Whenever I prepared for a date, I was nervous (of course) and excited (sometimes!) but I would get very anxious about certain areas of how the date would go. Would I run out of conversation? Would it be awkward? What if he tried to kiss me? My brain would go on overdrive and I would often consider backing out so I wouldn’t have to deal with the uncertainty.
There was one specific instance where I’d had enough of the dating ‘small talk’ and was anxious about meeting yet another new person. My Dad told me: “Come on, go on this date – you never know, it could be your last first date.” It turned out it was, and I was about to meet my husband.
Before every date, I would pray and hand the meeting over to God. This way I knew that God’s will would be done, God was in control and that gave me peace. God knows exactly the emotions we feel and His Word brought me such comfort when preparing for dates. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
I had four main triggers that made me anxious and worked out some ways to overcome them:
Practical – Where would we meet? I knew the importance of safety when meeting a stranger, so meeting in a public place was ideal to ensure I had other people around me. As much as possible, I let someone I trusted know where I was. I was always anxious when a potential date would say “and then I’ll surprise you”, despite the kind gesture. Personally, I’m not sure that the ‘surprise’ of once being taken to a bug taxidermy museum was really what I was expecting but at least there were other people there! I would also have a ‘get out clause’, or somewhere else that I needed to be after the date to give some sort of time limit in case things weren’t going well.
Personal – What will we talk about? A big fear was running out of conversation, as I was petrified of awkward silences. I knew that when I met someone that I could both chat endlessly with and have comfortable silence with, I would be on to a winner. I used to write a list of topics on a sheet of paper and keep it in my handbag in case I dried up! Usually I’m not at a loss for words, but for some reason, that didn’t happen on dates. If I found myself in that situation, I’d make my excuses to go to the bathroom and study my list and return trying to instigate some fresh topic. The best thing for me would have been to relax and let the conversation flow, but the comfort blanket of my sheet of paper did help at times!
Boundaries – How do I greet my date? What if there’s the awkwardness of one going in for a hug, and the other for a handshake? Making a joke out of this helps to break the ice. I was more nervous about the parting as I definitely did not want to kiss someone I didn’t want to see again! Knowing your own boundaries and not compromising on them does help – don’t do anything you don’t want to do.
Spiritual – How do I discuss my faith journey? That was the reason I was on a date – to find a strong Christian partner. Bringing this conversation up, without sounding like an interrogation was not always easy. Essentially that was what I really wanted to know, but I had to take the pressure off myself of trying to find out everything theologically in the first meeting. I had to remember that one step at a time helps to build a relationship rather than everything straight away.
Throughout all dates, prayer was a major factor – if I ran out of conversation, I prayed for wisdom. If I didn’t feel safe, I prayed for safety, and God was directing me through each date, whether it was steered out the door, or into a relationship. I always had other trusted people praying during my dates, as we are told to bring everything to God in prayer. This brings peace, so putting God first was the best way to combat my pre-date anxiety.