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Intense anxiety issues as I start up dating again


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I'm 38 and my last relationship was about 12 years ago.  I stopped trying to find someone in my late 20s, I had tried online dating and that never went anywhere.  Just moved to a new country and am okay at the language, not amazing.  But I got interested in someone back in August, started up a friendship, within two months told her I was interested, got turned down.

That woke back up the side of me that wants a life partner, and I quickly realized I'm approaching 40 now, and need to get moving.  So I started online dating, since between the language barrier and pandemic, it's been impossible to build any local friendships outside of work.  Dating at work is also a non-option because of my company's policy, which forbids interacting with anyone outside of work.  (I work in the schools, so this is mostly to protect the kids.)

In three situations so far - that friend back in August, a coworker around Jan/Feb, and now someone online that I've been talking with for a week - I've noticed overpowering anxiety.  Some anxiety is normal, but this shuts me down completely.  It tends to happen anytime I'm waiting for a response to a message... the more significant the message, the worse the anxiety.

The current situation with a woman online is that we've been talking for a week, have a lot in common, no shortage of things to talk about, but we're not perfect at speaking each other's languages.  So in my message yesterday, I had said I wanted to visit France, but it would be more fun to go with someone.  In her imperfect understanding of the word "someone," she thought I was saying I had a girlfriend, and asked if it was okay if she kept talking with me.  So in my message today, I explained that it was a miscommunication, I didn't have a girlfriend, and I thought she was interesting and wanted to get to know her better.

Well, tonight I haven't heard back at the time she would normally send a message.  It probably doesn't mean anything, but I'm sleepless with anxiety over someone I've been messaging for a week, because I'm afraid I've scared her off... despite the fact that this is a dating site and "want to get to know you better" should not even be new information.  My mind just will not shut off.  It doesn't want to go back to having no prospects.

I'm sure plenty of people have this same problem, any good ways you've found to deal with it?

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I'm sorry you're feeling so anxious.  I highly recommend learning -and practicing -especially when you are not anxious - 4-7-8 breathing - Google it with Weil method because the method matters a lot as far as its effectiveness.   I married at 42 and am 55 but was in the dating scene 24 years on and off (meaning when I was not in long term relationships) and met many men through dating sites but did not do online dating -meaning I used dating sites to meet in person ASAP. 

Lots of chatting and texting without making a firm plan to meet within a week or so can be anxiety provoking for so many reasons.  And in your case with the language barrier yes, it is.  

Dating is really hard and - I commend you for waking up and being like "oops forgot I was almost 40 and I'd better get moving on this" but that is anxiety triggering too.  You're approaching this with energy and enthusiasm but with lots of years on your own, lots of baggage.

I'm no medical professional or therapist but try the 4-7-8 breathing.  Also I've heard really good things about the late Dr. Joy Browne's book Dating for Dummies.  No you are not a dummy!!  That's not what I meant lol.  

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Sorry to say this but you might want to work on making your self more appealing not only physically but mentally too. A change of wardrobe, hair style and carry yourself with confidence is what can work. Not only will this attract/ hold their attention but also attract the right kind of opportunities. To get started I suggest a few sessions with a dating coach. If you don't feel good about yourself, no one is going to feel good about you. 

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I can empathize with your anxiety but am also not sure why you care that much about someone you haven’t met yet. Try meeting earlier instead of texting for days and weeks. Texting is not talking and it’s not dating someone either. 

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Online dating is competitive so getting in good shape, getting a good haircut, wearing clothes that fit well, and getting a professional photographer or a friend who knows how to take good photos makes a massive difference and will give you more opportunities which will help with the scarcity mentality. 

Also expect a lot of flakiness early on in the process before you meet face to face and do not take it personally. If someone doesn't reply promptly or at all it could mean either they feel you aren't really vibing, or they've found someone else on the site they are more interested in, or they got caught up with real life and temporarily (or permanently) forgot about you. If they have any interest at all eventually they will get back to you. And if they don't then so what as you will have other situations in the works.

The best way to short circuit all of this is to not waste too much time texting and suggest a face to face meet. A lot of people will appreciate the directness and interpret it as meaning that you are confident and also serious about meeting someone. And once you have met face to face then assuming you hit it off you will become more of a priority and the texting will be more consistent and again you can shortcircuit some of the anxiety by primarily using texting to arrange the next date. 

