On dates, does your mind race with “Does this person like me? Is this one The One?” Here, how to stay calm and keep it all in perspective.

By Amy Keyishian

elax. How many times you have silently said this word to yourself while smiling nervously at the potential love interest sitting across from you? Of course, we all know it’s important to stay calm, take things slow, and be yourself on a date. And yet, kicking back when your entire romantic future’s on the line is much easier said than done—especially if you’re at a stage in your life where you’d love to be in love, right? So, if you feel the pressure’s on, try this advice to keep your racing mind and worrywart tendencies in check, and you may found yourself having a lot more success.

Steadying strategy #1: Don’t try to be someone you’re not
We’ve all been there: Your date says, “I play tennis,” and you say, “I play tennis too!” Only, you don’t. At least, you haven’t since high school. Which means you may spend
Instead of wondering, “Does this person like me?” ask yourself, “Do I like this person?”
the rest of your time together stressing over What the heck am I gonna do if this person asks me to play one day? “We all put forth our ‘dating self,’” says Steven Stosny, co-author of You Don’t Have To Take It Anymore. “It’s created when we exaggerate qualities that you have some of, but you want the other person to think you have more of." Maybe, for example, you force yourself to act really upbeat and talkative when you’re actually shy, or you pretend to be really sophisticated when you don’t know squat about the downtown art scene. Understandable, but counterproductive, since you’ll feel compelled to keep up the ruse on your next date, which will stress you out even more. Waiting awhile then revealing the “real you” isn’t a foolproof plan either, since your date may feel thrown by your bait-and-switch. So, no matter what, you’re best off keeping even those little white lies in check.

Steadying strategy #2: Don’t turn your dates into someone they’re not, either
When you like the little bit that you know about someone, it’s only natural that you’d start wondering “Wow, could this be The One?” and start filling in the cracks in your knowledge so your date fits the bill, at least in theory. But by harboring these high-flying hopes, “your risk of it not working increases dramatically,” warns Kate Marshall, co-author with her husband of What I Love About You. Thing is, when you’ve hyped up someone as “perfect”, you can miss major red flags and may end up in a relationship that’s ultimately not right for you. So, if it’s a dream relationship you want, know that it’s actually within your best interests to set that dream aside and really look at the person sitting across from you. Get to know each other. And even if your date is perfect, he or she might be scared off if you’re racing the relationship forward at warp speed. So, your best tactic in any circumstance is to proceed with caution.

Steadying strategy #3: Shift the focus from you to your date
On a date, it’s easy to feel like you’re under the spotlight being scrutinized—talk about stressful. The irony, of course, is that many
Consider yourself the interviewer versus the interviewee.
people complain their dates hog the spotlight and would much prefer it shine on them more. So, why not solve both your problems by shifting the focus of conversation to your date as often as possible? If you’re talking about the amazing vacation you took last month, turn the tables and ask your date, “So, what’s the last trip you’ve been on that you loved?” If you’re sharing your views on the Presidential Race 2008, ask your date for his or her opinion. After all, “there’s nothing more interesting than someone who’s interested in you,” points out Stosny.

Steadying strategy #4: Consider yourself the interviewer versus the interviewee
Ever heard that the way to act less nervous on a job interview is to remember that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you? Same is true with dates. Instead of sitting there thinking, “Does this person like me? Will I get a second date?” ask yourself, “Do I like this person? Would I like a second date?” Even better, try to focus on how you’re feeling. Ask yourself, “Do I feel like I’m growing and expanding or hiding and concealing?" Remember, your perfect match isn’t only determined by how you feel about him or her, but how you feel about yourself around the person.

Steadying strategy #5: Set no-obsess zones
Of course, if you like this person, it’s unrealistic to think you won’t stress at all about how it’s going. So, “don’t tell yourself you’re not allowed to obsess at all,” says Marshall. “Just tell yourself you can obsess all you want—but later. If you give yourself permission to worry later, it’ll be easier to hold off when it’s prudent to.” If you’re on a date, tell yourself that you can let it all out on the phone tonight to a friend; it’ll be easier to relax until then. Or, if you’ve been on two dates and are prematurely stressing over whether exclusivity or marriage may be in the picture some day, give yourself a timetable. Set a date two, four, or six months in the future where you’ll start asking those questions about the relationship—then kick back and enjoy the ride until then. The upside to this, of course, is that by the time you get to that milestone, you might not need to worry nearly as much because you’ll have found out so much more about your date that everything seems much rosier. (Alternately, you might have decided this person wasn’t for you and moved onto other prospects. Either way, you’ve saved yourself some psychic energy.)

Amy Keyishian has written for Cosmopolitan, Maxim, and other publications.
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