Do you remember your first heartbreak? I do. At the time, I felt pretty much every available emotion: angry about how I was treated, nervous that I came off as foolish, and scared that I’d never find love again. It made me worried about my next relationship, and the one after that. Was it all worth it? Relationships can be great if you’re not suffering from relationship anxiety the way I was. Here’s how to conquer it.
- Don’t make the end of a relationship harder than it needs to be. If you get lucky, the two of you will part in a respectful way. You won’t have to worry about splitting up pets or name-calling. You are responsible for how you act and feel. For example, if you get heated and post a scathing Facebook message about your ex, that’s adding fuel to the fire. You have a right to process your feelings, but if you do it in a responsible way, your future relationships won’t cause so much anxiety.
- Keep reminding yourself that everyone is different. Sometimes, people date jerks. Those jerks aren’t our true loves, but they leave an impression. It’s hard to think back upon all the hurt you had to encounter and it’s really easy to assume that every person will be the same. That’s not true — there are kindhearted people out there who’d make excellent partners. Learn from your history and remind yourself that there are other fish in the sea.
- Take it slow. Are you afraid of dates? It can be really intimidating to meet someone face-to-face, especially if you’re getting along so well online. The pacing of a relationship is up to you. Tell someone new that you’re a little hesitant and if they’re a keeper, they’ll understand. Just remember not to keep them on the hook for too long — if you never plan on ever actually meeting the person, that’s not fair to them.
- Focus on a couple you like. Have you ever heard of #couplegoals before? Find a couple you love, whether it’s your parents or celebrities, and let their love remind you that it can be very rewarding to have a partner. You can also use these couples to try and figure out what you’re looking for in a person. Do you love it when John Legend laughs at Chrissy Teigen’s jokes? Then you’re looking for a guy with a compatible sense of humor.
- Figure out something you like about yourself. Sometimes relationship anxiety may come along because your own self-image isn’t what it should be. Have you ever said something like “they’d never like me anyway”? You’re taking yourself out of the running because you’re afraid of being rejected. Instead, work on building yourself up. You’ve got a lot going for you and you’d be a great girlfriend. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect someone else to.
- Go on a practice date. Bring your friend out for dinner or even a friend who you don’t have a romantic connection with. The more practice you get with communication and opening up, the better you’ll be. Think about how hard it was to drive a car when you first started learning. Now it’s something you don’t even think about. Communicating with other people works in a very similar way. Plus, it’ll be fun.
- Practice self-care. It’s probably a buzzword you’ve heard a lot recently, but it’s important. Invest some time in yourself, and work on your breathing. Remind yourself that you deserve to be pampered, and deserve to have a night or two off. Sleep in if you’ve been tired (and have no responsibilities you’ve already planned.) Paint your nails. Do things to make you feel good about yourself. When you’re done, see if your attitude about dating has changed at all.
- If it’s too much to handle, see a doctor. General anxiety can really hinder your life. If you feel anxious about the idea of relationships — and anxious about life in general — maybe it’s time to seek some help. Going to a therapist or taking medication to help your mental health is more common than you think. We all need a little encouragement to be our best selves sometimes. Book an appointment with a professional and change your life around.