The Surest Way to Tell That a Partner Is Not "The One"
How do you feel on a date with your new paramour? Amorous or anxious?
Posted Dec 16, 2017
You have a date with your new love interest on Friday, so you start planning on Tuesday. What will you wear? How should you behave? What will you talk about? Consider this: If you are actually spending an inordinate amount of time strategizing your clothes, hair, and even conversation topics before going out with someone, that individual is probably not the right person for you.
How do you feel when the two of you are together—amorous or anxious? Experiencing stage fright every time the two of you go out, hoping you look good enough, are charming enough, or say the right things, is an uncomfortable, awkward way to spend an evening with anyone, and should be seen as a strong signal of a relational mismatch.
Sure, a bit of anxiety is normal, and might even motivate you to bring your best game to what could be a promising new relationship. But if you are overly apprehensive every time you get together with someone new, it might be a sign that although they might be a great person, they may not be the best fit for you.
Stage Fright: Performance Anxiety Predicts Failure
Of course, you will likely be nervous the first few times you meet up with a prospective new partner. But as time goes on, every date should not feel like a performance. Dinner conversation should not feel like an interrogation under a spotlight. Even if your emotions are subjective, and your partner has no idea of the stress you are feeling, such sustained anxiety does not predict a successful relationship.
In the long run, no one wants to continue participating in an activity that creates stress and discomfort. Whether it is a dangerous sport, a speaking engagement, or a leadership role that requires taking on heavy responsibility, we are unable (and ultimately unwilling) to remain in an extended state of heightened anxiety and mental distress.
And with good reason: Performance anxiety is the opposite of well-being. Yes, it is natural to want to make a good impression on a new love interest. But if you are overly self-conscious, you are definitely not enjoying the relationship the way you should. Even taking into consideration the fact that some people are naturally insecure, your significant other should make you feel comfortable being you.
Emotional Intoxication: Healthy or Harmful?
OK, so you still get excited thinking about the next date with your new partner, feelings of inadequacy and all. Isn't that a good thing? Not necessarily. Your enthusiasm does not guarantee reciprocity, and expectancy does not create chemistry. In other words, excitement and anticipation are not the standards by which to judge whether or not you are in a healthy relationship.
Dating someone who arouses feelings of inadequacy and self-critique makes for an unhealthy, uncomfortable relationship. Mackinnon et al., in “Caught in a Bad Romance” (2012) note that perfectionistic concerns, such as harsh self-scrutiny and extreme reactions to perceived failures, create vulnerability to depression.[i]
Even if you are generally prone to self-critique, there are ways to maximize the chances of selecting partners who make you feel good about yourself, and who validate and affirm who you are — not who you wish you were. The key is to learn to recognize the difference between infatuation and attachment.
The Difference Between Infatuation and Secure Attachment
Research by Langelag et al. (2013) introduced a method of measuring the constructs of infatuation and attachment within romantic relationships.[ii] Although noting that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive, they describe infatuation as an “overwhelming, amorous feeling” for a paramour, and secure attachment as a “comforting feeling of emotional bonding.”
Yet there is a distinct difference in terms of emotion. Langelag et al. cite prior research in recognizing that infatuation creates negative feelings such as anxiety, insecurity, or nervousness. Secure attachment, in contrast, reduces negative feelings. While the authors recognize that infatuation is associated with a higher level of arousal and even euphoria, it is a double-edged sword.
True, levels of infatuation and attachment change over time as a relationship develops. Yet they remain separate constructs, which Langelag et al. found to be moderately inversely related. They found that as relationships progress, infatuation generally decreases as attachment increases.
Interestingly, they found infatuation to be particularly high when an individual was not in a romantic relationship with the object of their affection. They also found, consistent with prior research, that high infatuation scores were linked with negative affect, consistent with the experience that infatuation is stressful, while high attachment scores were linked with a decrease in negative affect, consistent with its calming effect.
Security Overcomes Stage Fright
Remain in touch with your own feelings when you are with a new partner. This will allow you to select someone who makes you feel self-assured, not insecure. Experiencing relational security, in turn, predicts relational stability, and ultimately success.
[i] Sean P. Mackinnon, Simon B. Sherry, Sherry H. Stewart, Martin M. Antony, Dayna L. Sherry, and Nikola Hartline, ”Caught in a Bad Romance: Perfectionism, Conflict, and Depression in Romantic Relationships,” Journal of Family Psychology 26, no. 2 (2012): 215-225.
[ii] Sandra J.E. Langeslag, Peter Muris, and Ingmar H.A Franken, ”Measuring Romantic Love: Psychometric Properties of the Infatulation and Attachment Scales,” Journal of Sex Research 50, no. 8 (2013): 739-747.