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Dating at Midlife/extreme anxiety about dating

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Hi. I read your profile and think, as a psychologist, you're the appropriate expert for my questions. I am possibly younger than most of the people who write to you-I am 38. But I have never dated because of my low self-confidence and extreme anxiety. I have gotten some therapy and medication over the past year and a half, and both have helped, but I still have a ton of anxiety because I may go on a date soon with someone I met several years ago. (We don't know each other very well, but I hope we will soon.) But obviously we know a tiny bit about each other since we used to work together, but in different departments of a store. Anyway, this man asked about me through a mutual friend and wanted to know about me. I haven't contacted him yet. Because I'm still panicky and very anxious about the thought of going on a date!!! I'm not shy once I feel comfortable with someone, it's just the initial conversations that make me so anxious. And as I said, I have not dated at all. I have had sex with one person; it was strictly a sexual relationship and we did not date. That lasted a couple of months and he moved on, which was for the best. My question is: How can I relax and not be so very, very critical of myself and so panicky if and when I do go on a date?  I get so upset thinking about it and I have been crying about it for about a week. Since my friend told me this guy wanted to talk to me. I know that it is all about my lack of self-confidence and feeling like I am not good enough. I'm afraid of being vulnerable and letting someone get to know the "real me". Honestly, I'm terrified. But I realize this is a necessary part of dating and eventually, hopefully, finding love. I think I'm courageous enough to contact him, but how do I get through this extreme distress and anxiety thinking about going on a date? And being on the date. I'm so scared that I will have hardly anything interesting to talk about and that I'll be boring and he won't want to see me again. I hate feeling so abnormal and living with these anxious feelings every day. If it's of any relevance, I take an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety med. I have taken them for a couple years. No one in my family has had these issues, but I was bullied in elementary and junior high school and was excluded much of the time and I think this is the root of my low self-confidence. Also, I am a pretty big woman, which doesn't help with dating either.

Answer
Well first, congratulations for stepping up to a very big personal challenge.

Certainly part of preparation is thinking about the worst case scenario, as you have done, and then being prepared to accept it

A lot of "dating" is just practice for when a relationship comes along with real possibilities and so, in practice, winning and losing and making mistakes and not making don't really count because it's all practice.  And that's not just a mental trick,it's real. So that might help you a bit

Next though, I really would advise that you find someone you can talk to who can get to know the "real you."  And that's usually a great mentor, a good coach, a therapist, a special friend.  In these days of managed care and the need for limited sessions and specific results, that kind of therapeutic relationship can be hard to find.  The people I work with on the phone, via Skype, and so on, I've often worked with for many months and part of that process is getting to know the "real person," and after a short while those conversations, which are often about very delicate and vulnerable stories, do allow those folks to feel more comfortable with who they "Really" are.  

And also therapy is also a kind of practice and the only person who makes mistakes is the therapist. All that's required of the other person is that they be who they really are, as much as their fears will allow.  

This sort of genuine, authentic connection is what calms folks down and gives them a sense of foundation.

Find a local therapist you can do this with or try a phone conversation with me, if you'd like.  You can arrange for it at drbelove@me.com
Have the conversation anyway.  I might be able to give better one-time advice.  Let me know.  

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.

Dating at Midlife

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Philip Belove, Ed.D.

Expertise

Hi. I`m Philip Belove (that is my name, really). I`m 71 and I`ve been a psychologist all my midlife, the past 35 years. My specialty has been counseling and coaching other midlife adults.  I think we all figure things out as we go along, but even more so at midlife. Being between 40-ish and 60-ish and single is like being a stranger in a strange land. I`ve learned which questions help people find their own way. I created this category, I publish a blog at www.drbelove.com and I write articles for various web sites. My commitment is to help people 1) understand and improve how they deal with others, 2) understand the forces that rule the relationships they are in, and 3) make the decisions which will shape, or create, or end those relationships  so they achieve the goal of midlife development  to finally live with personal satisfaction. I`ve been divorced twice myself. I`m in a satisfying relationship with a fine person. I`m very interested in learning about your challenges and in offering what I can.

Experience

Professionally: Licensed Psychologist. Marriage and Family Therapist. Coach.Author. University Lecturer. Personally: I'm 71. I've probably made all the big mistakes, er, learned the big lessons.I've forgiven myself and made many apologies and I've made it into a good, stable, sweet relationship. I now have a perspective on midlife.

Publications
Please check out my book, Rabbis in Love, at www.rabbis-in-love.com Also my blog at www.drbelove.com The Rabbi book was done as part of a research project. My collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein, and I wanted to interview couples with very successful marriage and also we wanted to talk to people who cared as much about their spirituality as love. Maybe being able to love and be spiritual were one and same, we thought. So we found a rabbi couple and the interview was so astounding that we interviewed nine more rabbi couples. One dropped. They'd revealed too much. It's a fascinating book and, Jewish or not, religious or not, these couples do a lot of things right and there is a lot to learn from them.

Education/Credentials
Masters in Counseling Psychology, Alfred Adler Institute Doctorate in Consulting Psychology, focus on family therapy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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