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On 3/27/2022 at 11:26 AM, frozenfirebird said:

 Just moved to a new country and am okay at the language, not amazing. Dating at work is also a non-option because of my company's policy, which forbids interacting with anyone outside of work. 

How long is your contract work for? You seem quite homesick and displaced, particularly if you are barely conversational in the language.

Why not start by taking some classes and courses, such as perfecting conversational language skills. Anything. Look around, dancing, cooking, yoga, whatever, etc.

 Join some sports and clubs. Get a second job. Get out of the house and talk to people. 

OLD may work for locals but if you can't write/converse well enough to even send messages, women are not going to relate to you. Also if you are doing contract work for a limited time, local women may not want to touch that.

 So First, improve socializing there to improve conversation skills and meet women in person.

Edited by Wiseman2
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Going to echo @Wiseman2 here. How is your social life?

A large part of your out of control anxiety seems to be driven by hyper fixation on a one stranger out of fear of being alone and desperate need for companionship. You need to expand yourself - meet people, take classes to practice speaking better. Get some hobbies going where again you can meet more people and socialize, make friends. Once you develop a more solid social life, you'll naturally have more opportunities to meet women you might have a romantic connection with  and even if that doesn't work out, it won't feel like the end of the world for you because.....you have a life outside of dating. Lack of interest from one person won't feel so catastrophic the way it does right now.

As for online, you simply cannot zero in on a stranger that you haven't even met yet and put so much pressure on yourself to hang on and get them. It's not a shopping catalog and relationships aren't transactional where if you do x and y, you'll get a woman of choice. It's more of a you have to talk to many many women, go on many face to face meets sooner rather than later before you meet someone who is actually mutually interested and dating goes forward from there.

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6 hours ago, DancingFool said:

As for online, you simply cannot zero in on a stranger that you haven't even met yet and put so much pressure on yourself to hang on and get them.

Yep. OP, I'd like to encourage you to get comfortable with the fact that most people are NOT our match. That's just a natural set of odds. Rejection doesn't mean that there's anything 'wrong' with you, it's a reflection of another person's limits.

Most people do NOT hold the vision to appreciate our unique value because they do not own the right lens. That's actually a GOOD thing, because the goal is to screen out those people in favor of devoting time and attention to someone who truly 'gets' you--flaws and all. That's simpatico, and you'll know it when you find it.

Quote

... It's more of a you have to talk to many many women, go on many face to face meets sooner rather than later before you meet someone who is actually mutually interested and dating goes forward from there.

Right. Notice how she doesn't say you have to go on many face-to-face DATES. Most people are using OLD as a speed-meeting tool, where you set up quick meets over coffee or tea for a short time to ask one another some questions and learn whether there's any chemistry. Neither corners the other to set up a real date on the spot, but either can invite the other afterward. If the answer is yes, the other responds, and if not, no reply is necessary.

It's a numbers thing rather than a fantasy-building thing. Skip trying to form a 'relationship' online. Do basic screening, then set up some quick meets each week on your way home from work. if someone stands you up, take your coffee with you and nothing is lost.

There are a million reasons why nobody is right for everybody, so make this a time of learning who fits well with YOU rather than trying to appeal to the masses. You can relax a lot more once you gain some practice allowing wrong matches to pass early.

Head high, and write more if it helps.

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What you described, it happens. I had one about "go to" drinks, so I could maybe say something based on that and suggest appropriate date. She said "I dont drink alcohol". When I asked why and is it just that she doesnt drink or bad experiences, she said quite angrily "No, I just dont like the taste!". After that conversation mysteriosly died.

Anyway, those kind of stuff happens all the time and you never know what "triggers" them. If that happens for misunderstanding and silly stuff, assume that they are probably not that interested in a first place if they can remove you for that. So its not a big loss. 

Also you chose online dating where its very easy for that stuff to happen. As they have many others waiting in line for them so makes it incredibly easy to remove you based on one word of misunderstanding. And without any hassle as they can just stop responding. You would need a thicker skin. And not to take it to your heart.

