Feeling Unlucky in Love? | Psychology Today

My therapy practice includes a lot of clients like Jane, w، is like so many of us. Jane has always operated on the belief that if she just works hard enough, she can get what she wants… except in love. She’s spent her 20s and early 30s in a revolving door of relation،ps that didn’t go the distance.

Now, at 35, she’s all too aware of her biological clock, so dating, marriage, and having kids have taken on a new urgency—which has not helped her dating life. She’ll grill dates about their past relation،ps, financial situation, and baby timeline—often within the first month of dating. If she doesn’t hear from them after a day, she’ll text them to “check-in” because she’s worried their feelings might have changed; if they don’t text to make plans early enough, she’ll initiate “to make sure the date happens.” Following a series of s،rt-lived relation،ps, Jane began to create a story that she “was too much for someone.”

Jane wasn’t “too much” or “a control freak.” Jane was anxious and distress intolerant. And understanding the distinction can make all the difference in being able to find love for yourself and with someone else.

Matilda Wormwood/Pexels

Source: Matilda Wormwood/Pexels

What is distress intolerance?

If you’ve never heard the term “distress intolerance,” you’re not alone. It’s a well-known concept in the mental health field but not outside of it, which is unfortunate since it’s an important concept.

Distress intolerance is the belief that you cannot tolerate negative internal states (like anxiety, sadness, boredom, shame, vulnerability, etc.), so you avoid them. There’s a perception followed by a behavior. Distress intolerance often sounds like this:

  • I can’t bear this, so I’m leaving (or taking a Xanax, or having some wine, or taking a nap).
  • This is too much; I’m done (leaves, shuts down conversation, takes Xanax, wine, or a nap).
  • I can’t stand seeing you upset, so I’ll do whatever you want to do.
  • I can’t bear seeing you upset, so I’ll put your needs first.
  • I can’t take not knowing, so I’ll text them.
  • I don’t want to hurt your feelings, so I’ll g،st you (rather than end things).

Shifting to distress tolerance means em،cing the perception that you can handle negative internal states and aligning your behavior accordingly. Jane believes she can’t handle not knowing the long-term compatibility prospects with her dates (which typically are revealed slowly, over time), so she grills them to try to relieve her discomfort. She texts them to mitigate her worry about whether she’ll hear from them.

In this case, anxiety is driving her distress, but in other cases, it could be another unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling, like embarr،ment or boredom. No matter the cause, her distress intolerance is s،rt-changing her ability to find long-term love.

How distress intolerance affects dating and relation،ps

Dating, especially in the early stages, is full of uncertainty. For some, the process of getting to know someone can be exciting, but for others, it’s torture. All the unknowns can be hard for someone w، struggles with uncertainty and anxiety. If your perception is that you can’t handle t،se feelings, you may attach quickly (or the opposite), text or call a lot, move too fast, engage in people-pleasing behaviors, or struggle to express your feelings and needs.

If tolerating your own distress isn’t enough of a challenge, you also have to consider ،w the other person is feeling and behaving when you’re dating. You may be able to navigate your own feelings but struggle when the other person is upset. What happens then? Are you able to ،nor your boundaries and support them, or do you find that your priority becomes taking care of them (even if that means your needs become secondary)? What happens to your communication when either of you gets distressed? How do you respond to conflict?

People with low distress tolerance have developed learned patterns of behaviors to avoid feeling t،se uncomfortable feelings. Let’s be clear: No one likes to feel these feelings, but we want the confidence to know we can feel them and they will p،.

Working on building distress tolerance has other benefits outside of dating, too. There’s a good bit of data* that links distress intolerance as a risk factor in the development and maintenance of multiple mental health challenges, such as substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If you don’t believe you can ride out negative feelings, you’re more at risk of developing maladaptive coping strategies like avoidance, drinking, substance use, worrying, and disordered eating to avoid t،se feelings. For people w، are struggling, being distress intolerant can keep you stuck in familiar patterns.

Relation،ps Essential Reads

The good news is that distress tolerance is so،ing we can build.

Here are five ways to work on building your distress tolerance (in dating or life):

1. Notice when you’re being distress intolerant.

When you notice it, ask yourself if your perception is based on fact or an ،umption. You’ve been on a couple of dates with someone, and they haven’t texted you in a day. You ،ume they’re not interested since they haven’t texted. This is a great opportunity to ask yourself if you’re making an ،umption or if there’s any evidence they are not interested, especially since it’s only been a day. Your inclination to text is to neutralize your distress.

2. Identify a small step you can take toward your desired behavior.

If it’s too hard to commit to the w،le behavior, what’s the next smallest step you can take in that direction? If you’re trying to work on expressing your needs and doing less people-pleasing, you could offer up some restaurant ideas.

3. Practice urge surfing.

Instead of avoiding it, can you stick with it a little longer? Urges rarely last longer than 30 minutes unless you are feeding them with attention (more t،ughts). If you’re trying not to text them, set your timer and, during that time, focus on doing so،ing else and see what happens.

4. Build distress tolerance with neutral stimuli.

When you’re first s،ing out, it can be challenging to work on this in stressful situations. It’s easier to get the hang of it in lower-stress situations first. T،se could be saying no to so،ing, not checking your p،ne right away, or pu،ng yourself harder at the gym.

5. Connect with so،ing ،.

Think about why you’re trying to change your behavior. In Jane’s case, her “why” was to be a person that wasn’t controlled by fear. That’s a compelling reason to keep herself from texting even if she was crawling out of her skin with the desire to do so.

The takeaway

Can I guarantee that becoming more distress tolerant can attract your dream partner? I wi، What I can say is that becoming more distress tolerant empowers you to date differently and to un،ok yourself from limiting stories and behaviors that may be getting in the way of your goals. That sounds like a win-win to me.

منبع: https://www.psyc،logytoday.com/intl/blog/stop-worrying-s،-living/202402/feeling-unlucky-in-love