Dear Dr. Love,I have never done anything like this before, so I hope that you will answer my questions!This is the situation, I have always been scared to go on a first date because of the awkardness of it all, and I always end up running away, and never having a relationship.I’m only 17, but it seems like I’m the only one without a boyfriend. I met a guy this weekend at a party and he asked for my phone number, and he called me the next day, I was so excited about it, but then i found myself running away from having to talk to him, he called and I never called him back, I was too afraid too, and I don’t know why,really want a boyfriend. I just don’t know what to do, I’m so confused about the whole thing! Is it just me or are the other people out there like me?? And most of all what can I do to overcome this fear of the first date, and to hold a real relationship??Thank-you for your time, please answer me, your my last hope!
I see that you are scared stiff. The question you need to ask yourself is what aspect of dating terrifies you.Clearly you have it in your mind that dating is dangerous, hence your fear. Such an association doesn’t happen by accident. Usually, such fear is the result of a bad experience (which you haven’t had). Hence, I can only assume that you believe that you risk a bad outcome, emotional damage or the like when you do date. We need to find out where this idea comes from.Keep in mind that what started out as a normal fear (we are all afraid of new experiences) has blossomed into an outright phobia. Yes, you actually have a phobia to dating, just like some people have a snake phobia or a fear of heights. You are now so worked up, you can’t even move.Let’s backtrack a moment and imagine that you actually bite the bullet and go on a date. Allow your mind to come up with all the things that frighten you. Are you afraid of looking dumb, not knowing what to say or how to act? Once you identify what you are scared of, we then need to retrain your brain so that the fear doesn’t rule you. There are several ways to do this. One way is called ‘flooding’ in which you simply dive right in and accept a date, fear and all, reminding yourself that no one ever died from fear.Another choice is to ease into dating by making a rehearsal for the big night. To do this, you would mentally enact the date, from start to finish. Each time you practice date, be prepared to experience the fearful feelings. During your dry run you will tell yourself supportive statements like, ‘I am confident and enjoying myself. ‘Breathe deeply and reprogram your thoughts. With practice, you should feel more confident.I would also encourage you to dig deeper into your psyche and find out what is scaring you about dating. Are you afraid to become close to another person, only to find yourself rejected? Are you afraid to get close to another because you are afraid to lose that person to death? (common fear if one or both of your parents died). Are you afraid to connect with another because your own parents’relationship was poor? Were you abused by your parents? This would explain why you are afraid to let another person near you.When you understand what your unconscious mind thinks are the exact risks associated with dating, you can then subject your fears to the light of day. If your parents’ relationship was poor, that doesn’t mean yours has to be. You can enter therapy and make sure you don’t repeat the same patterns. If you are afraid to get close and be dropped, then your fear of dating is telling you that you have unfinished business to heal. Therapy would also be in order in this case.Likewise, if you were abused by your parents, then you should also enter therapy and experience a relationship with a therapist who doesn’t abuse you. Such a relationship can be a stepping stone for real life relationships. While you are working on healing these deeper issues, you can certainly make use of the behavioral strategies I outlined (rehearsal, reprogramming your thoughts, etc. ).Best wishes. You’ve heard the saying, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’remind yourself that every new experience is scary. If we held back each time we felt afraid, we’d never walk, leave home, and so on. Know that you are not alone in your fear. We are all scared to get close to others. To love is risky. Our hearts are naked. I think that once you identify the deeper origins of your fear, remind yourself that fear is normal when facing new situations, rehearse for the date, and then bite the bullet, you will see that you do absolutely fine. Keep me posted on your progress.