If the thought of dating and searching for a loving life partner makes you feel anxious, nervous, or even a little creeped out…you are not alone. It’s these feelings, (all based in fear, btw) that keep many people from making a concerted effort to look for love.
Want to shed your fear? Here’s what you need to know and believe: YOU are in control of this process.
That’s right. YOU make your own choices. YOU can advocate for what you want and need. YOU have the power to say “yes” or “no.”
Believing you have this control and feeling the empowerment of that belief is essential to being able to fully participate and enjoy dating and relating with men.
This came up yesterday as I worked with Kathy, a client who is using online dating to meet men. Kathy is a beautiful 64 year old who runs marathons, owns her own business and has raised two fantastic children on her own.
Yet when it comes to dating men, she feels fear and uncertainty almost every step of the way.
Kathy had a date with a nice man this week. He took her to dinner, they enjoyed good conversation and he was a gentleman. She planned to see him again.
Then she received an email from him saying what a nice time he had and mentioning how he enjoyed looking at her “lovely long neck.”
Kathy considered that comment aggressive and overtly sexual. It bothered her enough that she started to feel afraid, so she decided not to respond or see him again.
I reminded her that on their date he was kind and thoughtful, and he had not crossed any boundaries. Why, I asked, did this email make her want to simply break off communication?
Because, she said, I don’t want that right now; it’s too fast. And what if he keeps saying those kinds of things?
And then it came. Just as I expected, Kathy said, “I knew this dating stuff would be scary and awful. Maybe I’m just not ready.”
Kathy was saying something I’d heard many times before in one way or another. She was in a situation she didn’t know how to handle, and it made her afraid. It’s a natural response to feeling like you lack control.
Here was a man with an agenda (at least that was her perception), and she had no way to manage or control it. The only solution she saw was to write him off as a jerk and to extricate herself from the potential relationship.
So tell me: does this seem over-the-top, or can you relate? A man says or does something that throws you off or challenges you, and you feel that spark of anxiety. Maybe he’s ready for sex and you’re not. Maybe he’s ready for commitment and you’re not. Maybe he’s asking you to go away for a weekend and you think it;s too soon.
When this happens you feel like you have two choices: succumb or flee. And then the thought of having this type of thing happen with another man seems daunting. You think about giving up because it’s just too uncomfortable.
I get it. I’ve been there. But I learned you have another, much better option. Take control.
Here are five steps to taking control of your dating.
1. Accept that the responsibility is yours.
You are a mature woman who most likely steers your own ship in all other areas of your life. Unless this is one of those very rare situations where your physical safety is jeopardized, this man isn’t in charge; you are, sister.
You aren’t an 18-year-old girl anymore. That knee-jerk “Oh my goodness, this is a scary man” nonsense is old and no longer serves you. You can make good decisions and take care of yourself by using your ability to weigh options, make complex decisions and exercise your assertiveness. You probably do this every day with your career, your family, even with the dry cleaner; dealing with single men should be no exception.
2. Know what you want and need—and stick to it.
Often our sense of uneasiness comes from being unsure of what we want or don’t want. This uncertainty can easily result in turning control over to someone else.
Step 2 of my 6-Step Find Hope and then Find Him Program helps my coaching clients define the feelings they want to feel and the must-have qualities of the men who will be their ultimate partners.
If you are out there dating, it’s your responsibility to get clear about this as well as your physical and emotional needs and boundaries. Consider who, when and how you want to date. What qualities must a man have for you to agree to date him? What must happen before you let him into your home? What do you consider as acceptable flirting, and when does it become intimate? When do you want him to meet your family…and so on. Then, take responsibility for communicating and enforcing your must-haves and your critical boundaries.
In Part Two we’ll take a look at the last three steps on the list.