Overcoming Fears in Dating and Relationships
Patty Chang Anker is the author of Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave, which Oprah.com calls “downright inspiring,” and was a Books for a Better Life Award finalist. She blogs for PsychologyToday.com‘s Anxiety section and her own award-winning Facing Forty Upside Down. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Dr. Oz The Good Life Magazine, O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, the WallStreetJournal.com, and NationalPublicRadio.org. A sought-after speaker on the subject of facing fears, she recently overcame her own fears of sweating by becoming a triathlete. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Westchester County, NY.
I loved our interview about overcoming fears in dating and relationships. Patty is funny, warm, and smart. You can find highlights of our radio show below.
Overcoming Fears in Dating and Relationships
My clients, readers, and listeners wrestle with many fears when it comes to dating and relationships. Let’s begin with fear of rejection. Can you give us some ideas as to how they can overcome their fear of rejection?
Fear of rejection, especially in midlife, is very real. We’ve probably had situations where we were rejected in our careers and relationships, and we know it hurts and want to protect ourselves. Therefore, the fear of rejection in dating feels very real.
Understand why you have that fear, and know it doesn’t have to rule your life. You can use other parts of your personality more proactively. Use your relationship building skills. Our fear is like a younger version of ourselves, like being rejected in the school yard. Your grownup self, which has pushed through difficult things, can get impatient and say, “Shut up. You’re keeping me from living the life I want!” Your younger self says, “See, even you don’t love me.” Say to younger self, “It’s okay, we’re not six-years-old anymore, and we know we can handle rejection.”
I believe that clutter and dating are related. How do you think people’s emotional relationship to their belongings and surroundings help or hinder their ability to find a loving relationship?
I had a terrible issue with clutter. When I finally worked with an organizer who was tuned into the emotional part of clutter, she pointed out the connection to my fear of the past and of the future; what if I never achieved in the future? I also had a fear of not doing everything I intended to do. It was like a museum of good intentions, to the point where there was no space for living.
People who have the opposite issue where things need to be put in their place—there’s often an emotional issue of control. It’s all about our attachments. My clutter kept me from relating to people. My husband felt like he was stepping through a minefield! My ability to control my clutter opened up space for creativity, and for connecting with my husband and kids.
You talk about the ‘Greek Chorus of Perpetual Doubt”, the voices in your head that sound a lot like your Chinese mother. Most of us have those gremlin or saboteur voices in our heads that keep us from love. Can you share a few ways for people to quiet those voices?
My Greek Chorus is composed of a few voices. It’s my mom who doesn’t want me to get hurt. I just say, “Thank you, Mom!” There’s my old phys. ed teacher who would always make fun of me. It’s the big bully voice that’s irrelevant. Then there are competitive voices of people who would like to see me fail.
Life is too short for old, vicarious fears. I think of the movie “Babe” with the little mice. Shrink the voices down. Or think of a yappy puppy who barks at everything. I tell the voices I don’t need them right now. It would be utterly exhausting to let these voices rule. Allow them to take a coffee break!
Think about having a cheerleading squad instead. In training for triathlons, the volunteers at the end of the race cheer the hardest. Have your own squad who say, “You got this, you’re doing your best, you’re awesome”.
How does getting vulnerable and sharing your fears with a potential partner affect the relationship?
It takes so much energy to hide our fears. For so long, I was keeping the facade of the great student who do 110% of everything and get an A++. When you can show even one part of your vulnerability, it allows the other person to share their vulnerability with you.
For example, public speaking is an easy one to work on. In a few minutes, you can propose a toast. [In a relationship], you can reinforce one another and support each other. For a long time, mine was a fear of falling or being out of control, for example riding a bike well or skiing.
In the early years of marriage, I felt like a failure a lot of the time, especially when it came to sports. My takeaway was “I’m not good at that. It’s his thing.” It put a rift between us. I learned that it was my old story.
And in ten weeks, I went from not being able to bike around the block to riding the five boroughs! I love biking with him now, and it’s the perfect date. He now looks at me as someone different. I revealed something exciting about myself.
I love Patty! Her book is a great read. It’s filled with humor and fantastic stories of real people who overcame fears. There are actionable tips to help you overcome your fears and live your best life.
You can find Patty’s book by clicking the link below.
Listen to the episode on Last First Date Radio here.
Subscribe/download any episode on iTunes. (There are 186 for your listening pleasure).