How can I get less wackadoodle when I meet someone I really like?
April 1, 2008 5:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I be more relaxed, and less anxious (read: totally flipping out) about dating people I like?

I'm wondering if people have any suggestions for managing really strong feelings for someone they just met, so that they can get to know them slower and be able to maintain some sense of rationality in their normal life.

I find, when I meet a woman that I really like, and feel like I have some chemistry with, that I'm totally emotional and sort of out of control. That used to be a euphoric kind of excitement, and I suppose I was ok with that. I felt excited and positive, even if I felt like I was riding in a car with no breaks.

I'm 32 and I've been burned by love a couple of times. And find that my somewhat freaky excitement in the early stages of a relationship have turned off women in the past. I feel like it's definitely a turnoff. I think I've toned it down a lot, although I'm worried now that I act more disinterested or kind of weirdly awkward around a woman I like, for fear of scaring her off, to the extent that she's either confused of my intentions or thinks that I want to be friends. That baggage has turned the euphoric feeling to a total feeling of dread and doom. I would really like to not feel this way.

I have a really hard time managing all this. And sometimes feel like I'm the only person with this particular problem.

A particular problem is with the telephone. Between the time I call said person, and the time I get the return call, I tend to be a total mess. Sometimes I need to let them leave a message, so I can recompose myself and calm down. [I'd love some female perspective on how they feel about returning calls and what seems reasonable time wise, in terms of how long they take to get back to someone.]

Another specific is how to deal with the ups and downs of getting to know someone. I spent about 24 hours with someone this weekend in a non-dating situation (no nookey-we made plans to meet up at a festival we were both going to). We've talked a bit about dating so I think we're somewhat on the same page. There were some really lovely moments hanging out with her. But I probably won't see her for at least a week and maybe more, and now I feel super down and anxious.

I've met a couple of women recently that I've felt really compatible with, and each time I get really anxious. I'm not sure exactly what to do. I don't want to pass them by but lately all this emotion is controlling my life more than I feel comfortable.

I'm also open to the idea that lot of this is normal, and I should just suck it up.

PS I have some mild OCD which certainly contributes to these, well, obsessive thought patterns. I can generally manage the OCD but I think with someone I feel really strongly about, my body and mind are probably freaking out on endorphins or something like that so much that it's much harder for me to control.

Thanks for any advice, aneqdotal or otherwise.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there's anything weird about freaking out at the beginning of a relationship.... I mean, nobody's cooler than Dorothy Parker, right? Maybe it would help you to feel less anxiety around your thoughts (which would help you to behave less weirdly) if you just embraced them as a normal, wonderful part of a new infatuation. Try to have a sense of humor about what fools we are when we're in love, instead of treating it like a symptom you have to get under control. I think we'll miss this when we're old.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:10 PM on April 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I think the easiest thing to try first would be to find as many people that you "like" at once as possible; that way, you'll spread your enthusiasm across many people, and you won't be so attached to just one of them for some theoretical happiness that you'll lose if they leave.

That, and stop calling and stop trying to hook up -- make up your mind to only date people you've known longer than some fixed period of time, and if you find yourself getting worked up more over someone when that time is about to elapse, extend that time.
posted by davejay at 6:46 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

you might try seeing a therapist if the obsessing really takes over your life. otherwise...

you might also try just enjoying the crush instead of trying to control it...go ahead and indulge in those fantasies of marriage or crazy sex or sailing to europe or whatever suits you. it's not wrong to have them, and it doesn't mean you're nuts.

as for returning a call, i like to hear back as soon as possible in some form or another, even if it's just an email or text saying, "got your message but i'm so swamped--can i call you tomorrow when i am less of a stressball?" within a couple hours is best, i think, but by the end of the day, certainly.

that way you return the contact, but have time to compose yourself.

as for all those ladies, follow up! practice makes perfect--if you alienate them by being yourself, then they're not right for you. if you consistently get feedback about the same thing ("you know, john, it really creeps me out when you sing outside my bedroom window at night.") then you might consider adjusting your behavior.

but silly wonderful crushiness is a beautiful thing. and totally adorable. don't worry about being cool. just try not to propose until the third date.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:16 PM on April 1, 2008

I completely understand. I have been at both ends: the obsessor and the obsessee. And both are uncomfortable, although it's much more difficult emotionally to be the obsessor. It's anxiety, pure and simple, and managing it is no easy task. I recommend therapy, because anxiety is tough and you might discover that it pops its nasty little head up in more places than just dating.

In the meantime, be aware of your anxiety (dude, I'm anxious right now), understand that there's nothing you can do about said situation, like if she hasn't called back yet (well, I can't do anything about this right now, so it's pointless to obsess) and then distract yourself (I need a long run or bike ride or book or other company). And then take it easy: don't do the disinterested bit but when you recognize your old hyper enthusiasm, be aware of that too, just as you were aware of your anxiety earlier. Awareness helps a lot. Sounds kind of dumb, but really, acknowledging that things are happening or not is kind of a relief: stare that sucker in the face and then let it sit there until it leaves. But try not to let it get the upper hand.

And take it easy in other ways: plan in your head on just seeing X girl just once a week. That gives you more time to get anxious, but you can work on that, but it also gives you more time to just enjoy the giddyness and not have to worry about rushing things.

I'm in a new relationship right now and the guy was kind of a little bit overly enthusiastic but I mentioned that it was kind of nerve-wracking and could he take it down a notch. And he did. And it's still working out.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 8:08 PM on April 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I can definitely say that I tend to be much less attracted to men I'm flirting with or interested in if they start calling incessantly, trying to see me every day, or just seem over-eager. There is something to be said for playing hard to get.

Knowing this, and being somewhat OCD myself, I try to set specific limits on how often I can try to contact a person. Say, Not calling or messaging in any way more than twice without getting a response, leaving them to initiate contact at least half the time, not contacting them in any way in the middle of the week, etc.
I know random rules like this seem strange, but they help my OCD mind, and seem to work to make people more interested and not feel pursued. You could make up some of your own perhaps.

And I wouldn't worry about seeming disinterested as long as you are friendly/flirty in person, even if you are hard to get a hold of and not seeing them very often.
posted by speef at 8:32 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I struggle with this too (I'm female). My problem is that I love the anticipation and euphoria -- but unfortunately those things are often coupled with anxiety and uncertainty. You're not alone, that's for sure -- and I'll be watching this thread for concrete advice, because I can certainly use it too.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:57 PM on April 1, 2008

I could have written this post, and I'm a woman. I'm trying meditation. It might be helping, I don't know, I'm too anxious to tell. Re: calls: I think a call every couple days is not too much, not too little. But of course, other women have different standards.
posted by Ollie at 6:30 PM on April 2, 2008

You're definitely not alone, dude. And you know, one of these days a girl is going to fall for you as hard as you fall for her -- problem solved :)
posted by Chris4d at 1:47 PM on April 6, 2008

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