Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How to Regulate Your Emotions in the Dating Scene (and Why You Should)

How to Regulate Your Emotions in the Dating Scene (and Why You Should)

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Dating is often an exciting, yet stressful time, full of major ups and downs. If you want to maximise your chances of finding a good partner and building a sustainable relationship, and if you want to improve your own well-being in the process, it’s important to improve your emotional intelligence and, by extension, your emotional control.

How do you do it?

The emotional dynamics of modern dating

According to relationship counsellor Ilene Wolf, M.F.T.: “In my 30 years of experience, I’ve seen clients make almost every mistake possible. It’s understandable, because the emotional landscape of dating is so volatile and complex. The most important thing you can do for yourself is recognise, accept, and process your emotions in a healthy way, whatever they happen to be.”

Some of the most common complicating emotions in the modern dating scene include:

  • Anxiety. Many people feel anxious talking to someone new, even if it’s in a safe, familiar environment. Going on a first date is even more nerve-wracking, especially if you’re optimistic about the potential of this relationship or are concerned about how it might develop. Remember, it’s not about finding the right thing to say, but about being present and curious about who your date is.
  • Guilt/shame. Some people also feel guilt or shame as a result of their actions. Ghosting someone accidentally or intentionally, getting physical with someone, or behaving inappropriately on a date can cause inner conflict.
  • Isolation and depression. If you aren’t successful in dating right away, you might feel isolated or depressed. Without proactive processing and reframing, this could cause you to isolate further, complicating these dynamics.
  • Betrayal. Dating someone who isn’t what they seem and dealing with liars and manipulators can cause feelings of betrayal. If left unchecked, it can make you distrustful and pessimistic about virtually everyone.
  • Frustration. It’s natural to feel frustrated after some dating experiences, especially if you’re mistreated in some way. But it’s important to process your frustration in a healthy way if you want to keep moving forward.
  • Enamour. Positive emotions can also be problematic. For example, if you’re overly enamoured with someone, you might consciously or unconsciously ignore red flags that should be telling you to run away.

Finding a counsellor

An experienced relationship counsellor is one of your best assets for recognising and learning to regulate your emotions. Your counsellor will actively listen to you, provide you with neutral, unbiased insights, and guide you through strategies that can help you be more successful in your mental and emotional health. They won’t tell you who or how to date, but they can guide you to more success, better health, and eventually higher life satisfaction.

Practical exercises for regulating your emotions

In the meantime, there are many practical exercises that can help you manage and regulate your emotions.

  • Maintain perspective. We all have a tendency to get inside of our own heads, so make an effort to zoom out and maintain perspective on whatever’s happening. A bad first date might seem like the end of the world, but try to remember that it will end up as a funny story in just a few years, regardless of what happens in the meantime.
  • Understand your goals and motivations. Closely examine yourself to understand your own goals and motivations. You might tell people that you’re looking for love, but what are you really looking for? And what does love mean to you, anyway?
  • Avoid setting expectations. Ambitious goals can be powerful motivators. High expectations, on the other hand, can be devastating. If you believe a person is going to look, act, or feel a certain way, and they don’t, you’re going to end up disappointed. Try to set minimal expectations, if you set expectations at all, and go with the flow as much as possible.
  • Meditate. Practise mindfulness meditation to remain in the present moment. If practiced regularly, it’s an ideal strategy for avoiding rumination on the past as well as worries about the future.
  • Journal. Similarly, you should practice journaling. It’s an exercise that forces you to name and process your emotions on a regular basis.
  • Practise healthy distraction. When you feel down or experience something challenging, find a healthy distraction. Hiking, hanging out with friends, or going on a weekend getaway can clear your mind.
  • Be yourself (and tell the truth). Many people present a false or exaggerated version of themselves to prospective romantic partners, hoping to make themselves more impressive or palatable. However, this is usually a mistake; it sets your partner up for disappointment, makes you come off as insincere, and can make you feel fake and hollow. Just be yourself, even if it means turning some people away.
  • Spend ample time by yourself doing things you love. Self-love and self-care are essential if you want to keep control of your emotions during your dating journey. Between dates, make sure you spend time doing things you love by yourself.
  • Let things go. Everyone has bad dating stories, from dating someone under investigation for embezzlement to being stood up after weeks of promising conversations online. You don’t need to forget about bad things that happen to you, but you should be prepared to let them go and move on.

Nobody said dating was easy, and it’s especially hard for people who are already struggling with mental health issues or who are particularly sensitive to the dynamics of dating. But with a healthy mindset and some proactive management strategies, you can get control over your emotions and find much greater success in the dating scene.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.

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