Understanding Different Forms of Romantic Anxiety
When it comes to dating and romantic intimacy, there are various anxieties that people experience. Although these fears are related to each other, each form of romantic anxiety has distinct differences. Some of these fears include:
- Fear of Connection (Related to Social Anxiety)
- Associated fears: commitment, affection/intimacy, loss of independence, being loved/accepted, being overwhelmed
- Fear of Performance
- Associated fears: having to work too hard, failure, sexual performance, making a mistake in who you pick
- Fear of Being Hurt or Hurting Somebody
- Associated fears: being rejected or rejecting somebody
- Fear of the Unknown
Fear of Connection
The fear of connection is often related to social anxiety, and it involves various associated fears:
Fear of Commitment
For some people, the idea of making a commitment is overwhelming. They feel that committing to a relationship means taking on too much responsibility and giving up their independence. This particular fear is often rooted in other fears, as discussed in this article. Commitment can sometimes seem like committing to a lifetime of fear and uncertainty.
Fear of Affection/Intimacy
A fear of affection or intimacy goes beyond just being uncomfortable with public displays of affection or physical touch. It is an associated fear of connecting with others at a deeper level, and then having to cement that connection with a physical expression. People may also be unsure of how to show intimacy properly or be worried about being “too intense” or “clingy.”
Fear of Loss of Independence
The fear of losing one’s independence is a common fear in men. It often stems from a misunderstanding of expectations in a relationship. A good match for a person should strike a comfortable balance that allows for independent expression. Most people enjoy having some time away from their partners to cultivate their own hobbies and friendships, which can help them grow and develop as individuals.
Fear of Being Loved and Accepted
For some, being loved and accepted for who they are is so unfamiliar that the idea of dating is terrifying. This fear may be connected to childhood abuse, where “love” was expressed in inappropriate ways (e.g., sexual abuse, violent discipline). Avoiding a loving relationship seems to be a matter of survival for these individuals.
Fear of Being Overwhelmed
Some people experience the emotional rollercoaster of romance as completely overwhelming rather than exciting and fun. The emotions they experience can flood them, and what most people would call “excitement” feels more like anxiety to them.
Fear of Performance
Fear of Sexual Performance
One of the most common types of performance anxiety in romantic relationships is the fear of not performing well in the bedroom. Thanks to the internet, hardcore pornography is only a few clicks away, and it presents an unrealistic image of what sex looks like. However, even without porn, men and women worry about how well they perform sexually. In most cases, it is a passing concern that becomes less bothersome as a couple becomes familiar with each other’s likes and dislikes.
For some men, the idea of sexual performance is complicated by the need to maintain an erection and not being able to fake an orgasm. If there is an issue once or twice, then the very anxiety that caused performance issues in the first place begins to build, making it very circular. However, there is help available if you need it. You can contact us at [email protected].
Fear of Having to Work Too Hard
This fear is not about being lazy, but rather, it is related to the fear of actually succeeding in a relationship and being “obligated” to give up the single lifestyle, to do all the small and big things that make a relationship work. However, the fear is not based on reality; you do not have to be “on duty” 24/7. In fact, you should have your interests and a life of your own to enjoy. Fear of dating and romance is often fueled by the idea of having to be on duty all the time.
Fear of Making a Mistake in Who You Pick
We have all heard the saying that people tend to seek out partners who remind them of one of their parents. When this realization sinks in, people sometimes become fearful of actually picking somebody like their mother or father, particularly if there was a painful relationship with them growing up. However, parents are not the only source of this fear; having a series of relationships that end badly can also trigger this fear. You might think, “What if I choose somebody like that again? I don’t know if I could handle it.”
The fear of hurting somebody’s feelings by breaking up with them is also a very real contributor to avoiding dating due to picking the wrong person. We will deal with this in the next section, “Fear of Being Hurt or Hurting Somebody Else.”
Fear of Being Hurt or Hurting Somebody Else
Fear of Rejection
Nobody wants to be rejected, of course. But for some, the experience is so painful that they believe being alone is less painful than rejection. One of the most common reasons for this is that for some, rejection means that there is something wrong with them. They may think that they can’t date “correctly” or that repeated rejections are “proof” that they are unlikeable, unattractive, or unworthy of dating. However, help is available for this fear. Using a mindfulness-based approach, you can notice that rejection is more about the preferences of the other person than a commentary on you. It is a gradual process, quicker for some, and slower for others, but if you start today, you will be closer to the happy place where you can begin to enjoy dating. Contact us at [email protected] for help.
Fear of Rejecting Somebody
While being rejected is difficult for many, the idea of hurting somebody else’s feelings is even worse. This is a common fear among people who have experienced heartbreak acutely and tend to be very empathetic, sometimes overly so. For kind-hearted individuals who have been devastated by heartbreak, the prospect of putting another person through that experience is terrifying. This fear is not only rooted in empathy but also in anticipatory guilt where they feel guilty about hurting somebody’s feelings before even starting to date. This fear is closely related to anticipatory anxiety.
Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the unknown includes questions like:
- Will this work or not?
- Will he/she continue to be like they are now?
- What if we fall out of love?
- What if they don’t like me down the road?
Fear of the unknown is full of “What ifs” in life and prevents us from living in the present moment. When we dwell on past pain or ruminate on potential future heartbreak, we miss out on the only moment where life actually exists: Right NOW!
If you are tired of living in fear of dating, please get in touch. This fear can be dealt with, and you deserve to overcome it!
Learn more about Counseling for Anxiety in Austin.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.