Also, also, you should cut out messaging period. Getting to know somebody is fine. But exchange a couple of messages and suggest a meetup. 2 weeks is way too much. More you wait its easier for them to just fizzle out. 

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I don't mean to put you off online dating and I'm just speaking for myself, but I'm not a fan of it. The problem with online dating is there is a lot of rejection, ghosting, people flaking, awkward dates, etc. Of course there is success too but the trouble is that you need to message hundreds of people and go on dozens of dates to maybe have success with one or two people.

That's not to say that you can't actually find anyone because you can. But it's a statistical thing where the more you do something, the higher your chance of success. So you need to talk to and meet a lot of people.

I think it's great you're putting yourself out there but if you have pretty bad anxiety then I'm thinking that maybe online dating isn't the best avenue to start dating after 12 years. It's very common for people on online dating to reply slowly or stop replying. I think in most cases it's not personal but they have other reasons for it that are not to do with you. E.g. They like someone else better, they don't think you're that compatible, they're not feeling a "spark", or could be anything really.

That's why it's really important to have a thick skin with online dating. If you're really anxious just because that woman is replying slower than before, that's not good. 

Also, I completely understand that you're in a new country, you're still learning the language in your late 30's (which is hard at this age). But the thing is that women get a lot of messages on online dating and people also have things going on in their life. So that woman you're talking to might just be busy, whereas you seem to be sitting there, waiting around for her to reply. I think you need to find things to occupy yourself in your life outside of work and have hobbies and interests.

I think it's attractive when a person has things going on in their life and has different things to talk about. Maybe you could join some Meetup groups or any groups related to any of your hobbies and interests. This would help you make some new friends, and if a relationship comes of it then that would be a bonus. I also think singles events or speed dating could be an option because all the interactions are in person. So you don't need to spend lots of time messaging online and waiting for responses.

Also, I know you can't date people at your work, but you're allowed to be friends with them, right? You could try to befriend some colleagues. Maybe let them know you're trying to expand your social circle and that you'd love to start coming out with them to events. I think just meeting people in general would be good for your anxiety. And though it may not seem like it, but from there it might be possible to meet someone. For example, how I met some of my ex's - in a youth group (two actually!), dance class, they were my friend's roommate, through my university classmate, through a Friend's Facebook status!

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2 hours ago, Tinydance said:

The problem with online dating is there is a lot of rejection, ghosting, people flaking, awkward dates, etc. Of course there is success too but the trouble is that you need to message hundreds of people and go on dozens of dates to maybe have success with one or two people.

I found meeting people at bars and clubs very similar and then meeting in person after (I've never been drunk so I was always sober when we initially met and exchanged numbers, etc).  And with online sites (I never dated online -I used sites to meet people in person ASAP) I had at least the opportunity to screen for my relatively short list of dealbreakers.  I spent hours and hours at clubs and singles events, singles resorts so putting in the time to message people wasn't much different -I continued to do all my meet people in person activities (but stopped the bar and club as a way in my 20s unless it was for a specific singles event)

I am not a fan of online sites for casual dating -too much time/work.  I was never ghosted.  There were many men who didn't respond to my messages or didn't ask me out for a date after a first meet - and to me that is not ghosting -ghosting to me is not responding after several dates.  

I agree with the advice about work.  I originally met my husband at work at a company where dating wasn't allowed.  We worked in entirely different departments, huge company, so we did our best to be discreet.  I left the company for other reasons about 6 months later so it wasn't an issue for long.

I know of many long term relationships and marriages where the couple originally met through an online site.  

Edited by Batya33
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  • 2 weeks later...

My suggestion?: don't drag out the online talking phase so long before meeting in real life. Keep it brief enough to develop a connection on some level and then either insist upon making an irl meeting happen, keep the interactions brief until your person feels comfortable to do so, or disengage and meet somebody who is willing to meet in real life sooner.

