends?" The answer is always, always, always yes. I was always anxious about losing the relationship, and imagining life continuing without the relationship helped me realize that losing it wasn't the end of the world. If this works out for you, great. If it doesn't, you will be fine, and you will find someone else you can love without reservation.

Therapy can help with anxiety and changing specific harmful thinking patterns. In the meantime, if you can, try allowing yourself to lose this. Stay engaged in the relationship to the degree you want, but when you start worrying, imagine yourself being happy alone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:07 PM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

You sound exactly like how I was, down to the hot/cold reactions. (I was diagnosed borderline personality btw.) my guess is he's exacerbating your anxiety because he's not fitting the abuser pattern you're used to, and you're waiting for the other shoe to drop (but it hasn't yet, and may never).

So my short answer is
- yes keep dating him and see where it goes. He sounds nice.
- find yourself a therapist to work through the stuff that comes up in relation to him.
- it may / may not be "the one" but there is no harm in hanging out for a few more months to see where it goes.
posted by serenity soonish at 2:37 PM on March 28, 2016

I think you should keep seeing him, for now, and see how it develops. There was a spark when you met, you have an amazing physical connection, and he has a lot of great qualities. That sounds like someone you should try dating for a bit. See how things play out and be willing to cut him loose if you decide you really aren't feeling it, but don't give in quite yet to your anxieties.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 3:06 PM on March 28, 2016

It's been a month! It's totally normal to be indecisive at that point. That's just when the "best behaviour" starts to slip and flaws start to peep out, but before you've really developed an emotional attachment. It's only a problem because you're worried that it means there's a problem. My boyfriend could have written your question back when we first started dating. I told him what your boyfriend told you, that's what we did, and a year later we're very happy together. If we'd become unhappy instead, we would have broken up, no harm done.

What you need to do is focus on the actual things he's doing, rather than worrying about hidden causes for those things. As an example, let's say he's 15 minutes late to two dates, but he apologizes and otherwise seems very into you. So it's reasonable to guess he might be not the most punctual person ever, but not so reasonable to assume it means he doesn't like you, is playing games, is horribly irresponsible, is incapable of becoming more punctual, etc etc, without other evidence to indicate those things.

I'd also like to emphasize what the above comments are saying: you can break up at any time for any reason. If the relationship starts making you more unhappy than happy, you can break up then. If your current level of anxiety is making you so uncomfortable that it's not worth the gamble for you, you can break up now. If you get bored or start thinking you can do better, you can break up anytime you want to. It's all ok. Dating doesn't imply any future commitment, and if you do break up later, it doesn't mean anyone was leading anyone else on. That's just what dating is.
posted by randomnity at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2016

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