Your Call: I’m Too Anxious to Enter the Dating World

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We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section.

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Hi Em & Lo,

I’m a 20-something young lady who never dated throughout high school or university. I am a professional with a steady income and occasionally go on dates. However, I can never let things get beyond a few dates because of my intense anxiety. I can’t ever seem to let the date get beyond going out for supper because I tense up when sitting with a guy on a couch. I’ve had friends tell me to try some relaxing therapies as well as look at CBD Canada products so I can ease my worries, but I wanted to reach out as well.

I have a few guy friends and have no issues hanging out with them, but when it comes to the thought of dating or getting ready for a date, my stomach twists into knots and I freak out. I have never really been kissed because a couple of times it happened I didn’t let things get too far and kicked them out.

Part of my fear comes from the unknown – because I’ve never been in the situation, I don’t fully know what to expect. Also, even though logically I know that a guy is unlikely to go further than I want to, I’m afraid that he’ll push me beyond my boundaries. Which admittedly aren’t very far out there.

Have you got any advice to get over this? I really want to be comfortable enough with a guy that I can sit on a couch and watch a movie with him, and enjoy the intimacy that being in a relationship brings!

— Nervous Nelly

Do you have advice to share with Nervous Nelly on how she can conquer her anxiety and enter the dating world? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.




  1. I had a similar situation, and know that other people do, so don’t feel like you are alone. I would recommend starting small, to build your confidence. Maybe it is just giving your phone number to someone. The second suggestion I have would be fake it till you make it. I know this phrase is cliche but it works with this situation. If you can fake some of it–going in for a kiss, initiating anything sexual–the other person can pick up the slack.

    That being said, I’ve also admitted that somethings are new for me, I’ve admitted that I am not as experienced as I think my partner is. Which I feel makes me a little more at ease.

    Last, not to encourage the use of substances, but a moderate amount of liquid courage, can give you just that, some courage. Of course, responsibly, nothing worse than being sloppy because you over indulged. Good luck. Hope you get the action you want!

  2. Have you talked about any of this with a therapist? It sounds like there’s some kind of social anxiety going on. At the very least, a therapist might be able to help you identify the source of your fears and develop the tools to confront it. The first part of Johnny’s advice might very well work, but it could also go really, really badly and result in you having some kind of a meltdown. The second option, however, might work, unless it’s the thought of becoming sexual with anyone, not the lack of familiarity and comfort you have with your dates that’s causing your anxiety. I think the best way to root out the cause of your anxiety is to consult a professional. We’re all just guessing here. Best of luck to you.

  3. I’m an impatient man and I’m excited by fear, so feel free to disregard my advice if it doesn’t work for you.

    I’d just do it. It’s fear holding you back, not absence of desire. Face that fear head on. You could wait forever to be good and ready. You’ve waited plenty long already. Fuck that. Make a move.

    You can pick what the move is. Second base, a handjob, whatever. Make up your mind that no matter what, you’re going to invite the next guy you date upstairs and do [whatever] with him. Not just a kiss, either. You’ve already done that. Pick something decidedly outside your comfort zone.

    Maybe you’d feel most comfortable doing this with one of the good guy buddies you mentioned (“I have this crippling fear of penises. I think it would help if, you know…”). Most guys will take an HJ in the name of helping a friend overcome her fears. Maybe you’d rather it be a random guy from a dating site who you never have to see again.

    I’m not even giving you advice on how to have a pleasurable sexual experience here – I don’t think that’s possible for you yet. I think you should just focus on confronting your fears at this point.

    That’s how I would handle it if I were you, and that’s how I did handle these very common fears when I was younger me – desensitization through exposure.

  4. I’d say that if you feel anxiety because of uncertain boundaries, it might help to define the boundaries. On a first date with a guy, tell him that it might take a while for you to feel comfortable enough to get physical, even kissing. Also that, until you explicitly say otherwise, things will remain platonic. If he’s interested in finding a committed relationship with a cool girl, he’ll give you that respect. You don’t sound asexual or anything.

    After a certain number of dates, maybe transition to friend-type activities in more private settings. But make it clear that you don’t intend to wind up in the friend zone. These are trust-building exercises that’ll show he won’t twist your arm to get physical or otherwise pressure you in any way.

    It’s totally reasonable to not feel comfortable having sexy time with someone until you feel very comfortable with them as a person. It’s normal, it’s common, it’s healthy.

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