Before meeting my fiancé, I went through a long period of healing.
I stopped dating altogether and admitted myself into therapy.
When I felt ready to put myself out there again, I was sure that I wanted to get married. I changed my approach to dating completely. I became much more ruthless and only interested in men who presented themselves as marriage material.
My fiancé was the second date I went on after my dating hiatus. The first guy who asked me out also wanted to pursue a relationship with me and was a good dating prospect, but the moment I met my fiancé, it just didn’t feel right to see him again.
In hindsight, I truly didn’t expect to meet the love of my life so quickly. But, obviously, I didn’t know that then. He was only a promising connection, and I had to “vet” him like I would anyone else.
Meanwhile, I was worried that my time in therapy wasn’t long enough and my anxious attachment style would act up again the moment I was involved romantically with someone.
So, to stop myself from spiraling in anxiety while still effectively assessing my future husband, I came up with a few dating rules for myself.
I even wrote them down in my phone’s note — here are 6 anti-anxiety rules I actually followed while dating my now-fiancé:
1. Never get emotional or negative or fight in texts
This is the rule that I had repeated many times in my articles about how to avoid texting anxiety.
Texting caused me so much pain in the past. I would get pissy about something and send multiple emotional paragraphs to let it out, then I would feel extremely ashamed for doing so. In the end, they left me on read, and I got even more anxious and self-sabotaged harder as if there was still anything left to ruin.
The bottom line is, leave the texts light and basic. No exception.
Luckily, my fiancé and I met very frequently in our early days of dating so I could always wait to address something with him in person — and then realised that it was nothing.
2. Never sulk or give the silent treatment
Anxious attachment style aside, I used to be the unhealthy one when it came to relationship conflicts.
I would shut down when I wasn’t happy about something and expect my ex to figure it out on his own and make up for it. The outcome? My ex threw in the towel and I became the anxious one chasing them. It was humiliating.
Nowadays, I remind myself that if I still want to make the relationship work, then I have to engage like an adult. Because the moment I stop engaging, there’ll be no relationship.
3. Don’t nag
We think if we point out something enough, the other person will listen to us and do what we want. Talking also helps us release stress. It feels good to let out our frustration.
But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Nagging means you’re rewarding bad behaviours with even more attention; your partner will only lose respect for you.
So, I make a point to not nag. I address a problem once and fully expect changes. I’m also ready to show consequences if there’s no change.
4. Always communicate your emotional state and exactly what bothers you
My partner is actually the one who taught me to do this.
In the past, when I communicated my emotions, I met with manipulation or shaming. Now, as soon as I open up, my partner gives me love and comfort and we can reach a solution together. That’s how a healthy relationship operates.
The lesson learned:
Always be honest about how you feel and what bothers you — you can tell whether a partner is emotionally secure and right for you based on how they respond to you.
5. Don’t do anything that makes you feel insecure
The reason why I sent long paragraphs was that I had said something that left me feeling insecure and then needed to explain myself. I was the one who got myself triggered in the first place.
When dating my fiancé early on, even though I didn’t send any long paragraphs, sometimes I said or did something that I wasn’t sure how he would react. It would cause me to overthink and overcompensate; my anxiety wheels seemed to spin eternally.
I quickly realised how unhealthy it was, so I made a point to never put myself in an anxiety-inducing situation.
I told myself that I didn’t have to do anything that even risked eliciting a negative response like what had happened in a past relationship or self-disclose something at the expense of my well-being — only when I felt ready.
6. Know your timeline
I knew I wanted to get married and have a relationship that doesn’t worsen my anxiety, so I had a timeline mapped out. It might be considered extreme by some people but to me, it’s an effective intervention when strong emotions are involved.
Here are some examples you could use:
If there’s no date within the time span of 2 weeks without a sound justification, he’s out.
If there’s no contact within 2 days without any justification, he’s out.
If there’s no meeting friends or going to events together within 3–6 months, he’s out.
If there’s no exclusivity talk, no sex.
If there’s no serious commitment within 1 year, he’s out.
I’m very happily engaged, and I believe I owe it to these rules, especially at the beginning of my relationship. They also helped me function like a securely attached person and make me feel safe like I got my own back.
If you have an anxious attachment style, it’s incredibly helpful to have a “just do it” guideline that you know would serve you well when anxiety plays tricks on you.
Now, feel free to come up with your own dating “rules” that suit your needs and lifestyle!