The struggles of dating with anxiety
I’ve always thought dating was like a tornado. It begins with a whirlwind of who texts who first, how long until you can reply without seeming too eager, meeting parents, family, friends and a downpour of pressure to try and impress them.
Then comes the eye of the tornado where, for a while, everything is calm and serene; it’s lunch dates and white wine and planning trips away together. But when the creases and folds of your brain are riddled with anxiety, there is no calm, there is no serene. When you’re dating with anxiety, it can make every stage feel difficult and complicated. The way you felt as a child in a shop full of china and glass, afraid of yourself. One wrong move and everything might shatter.
First dates are harder than normal
First dates can be nerve-racking for anyone, but when you have anxiety, first dates are more than a few butterflies. It’s cancelling six or seven times, it’s making up excuse after excuse about work, or assignment deadlines or a mysterious cold you’ve contracted in the middle of summer.
It’s over-thinking again and again everything that could go wrong, like changing the channel on the television and being inundated with solely bad news. It’s changing your outfit twenty, thirty, fifty times, wondering if jeans are too casual or a dress is too feminine. It’s leaving your room a battleground of discarded clothes and frustrated outfit combinations.
Having to explain your weird anxious eating habits
Anxiety makes you into your own worst enemy. Like ice when it hits water, destroyed by another version of itself. Anxiety comes in all different variations and forms, and sometimes those forms come in the form of anxious habits.
Breaking up your food into tiny pieces with your knife and fork when eating, cracking your knuckles an unhealthy amount or speaking at the speed of light. All these things can be uncomfortable to explain to someone you’re beginning to date. Anxiety weaves it’s way into your head once again, convincing you if you tell them, this will be the end.
The fear that you’re never good enough
The real struggle in dating with anxiety is the fear of never being good enough, the fear that at any moment, your relationship might crack into pieces. It’s having your significant other not reply for a few hours and letting the panic set in, your mind suddenly a screenplay of worst case scenarios.
Anxiety isn’t butterflies in your stomach, it’s bees, ferocious and buried deep within your abdomen, your chest, your throat. It’s your heart beating so fast it feels as though it’s going to thump right out of your oesophagus. It’s your brain telling you that everything can’t go this well forever, it’s warning you to brace yourself for the inevitable. It’s your partner telling you that they love you but it’s your anxiety yelling back twice as loud that they don’t.
Knowing love isn’t a cure to anxiety
There is no off and on switch for anxiety. No cure that can be given by another person loving you though all your panics and frenzies. But the greatest thing about dating with anxiety is dismantling the idea that you need to be fixed.
Because your anxiety is simply just another factor in your personality and you begin to come to terms with the fact that they’re dating you, not in spite of your anxious flaws but because of them. The most remarkable thing is having someone look at you in a way that makes even you fall in love with yourself.
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, you can find help by seeking advice from a counsellor or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Ivy studies at QUT and co-owns the blog poisonandice.com. She is an avid lover of polka dots and a good book.