Anxiety and Overthinking Are Sabotaging Your Love Life in 2019
When I was a sophomore in high school I fell in love for the first time. Jonathan and I were mowing yards for some extra cash. As I was walking the mower back from mowing cousin Ed’s yard, an unfamiliar voice yelled to get my attention. He and his family had just moved to town and they desperately needed their tall grass mowed. I gladly obliged. I also noticed he had a daughter around my age.
Something about her caught my eye, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I asked around and got her name, which was Emily (not her actual name). My friends and I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood for exercise, and I’d always make sure to include her house on the walk. I ran into her at a dance a few weeks later, and it didn’t go very well. My opening line “do you know what time it is?” was met with “well, there’s a clock up there.” Ouch.
When spring came, Emily’s friend revealed she had a crush on me, so her friend and I started “talking.” Mysteriously (lol) Emily started liking me too. My naive and cocky tenth grade self decided to try to date both girls and by the end they both hated me. Ahhhhh, good times!
I tell this adolescent love story to make a point about how love actually works. I saw her, interacted with her and put it all out there. I didn’t hold back because of fear or overthinking.
I didn’t assess her body type, measure her height, determine her career trajectory, ask her religion, or determine her political beliefs. I didn’t imagine if she’d be the perfect partner in 15 years or do a drawn out search for red flags (because I would have found plenty!).
I just felt something and gave it a chance. That particular one didn’t work out, but others that I gave a chance did, and that’s the point of this article.
Was I a little naive? Probably, but I believe that picking a partner on the basis of a ten point screening process that involves exact measurements, career trajectory, and even sharing everything in common is also senseless. That isn’t how love works and isn’t how relationships work (in fact, kindness and generosity matter far more than any metric online dating sorts for).
Love isn’t rational. Love is emotional. We connect with people based on a variety of reasons, many of them outside of our conscious awareness. Someone’s smell, presence, immunity, personality, charisma, and even their voice can play a role. What looks good “on paper” often doesn’t work in reality. And, what we think will make us happy often doesn’t.
And this is where anxiety and over-thinking come in.
Many of us have been burned by bad past relationships that didn’t meet our expectations. We keep adding more and more “dealbreakers” and standards as time goes on, which seems helpful, but really isn’t. In the process, dating goes from something enjoyable, present-oriented, risky, and intuitive, to something miserable, past/future oriented, boring, and overly logical.
And, despite our “standards” and newfound pickiness, most people who date this way are less happy.
Fear causes a strange attachment to finding the “perfect” partner, to the point of finding flaws everywhere, or even finding reasons to sabotage things with people we actually like.
It also leads to overthinking and over-analyzing, which leads to extreme pickiness, itself a defense mechanism against the uncertainty of falling in love.
Think of the best love you’ve experienced. You probably have to go way back to high school, college, or even before. Maybe you’ve never felt it.
If you have, did it come because the person looked “perfect” on paper? Did the sparks happen because you subjected him or her to a series of 20 questions to see if there was a “dealbreaker” present? When you fell for him, was if after you measured his exact height, figured out how far he lived from you, knew his exact age, and knew where he was on the political spectrum?
Did any of that matter when you were sitting under the stars with him after the football game or your heart was racing as he made out with you in his car on that hot summer night?
While I believe it’s important to connect with someone based on values, just imagine the people you’ve been in love with who you may have never met because you’re focusing on building the perfect partner on paper. Imagine the experiences you’d have missed then if you took the view of dating that you do now.
To date successfully, and find love, fear and overthinking are your worst enemies. Dating involves getting on the surfboard and throwing yourself into the wave. You may surf for hours or it may knock you off and send water up your nose. It is putting yourself out there, ready to face the joy and happiness, but also the potential heartbreak.
Overthinking misses the point of love. It’s trying to take something that is by its very nature unpredictably complex (both beautiful and dangerous at the same time), and control and tame it. Love isn’t about whether the guy you’re with will look presentable in couples photos on Facebook. It certainly isn’t about a person’s exact weight, height, or income (although these do play a role). And, it isn’t about pre-ordering the perfect partner based on whether you think you’ll never get hurt over the next 40 years.
Instead, I suggest being more open to the people around you, and how they make you feel. Does he make you happy? Do you like spending time with her? Could you possibly see yourself feeling that way? Well, if so, swipe right and see what happens. Trust yourself, live in the present as much as possible, and ride the wave.
What would it be like to feel this way again? Can you imagine the feeling?