Overcoming Dating Distress


I hear all kinds of warped thoughts about dating from clients, friends, and family members. Dating can bamboozle the best and brightest of us. You can end up saying things that give the wrong impression, or believing things that are not true.

So next time you dip your foot in the dating pool, make sure to keep this list of five of the more common cognitive distortions around dating in mind to ensure better results.

Mind Reading: telling yourself that you know what someone else is thinking and feeling and why they’re acting the way they are, with no real proof. For example: He reserved a table in the back because he is embarrassed to be with me.

Should Statements: creating a list of rules for yourself that are unbreakable and serve as a way to criticize yourself and others. If you break these rules, you are disappointed or angry at yourself or you feel guilty for not living up to your unrealistic expectations. If someone else breaks these arbitrary rules, you feel angry or resentful. For example: If he was attracted to me he should have kissed me. I guess I’m not pretty enough.

Black or White Thinking: when you see things in all or nothing terms. If you fall short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. For example: I am completely ruining this date because I don’t know anything about the Yankees!

Catastrophizing: when you focus on the worse possible outcome of a situation. You exaggerate the significance of things and then blow them completely out of proportion. For example: He doesn’t like Thai food? I love Thai food! This is never gonna work between the two of us. I am going to die single!!!

Overgeneraliztion: you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat and you use such words as “all,” “always,” and “never” when you think about it. Similar experiences are then equated to this one experience. For example: What is the point of dating? I only meet jerks!

If you can identify with any of these types of twisted thinking, fear not! You can learn to manage these thoughts. Here are some tried and true tools:

  • Be aware of your thinking, and what distortions you are prone to, and name them. Sometimes just realizing your thoughts are distorted is enough to quiet them.
  • Remember, just because you think it, doesn’t make it true! Thoughts are just that, thoughts. They are simply ideas. Recognizing that may help you to let go of them instead of making them your truth.
  • Examine whether there is a double standard. If you had a friend who was thinking the same thing how would you judge him or her? Is there any reason why your judgments would be less critical of someone else than of yourself? How would other people look at the situation? Why would others be more understanding of you than you are of yourself?
  • Try mindfulness. Practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindful eating can help you to get out of your head and into the present moment. Nobody wants to date someone that isn’t all there! Focus on describing things without using critical words. Keep away from such key words as “always” and “never.” Try to focus on the things you can observe, such as, “He’s a really good listener,” and how you feel, “I feel insecure.”

Stay in the here and now.