photo by Seth Dickens
I've always believed that dating should be fun. Yet somehow, few things have stressed me out more than dating. I think most dating stress is rooted in fear of being hurt or fear of hurting someone else. But is it possible to keep the drama out of dating?
Steps for Stress-Free Dating
1) Consider "Group Dating". Group dating is very popular in Japan: "It is said that this practice evolved from the difficulties of finding a partner due to the pervasive shyness that exists in Japanese society. Group dating gatherings usually take place at public venues such as restaurants where each attendee brings a couple of eligible friends" (Link). "The presence of their friends almost certainly relaxes young Japanese people, increasing their confidence and, possibly, their chances of hooking up." (Link). "Stephanie Frasco, 25, and two of her friends recently met three guys through [a group dating website called] Ignighter. The date was safer and less stressful than a one-on-one blind date, she said. 'It wasn't like a match made in heaven. But, we all had a good time,' said Frasco, of New York City" (Link). "I think a more organic and real definition of social is going out with your friends for a couple of hours and meeting new people in real life. Making human connections is the most powerful motivation in life" (Link).
After spending some time in a group setting, analyze yourself to determine whether or not you feel comfortable spending "one on one" time with a person you are interested in. If you don't feel comfortable yet, you may just not be ready for serious dating - continue getting to know that person in a group setting. If you do feel comfortable, it may be time to "branch away from large group date activities...Know when it’s time to break away from the group and go on dates that are planned couple activities" (Link).
2) Be Yourself! While it is important to put your best foot forward, make sure that the foot you are putting forward is truly yours. It is normal to try and impress the person you are dating, but we all have our limits. You want somebody who will love the real you, not some plastic version of a "perfect" you. If a person can't accept you for who you are, that relationship is probably not a good fit for either person.
3) Don't put your self-worth in your relationship. Love should be complementary to an already joyful life. Having this mentality assures us that "life is still good," even if a dating relationship ends. Expecting romance to transform us from misery into bliss adds undue stress to a potential relationship. In fact, there is nothing inherently "wrong" with being single, as many people choose to be single for self improvement purposes. Being single can be a valuable time of inner growth, soul-searching and exploration that can prepare us for the beauties of romance. While single, you may also be developing a friendship that grows into something more!
4) Date at a comfortable pace. Feel free to take your time getting know somebody, and have fun in the process! While dating leads to marriage, dating is not marriage, so by definition it is open ended. In fact, there is no need for being 100% certain that you are "soul mates". Rather, dating can be as simple as enjoying each other's company in a public setting - over a meal, a movie, a walk on the beach, a cup of coffee, etc. If you find yourself stressing out over a specific relationship, you might be moving too fast. If dating stress becomes unbearable in a specific relationship, it may be time to assess if this relationship is "worth it" for you. However, if you and your partner have children or you are married to this person, I recommend finding a counselor to help work out your issues.
5) Don't "jump into bed" right away. Some people find that postponing sex until a certain point - such as long term commitment or even marriage - helps keep things lighthearted. They still enjoy connecting through conversation, fun activities and some physical intimacy without the more intense intimacy and commitment (and even pregnancy) that sometimes come with sex. Regardless of how long you wait to have sex, you should feel free to pursue dating at your own pace, knowing that pressure is not a good ingredient in a naturally forming relationship.
6) Stay connected. Even when in a committed relationship, it is important to have friends outside of that relationship. When it comes to your social life, dating should be a positive addition rather than a complete replacement. Maintaining a social life outside of a relationship helps a couple to stay grounded, and also allows for time to enjoy apart from dating. Also, it ensures that if a relationship ends, you are not without close friends to support you.