From experience the longer you pre-date chat/text the more anxiety and expectation has a chance to accumalate. You've been talking online for X amount of time, and during that time, you both are creating potentially unfounded perceptions of eachother. It's better to develop the impressions that will last in real life - it also gives you your best shot at actually meeting somebody like minded and eligible since a positive online persona doesnt always translate into having those great connections and conversations in real life (although, yes, it can help!!) IDK just my two cents since it definately made a difference for me when I switched to primarily keeping my interactions with tinder people irl 🙂

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On 3/27/2022 at 9:26 AM, frozenfirebird said:

I'm 38 and my last relationship was about 12 years ago.  I stopped trying to find someone in my late 20s, I had tried online dating and that never went anywhere.  Just moved to a new country and am okay at the language, not amazing.  But I got interested in someone back in August, started up a friendship, within two months told her I was interested, got turned down.

That woke back up the side of me that wants a life partner, and I quickly realized I'm approaching 40 now, and need to get moving.  So I started online dating, since between the language barrier and pandemic, it's been impossible to build any local friendships outside of work.  Dating at work is also a non-option because of my company's policy, which forbids interacting with anyone outside of work.  (I work in the schools, so this is mostly to protect the kids.)

In three situations so far - that friend back in August, a coworker around Jan/Feb, and now someone online that I've been talking with for a week - I've noticed overpowering anxiety.  Some anxiety is normal, but this shuts me down completely.  It tends to happen anytime I'm waiting for a response to a message... the more significant the message, the worse the anxiety.

The current situation with a woman online is that we've been talking for a week, have a lot in common, no shortage of things to talk about, but we're not perfect at speaking each other's languages.  So in my message yesterday, I had said I wanted to visit France, but it would be more fun to go with someone.  In her imperfect understanding of the word "someone," she thought I was saying I had a girlfriend, and asked if it was okay if she kept talking with me.  So in my message today, I explained that it was a miscommunication, I didn't have a girlfriend, and I thought she was interesting and wanted to get to know her better.

Well, tonight I haven't heard back at the time she would normally send a message.  It probably doesn't mean anything, but I'm sleepless with anxiety over someone I've been messaging for a week, because I'm afraid I've scared her off... despite the fact that this is a dating site and "want to get to know you better" should not even be new information.  My mind just will not shut off.  It doesn't want to go back to having no prospects.

I'm sure plenty of people have this same problem, any good ways you've found to deal with it?

So, because you're finding dating difficult due to the anxiety, I think it makes the most sense to step back from dating (at least temporarily) and find a therapist/counsellor, who can help you with your anxiety issues.

They can help you work through you anxiety, find out the root causes and help you gain more confidence.

You don't want to get involved with anyone when you are feeling this vulnerable, because then one of two things could happen:

1.) You could be easily crushed if they don't respond to you, or if they change their mind.

2.) You become far too overly attached to someone too quickly which will in turn, become quite toxic.

Find a therapist who can help you work through these issues first, then you'll be in a much better place mentally for yourself, and for someone else.

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On 4/10/2022 at 2:53 AM, willowthebestpillow said:

it also gives you your best shot at actually meeting somebody like minded and eligible since a positive online persona doesnt always translate into having those great connections and conversations in real life (although, yes, it can help!!) IDK just my two cents since it definately made a difference for me when I switched to primarily keeping my interactions with tinder people irl

I found -even though I was really good at screening out unsafe or incompatible people (I met over 100 people in person) - that just because someone types well/is a good writer -and even with a good phone convo you don't get to see how they interact with strangers, waiters, you don't get to see in person eye contact ,body language, whether they apologize for being late, etc, how they are about ordering food - if waiting in a line do they ask what you want? Ask if you prefer to share something, etc.  

I once met a former child actor for coffee who went on and on about his body fat percentage (low, lower than mine and I was quite slim!) and -I know it's mean -he just got coffee and I got ---- a biscotti -one! And I offered him a piece to be polite. OMG he was horrified at the thought of consuming a bite of biscotti and ruining his body fat.  LOL -it's totally fine he declined but seeing how he was around food and his um intense focus on body fat percentage became even clearer in person.  

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My former roommate met her boyfriend in English class. They were both foreign students attending college in the US and had signed up for classes to learn the language better.

Can you take classes to learn the language? You might meet someone there and you'd already have something in common, being new to the country you're living in.

And I agree, getting help for your overwhelming anxiety is a good idea. I have extreme anxiety and until I got it under control I literally couldn't do ANYTHING.

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