Love is a battlefield. Protect your mental health when dating with Scarlett Curtis’ tried-and-tested tips.
Hello, my name is Scarlett. I’m 24 years old and have been single for most of my life.
My relationship status is, like most things, an outcome of choice and circumstance. I like being alone. I like solo dates to the cinema, listening to audiobooks out loud around my flat and never having to consult anyone on my Netflix choice.
I also like to look after my mental health. Having suffered with depression and anxiety since I was 14, adding someone else into the equation has, at times, felt a little like entering into a war zone – unnecessary and with the potential to cause severe harm to everyone involved.
I love being alone but I do also love dating. I love the thrill of the unknown, the process of putting an outfit together, the chance to indulge for an hour or two in the complexities of another human being’s life. While 18-year-old me was terrified of any disruption to the balance of my brain, 24-year-old me has managed to learn how to look after my mental health while also embracing the unknown.
It’s a topic rarely talked about, but for any other nervous daters out there, here are my top five tips on how to swipe right and still look out for yourself.
Take your time
If you’re newly single or just terrified of dating, don’t feel like you have to dive into the deep end straight away. Download a dating app like Tinder, take a look around, have some chats, warm yourself up. Confidence is a hard thing to build and it might take a few cyber-chats before you feel ready to go on a date in real life. That’s OK. It’s all OK! Try to remember that this isn’t a job – you are only doing this for fun.
Wear your favourite outfit
If you feel most comfortable in a tracksuit, wear that! If you feel most comfortable in a pink ball gown, wear that! You don’t need to dress up or dress sexy, you just need to dress in something that will make you feel you can be the best version of yourself. That might be pyjamas and that is more than OK.
Don’t push yourself
The pressure of a long, drawn out dinner has been enough to put me off multiple dates in the past. Start off slow, by meeting someone for a coffee, a drink or a quick lunch. Give yourself an excuse to get out of there when you need to. If you like them you can meet for longer next time but ease yourself in and make sure you meet somewhere that you feel safe and comfortable. If you get anxious in crowds, then don’t meet in a busy bar. If you hate taking the tube, then suggest they come to you. You are 50% of this equation and you are allowed to ask for what you need, even if you’ve never met the person before.
Don’t feel you have to hide your mental illness
Anyone you’re dating long-term will eventually find out about any mental idiosyncrasies that you have. I know from personal experience that the fear of a potential partner finding out about my depression has definitely held me back from romance in the past. You should never be ashamed of your brain and if someone can’t accept you the way that you are, they shouldn’t be in your life. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest about what you’re going through; if they are the right person for you, they will like you no matter what.
You don’t owe anyone anything
Co-dependency can be a bitch when it comes to dating. Try to remember that your only priority on a first date is to protect yourself, and try not to worry about hurting someone’s feelings. If it gets to the day of the date and you don’t fancy it anymore, then cancel. If you’re having a bad time, then leave. Your only job is to look after you.
If you’re an anxious romantic, I hope these tips help, but my number one piece of advice to remember above all else is that it’s OK to be single. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like a relationship will make you whole or ‘save you’. You are enough and you are ‘saving’ yourself, and that’s all that really matters. Swipe away, or don’t. I promise you that either way, you’re amazing as you are.
Scarlett Curtis is in partnership with Tinder for the Single, Not Sorry campaign
Images: Getty, Unsplash