How to build your resilience in the dating world

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No-one said that the dating process was easy. Sometimes you have a great run. Then a series of bad dates. Staying emotionally resilient throughout is key to navigating the world of dating.

You’ve probably heard about emotional resilience and how being resilient can be beneficial to your mental health. Well, in the dating world, you need resilience more than ever. Perhaps you feel you’ve made a connection with someone but, after a few chatty texts and even a couple of phone calls, they just disappear – or “ghost” you. Or maybe you’ve been on a first date and it hasn’t led to a second. Or you have had a succession of really bad dates, and feel disillusioned with the whole process and just want to give up.
That’s where resilience comes in. “Resilience is something you cultivate over time,” explains relationship therapist Clinton Power, director of Sydney relationship counselling practice Clinton Power + Associates. “It’s like developing a thicker skin. Things can hit you but they don’t penetrate; you don’t ruminate and wallow in it. You can pick yourself up and move on quickly. You know what to do when you’re upset and you can psychologically self-soothe. Then you can get back in the game quicker.”
Great advice, right? So where do you start? Here are six expert tips for building emotional resilience and thriving in the dating world, with all its ups and downs.

1. Go in with your eyes open

Everyone knows someone who’s had a brilliant online dating experience, making a connection with the first person they meet and living happily ever after. But remember that those are the exceptions. The first step to building resilience is to manage your expectations from the get-go. “Be aware that some people treat dating like online shopping,” advises psychotherapist and relationship specialist Melissa Ferrari. “You might encounter someone who is trying to build their own confidence as well – they’ll create a profile, they might even experiment with making contact with you, and then they might get nervous and not contact you again. So you need to have the kind of resilience which reminds you that because these people do not have the essence of who you are, they may not really consider you as another person. Be prepared for that, because it does happen, and it is not about you at all.”

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2. Learn how to stay centred

“When you go into the dating environment, your nervous system can go into hyper-arousal,” Ferrari says. “You can get butterflies; your heart can start racing. This can even happen when you’re creating your profile. It’s a big deal to put yourself out there!” She recommends practising meditation regularly, and using affirmations (such as, “This will work out”; “I will find the one eventually”; “I need to take my time”) to centre yourself when you find your nerves getting the better of you. You can also call on a trusted friend who understands what you’re going through “And if you don’t have a friend who can do this, find a dating coach or a good therapist who you’re able to bounce things off to help build that resilience.”

3. Learn to tolerate discomfort

“Many of us try to move away from discomfort,” Powers says, “but as you’re going into the dating process, you should almost welcome it. If you’re in the early stages of dating and you’re not hearing back from someone and not sure whether they feel the same way as you, just sit with that discomfort and uncertainty and make that a practice, rather than responding to your anxiety and getting worked up and venting to friends. This way, you’re building resilience and countering the desire to rush into premature decision-making.”

4. Understand the basics of attraction

This, says Ferrari, is a key component of building emotional resilience – especially if you’re dealing with rejection after a first date. “No matter how good someone looks on their profile, and how well you’ve connected, when you meet them in person you will unconsciously pick up on little nuances in their face, their body language, how they speak, their tone of voice, and so on,” she says. “Now, the exact same thing is happening to the other person when they meet you. A sign that you’re resilient is understanding this. Some people just won’t like you, and it won’t have anything to do with your personality or your looks.”

5. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good

To build and maintain resilience, you need to feed what Ferrari calls your “confidence bank”. “It’s through others that we get to see who we are,” she advises. “Spend time with good people so you, too, can feel like a good person. If you don’t have that in your life, seek it out. Join groups, or immerse yourself in environments with like-minded people so others can reflect positive feelings back to you.”

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6. Practise self-care

“When you’re dating, it’s of paramount importance that you take care of yourself – psychologically, physically and spiritually,” Powers insists. “It can be rough in the dating world, so send some compassion and love to yourself on a regular basis. If you’re feeling rejected or down due to a lack of success with dating, it’s time to take a break and focus on loving yourself and spending time with family and friends who care about you.”

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