Tags: early stages of dating

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A lot of people experience deep anxiety in the early stages of dating (what I call stages 0 and 1). Without a doubt, two particular anxiety triggers are sexual intimacy and what’s going to happen next.

Sometimes it’s that we want to have sex but are also afraid of getting hurt or giving the ‘wrong message’. We might obsess about the number of dates so far or how often we communicate with this person. We try to ascertain what we think we know and can expect from this person. When we’re really honest with ourselves, we might not actually want to have sex yet. But anxiety about putting ourselves out of the running for more dates or the hallowed relationship triggers internal pressure. Next thing, we shift from our boundaries and values.

Sometimes it’s that we’re keen to get off the dating merry-go-round and want to ensure that we’re not ‘wasting our time’. Even though we don’t know the person that well or we’re not even sure if we want a relationship with this person, we’re very anxious and twitchy about getting hurt. We then look for assurances that we can get what they need and want or that this person isn’t like our ex.

So we have sex with the person we’re dating to address the dating anxiety.

It could be that we throw caution to the wind, decide to be totally in the moment, or feel as if we are getting ‘strong signals’ that this person is on the same page as us. Acknowledged or not, though, anxiety is also present.

Within hours, if not minutes, of having sex, the anxiety increases. And then typically, within days, if not hours, this anxiety manifests in behaviour and conversations that leave us deeply confused, unsettled and possibly out of the involvement.

I’ve talked about The Justifying Zone since my first book Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl. It’s this place we go to post-sexual intimacy where we look around for reasons to justify our decision to sleep with the person. Retrospectively, we try to plug the gaps of information and find qualities and characteristics to pin on relationship expectations. We’d rather do this than admit that, yeah, we’ve made an error in judgement.

I’ve noticed something else, though, that really speaks to our intentions and the need for us to examine hidden agendas. This is especially so in the lather, rinse, repeat of frustrating dating cycles. And it’s this:

Sleeping with a date is sometimes a backhanded way of attempting to flush out their position or to create what appears to be a legitimate basis for relationship expectations and feelings. 

And this is messy as hell. We end up feeling entitled to a relationship or to feel how we do even though the reality of the situation, including what we ignored, say otherwise.

In frustrating dating cycles, it’s crucial to examine our pattern, particularly around where we trip up. We have to acknowledge our blind spots and relationship potholes. Inevitably, the cause of frustrating dating patterns has something to do with speed. We move too fast, whether it’s emotionally, mentally and/or physically, which triggers anxiety. And then rather acknowledge where we’ve fast-forwarded ourselves (and possibly allowed someone to fast-forward us), we continue doing things that accentuate the anxiety. Side note: intensity isn’t the same as intimacy. In fact, it’s more akin to destabilisation.

The clue in all of this is our intentions, including whether we had a hidden agenda.

  • Does a part of us suspect that having sex with a date will flush out someone’s real motives and intentions? It’s a bit like trying to force the ending that we already, on some level, suspect is likely.
  • Or, is it that we associate relationship possibilities with sex? This means that we have sex so that we can feel justified in expecting a relationship. Or, we have sex to, at the very least, ask the questions and say and do the things that we were not prepared to before having sex. We might even feel entitled to them meeting needs that they weren’t before sleeping with them.

The thing is, having sex doesn’t make us any more entitled to a relationship than we were before we had it. It doesn’t.

And sleeping with someone when there are more holes in our proverbial fact-finding or their story than a pair of fishnet stockings only sabotages our wellbeing.

If we have anxiety, reservations, questions, certain expectations, unmet needs, etc., while dating someone, sex will not solve it. Feeling as if we can ask these things after sexual intimacy is like closing the door after the horse has bolted. That, and we’re making it someone else’s problem that we ignored ourselves in the first place. When we’re honest about our needs, values and boundaries, we stop selling ourselves short. We can be intentional instead of inadvertently setting us up to fail.

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