How to Remain Hopeful in the Often Disappointing World of Online DatingAnxiety Therapy in Palo Alto CBT

by Anni Kelley-Day

With online dating comes more dates, but also more opportunities for disappointment, frustration, and heartbreak. After a string of bad dates it can be tempting to give up altogether as people often feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and beliefs about their love life.  CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) can be helpful when trying to replace these thoughts with ones that are more productive and helpful. Specifically, here are a few easy techniques from Dr. David Burn’s T.E.A.M. Therapy, which has evolved from CBT, that you can do to put things into perspective and maintain a sense of optimism. Dr. Burns is also the author of “Intimate Connections” which has more information on dating and relationships.

Be Specific

Do you find yourself writing off a date as being a total failure or waste of time? Instead, try to be more specific in both looking 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 met an interesting person even if it was not a perfect match. On the flip side it can be helpful to think about the specific parts of the date that did not go well so you can learn from the experience.  Perhaps you realized that you need to screen your online dates more carefully, schedule some down time between work and your dinner date, or be more open and vulnerable to form a better connection.

The Double Standard

Have you noticed the way you judge  yourself as being critical and harsh compared to the way you would talk with a close friend? You may have a double standard in the way you talk to yourself versus how you would talk to a close friend who is disappointed or struggling with their love life.  Would you tell your friend that they are never going to meet someone? That they will spend the rest of their life alone? That they are hopeless and might as well give up now? I am guessing you would never speak in such a cruel manner to a friend.  When using the double standard technique try thinking about what compassionate and reassuring things you would say to your friend and talk to yourself in the same manner.

Examine the Evidence (A Core Strategy of CBT)

You may be holding on to some negative beliefs about dating that might not actually be true once you take a second look.  Some common beliefs around dating are, “there are no single men/women out there.” “I never meet anyone.” “No one online actually wants to be in a real relationship.” Though these beliefs might feel really true to you but once you try examining the evidence you may realize that there are great single people out there, or that you did have some good relationships in the past, and that many of your friends are in happy and committed relationships with people they met online.

The Acceptance Paradox (Great for Anxiety too!)

Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is work on acceptance, acceptance that online dating is hard and frustrating, acceptance that you haven’t met your person yet which feels really unfair. Instead of fighting the universe by saying to yourself “this should be easier” or “I should have met him or her by now,” trying changing the wording a bit. “It would be preferable if online dating were easy and always fun but instead there will always be ups and downs.” “It would be great if I had met him or her by now but I haven’t so I will 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 wording can turn down the emotional impact of these statements making acceptance piece easier.

Dating is a difficult process that takes a lot of time and energy and it can be easy to feel burned out. Sometimes if all else fails it can be helpful to take a break and focus on socializing with friends and family, or putting your energy into enjoying hobbies or learning a new skill. You may find that when you do come back to online dating you are more energized and open to finding love. Even if you have tried all of these techniques it can still be really difficult and overwhelming to try and change your negative thoughts around dating. If you would like support in this area please contact us and we can show how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you.

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