Online dating can lead to more dates, which is great – but that also means more chances for disappointment, frustration, and heartbreak. After a string of bad dates, you might feel tempted to just give up.
You’re not alone. People often feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and beliefs about their love lives. So how do you control those thoughts and replace them with ones that are more productive? CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) can help. Here are a few easy techniques from Dr. David Burns’s TEAM therapy that you can use to maintain a healthy perspective and stay optimistic.
1. When you think about a lousy date, be specific
After a bad date, how do you think about the experience? Maybe you tend to write it off as a total failure, like, “Well, that was a waste of time.” That mindset won’t help you in the long run. Instead, try to be more specific. Look at both the positive and negative aspects of the date.
What parts of the date were good? Maybe you got to try a new restaurant, practice your flirting skills, or meet an interesting person–even if it wasn’t a perfect match.
When you’re thinking about what went wrong, try to home in on specific details so you can learn from the experience. Chances are, you learned (or reinforced) an important lesson. Maybe you realized that you need to screen your online dates more carefully, schedule more downtime between work and dinner, or be more open and vulnerable to form a better connection.
2. Support yourself like you’d support a friend
Maybe you’ve heard this one before. When you’re “talking to yourself” in your head, do you treat yourself with the same love and support you’d show a close friend? Or do you use a totally different tone–meaner and more critical?
You may have a double standard in the way you talk to yourself versus how you’d talk to a close friend who is disappointed or struggling with their love life. Would you tell your friend that they’ll spend the rest of their life alone? That they’re hopeless, and they might as well just give up? Probably not.
When using this technique, try thinking about the compassionate and reassuring things you would say to your friend. Think about the warm, affectionate tone you would bring to that conversation. Try to talk to yourself the same way.
3. Be objective and examine the evidence
You may be holding on to some negative beliefs about dating that aren’t even true! Often, negative thoughts rely on false assumptions that disappear once you take a second look.
Some common beliefs around dating are:
“There are no single people out there.”
“I never meet anyone.”
“No one online actually wants to be in a real relationship.”
These beliefs feel true to you, but they may not hold up when you examine the evidence. You may realize that there are lots of great single people out there, that you’ve had some grat relationships in the past, and that many of your friends are in happy committed relationships with people they met online.
4. Accept that dating can be hard
Acceptance is one of the most powerful shifts you can make in your mindset. In this case, that might mean accepting that online dating is hard and frustrating. It might mean accepting that you haven’t met your person yet, and accepting that it feels unfair.
It might sound simplistic, but it’s a big adjustment. Often, we tend to fight the universe with frustrated thinking, like, “This should be easier,” or, “I should have met them by now.” Instead, try changing the wording.
Think: “It would be great if online dating was always easy and fun, but I know there will be ups and downs.” Or: “I wish I had met a partner by now, but I haven’t, so I’ll continue to do what I can to make that happen and enjoy all of the good things in my life.” Using a different tone and phrasing can turn down the emotional impact of these statements, making acceptance easier.
Remember, dating is hard: it’s OK to take a break, and it’s OK to get help
Dating is a difficult process that takes a lot of time and energy. It’s easy to feel burned out and demoralized. Sometimes, if all else fails, it can help to take a break and focus on socializing with friends and family, putting your energy into your hobbies, or learning a new skill.
You may find that when you do come back to online dating, you’re more energized and open to finding love. Even if you’ve tried all of these techniques, your negative thoughts about dating might still be overwhelming. CBT can help. Get in touch, and we’ll show you how.