The people who tell me that online dating is supposed to be fun aren’t the same as the people in my life who are logging onto online dating profiles. The people in my life who actually are using online dating sites usually say something more like, “Ugh, yes, I hate it, too.”
The stress of online dating is painfully real. My pre-date checklist would make you believe I was preparing for very meticulous battle.
How should I dress?
What food will I order?
What time will I arrive?
Which stories should I have prepared?
What questions should I ask?
What if he’s not the one?
It’s about here that I add this question to the list: When did online dating become a chore that we force ourselves to do, no different than the dishes or taxes?
There’s nothing laborious about good conversation with a new person. There’s plenty of joy to be found in shared experiences and silly pauses and interesting discussions. Yet somewhere along the line, online dating has become equal parts work and risk for a lot of us.
If you’re someone who is stressed by online dating though, you’re definitely not alone.
As you venture out into the dating world, especially navigating the unique circumstances of online dating, remind yourself that dating should be low pressure. It’s true—we’re looking for something serious that will last. But dating isn’t meant to be a high intensity interrogation or interview. It’s meant to be an exciting experience of another person, and a fun sharing of yourself.
The stress of online dating
What makes online dating so stressful in the first place?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is pretty different for everyone, which only creates more stress. Stress from online dating can come from expectations for perfection or for what a date “should” be. It can come from the newness of everything from people to conversation to location. Or, you can become stressed when old insecurities bubble up as you try to put your best self forward.
The good news is that online dating can actually be fun. I’m going to share how to make sure it is!
Ways to avoid stress while dating
I’m a person who has hidden in bathrooms, had exit maps planned out, and has (not proudly) backed out last minute from a date out of fear. But it’s these experiences that led me to share what puts the charm back in dating.
Pick dates you like
There’s no reason you need to suffer through something you don’t enjoy, or try something new just for the sake of the excitement.This isn’t a dating reality show, where you’re expected to hop on a plane to have a quick slice in Rome as one of your first dates.
Choose a place or activity you like and you’re comfortable doing. You’re more likely to relax, have a good time, and be yourself if you choose to do something you like.
Remember why you love you
One of the most stressful parts of online dating is the insecurities it has the power to unearth. Suddenly your entire appearance, your sense of humor, your favorite song, your best childhood memory, your quirks and personality are all flattened into a digital page, and one that can be easily ignored. When you don’t match or a date goes poorly, it can be easy to ask what you did wrong, or what was missing.
Instead, keep a list of all the things you love about yourself. Go over it before and after each date. Remind yourself that while you may be going on a date with someone great, so are they. The fear of rejection will lessen when you can depend on yourself to accept you every time.
Manage your expectations early
Everyone is looking for a love connection on a date—that’s reasonable. But a lot of us attach even higher stakes. Maybe we assume it will be the moment our children one day long to hear about or the story we’ll tell over and over as newly weds of “how we first met.”
That kind of pressure, even just in our own hearts, can really set us up for disaster. It leads us to be on edge and hyper-aware of every potential flaw. That’s not good for anyone.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have any expectations. But the lower your expectations of what a person “should” be like, the more likely you’ll have fun just learning about them. You’ll be learning about the person they actually are, instead of the person you’re hoping they turn out to be.
Always have a reason to go home
Statistically, some dates will just be stinkers. That’s just a truth of online dating. Your first impression that led you to agree to a date could be way off base when you arrive and find someone three feet shorter, much more callous, and just not your type.
Repeat after me: It’s okay to leave a date early.
What’s not okay is to say you’re going to the bathroom and just bolt. That’s why having a ready excuse is a good tip. If you’re unsure from the get-go, feel free to say as soon as you sit down, “I’ve got an early morning tomorrow, so this will be a short night for me.”
But if you’re about halfway through before you realize you want out, empower yourself to say, “Thanks for dinner, but I have an early morning, so I’m going to call it a night.”
If that person still doesn’t get the message after your rough date, brush up on ways to avoid another date without ghosting.
Date with an end goal in mind
Let’s talk about end goals versus expectations.
To leave your expectations behind means you’re not coming with a ready judgment of someone’s personality by saying, “I could never date a video gamer.” Those are marginalizing and could ruin you from getting to know a person’s whole self.
End goals, on the other hand, are a measure for success after a date. This is especially true with online dating, where the pool is extra large. You should know what you’re looking for in general terms, so that you can decide if you want to pursue more dates or if you want to move on.
It’s possible to have a good time and still not move forward with a person, and with your end goals in mind, that will be much easier to do. For instance, my end goal for a date is to have met someone who is an easy conversationalist, quick for a laugh, and doesn’t talk with food in his mouth.
Even if I have a nice time, if it’s hard to laugh with someone, it makes it easier for me to end the pursuit early in favor of finding someone I can laugh with.
Embrace the unknown
If you’re not ready to face your fear of the unknown, you might not be ready to date. Online dating is entirely the unknown. Shift your fear of not knowing what’s next to excitement about all the possibilities.
Remind yourself before a date starts: Don’t anticipate; participate!
Take breaks when you need to
You can take a sabbatical from online dating when you need to. There can be a lot of pressure to search until you find something, but I promise: dating will still be here when you get back.
If you’re feeling too overwhelmed by the stress of any part of dating, give yourself permission to step back. You can still meet people organically through work or church activities, or ask friends to invite new people along with you for a night out. Then you can still meet people in a less intense setting.
Make it a group event
Speaking of friends, group dates are a great answer to the stress of one-on-one meet-ups. Alleviate the pressure of constantly stoking the conversation by adding more voices in.
As a bonus, you’ll get to see your date engage with other people. This will showcase a different side of them!
Love yourself along the way
One of the reasons I love dating is because I love having someone to care for and dote on. It’s all too easy for me to fall into the trap of consumption in the person I am dating and forget to care for myself, too.
Take time away from dates and apps to relax and remind yourself that you’re enough just as you are—and also to re-evaluate if you’re still pursuing what you want. It’s must harder to assess a process while you’re in the middle of it, so take a step back and look at the relationships you’ve begun and ask yourself if they’re still worth your time and investment.
Pray for courage
The most influential way to change your fear or hesitation toward online dating is to ask the author of your love story. As much as it may seem sometimes like we are the players in a comedy of errors that God is watching in good fun (or at least I feel that way sometimes), God only wants our good.
Ask the Lord to open your heart, give you courage and give you the grace of discernment. He’ll bless you with clarity of mind to enjoy your dates and pray about their potential.
Ask for advice and guidance
Ask other single friends to remind you why they love dating, and how they keep it fun instead of stressful. Lean on each other for ideas, encouragement, and even laughter when things don’t go as you planned.
The more transparent we can be with ourselves and our friends about our adventures—or misadventures—in dating, the easier (and more fun!) the whole process will become.
Finally, take a big question mark out of the equation by starting with the right pool to choose from. We all know there are certain apps out there for online dating that have reputations that won’t lead to lasting, healthy relationships. And if that’s where you’re casting your net, you’re not going to see your stress lessen any time soon.
Pursue fun, joy, and potential with online dating apps and services like Catholic Singles. Plus, there are dozens of other ideas for stress-free dates on the Catholic Singles site. That’s a win-win!
Hey! Ready for our bonus tip on avoiding stress while exploring the world of online dating? Download the Catholic Singles online dating app in the app store today. We help you create your profile, then connect you with other single Catholics who share your faith and values!