Before I started to get a little more grounded about dating, I had a tendency to “future trip” (aka, start stressing out about where the relationship was going) every time I started dating someone new. If I’m being totally honest, I probably still do it now. Sometimes you just can’t help it. If you like someone a lot, your mind just has a way of going there. And I know I’m not the only one this happens to. According to experts, it’s one of the most common dating mistakes people make. But there are ways to avoid future tripping so it doesn’t ruin your love life.
“Future tripping is how we try to exercise control over our unpredictable future,” Lily Womble, matchmaker and founder of Date Brazen, says. “It happens because we desire more control and certainty over the randomness of dating and relationships.”
There are basically two ways to future trip. One, is where you start dating someone new, you barely know them, and yet you’re already envisioning how many kids you’re going to have and what you’re going to name them. According to Womble, it’s the, “overly sunny version” of a future trip.
The not so sunny side of future tripping takes place when you’ve been hurt in the past. So once you start dating someone new, you worry about all the things that could potentially go wrong. You think if you can prepare yourself for the worst, it will hurt a lot less when it happens in reality. But as Womble says, that’s not always the case.
“Future tripping doesn’t prepare or protect us from whatever is coming, both good or bad,” she says. “It just increases our stress.”
Yes, even dreaming about a happy future with someone can cause you to stress over little things that can potentially get in the way. It can even cause you to compromise your needs because you’re so set on a specific outcome with a specific person.
Because future tripping won’t do you or your new relationship any good, here are some ways to stop it.
Don’t entertain the “What if’s.”
Any thought that starts with the phrase “What if” is sure to lead you on a future trip. What if this is the one? What if I mess things up? What if they’re not ready for something serious? When you’re dating someone new, it’s completely normal to let your mind wander to the numerous possibilities. While some thoughts can be fun, others will only create unnecessary anxiety. The reality is, things are still new. You may like them now, but there’s still so much more to discover. So if you ever have a thought that begins with the words, “What if,” just nip it in the bud. Don’t give your brain the opportunity to create scenarios that may or may not match up to reality.
Turn on your curiosity.
Instead of daydreaming about the future and how you hope your partner will be, get to know them as they are right now. Ask questions that will help you understand them on a deeper level. Do activities they enjoy so you can see them in their element. When you future trip, it’s easy to fall for an idealized version of your new partner. Making an effort to get to know who they truly are will help you stay grounded and more in the moment.
Keep a dating journal to help you stay in check.
Our minds have the ability to exaggerate things like small gestures or awkward moments. Keeping a journal about your dates that only includes basics like where you went, how the person made you feel, and what did or didn’t go well, will help you keep stock of what really happened.
“A dating journal keeps you present and focused date by date,” Corrie LoGiudice, relationship coach and author says. “The amazing part is when you finally do meet someone that’s a good long-term match for you, it’ll be obvious based on your journal entries.”
Mirror your partner’s level of interest.
According to LoGiudice, mirroring can help you get a feel for your new partner’s interest in you and how compatible you actually are. For instance, if you notice that you text or initiate conversations way more than they do, you may have different levels of interest in the relationship or at the very least, different relationship needs. Knowing this will help you avoid worrying about a future with someone who may not be the best match for you.
Avoid consulting the stars.
The search for love can get pretty frustrating. If you’re into astrology, tarot, or live in an area like mine where psychic storefronts are just as common as Starbucks, it’s so tempting to seek out guidance from “above” in order to avoid wasting time. But that’s the last thing you should be doing. As psychic and spiritual counselor, Davida Rappaport says, “Most reputable psychics will tell you to spend time getting to know them and enjoy yourself without thinking about your next date or the future.” In fact, you should only consider spiritual guidance once you’re in a solid relationship, she says.
Stay open to exploring other options.
To be fair, not everyone is skilled at juggling multiple people at once. But if you have yet to define the relationship, don’t close yourself off to other opportunities that may come your way. It doesn’t necessarily mean you should actively find other people to date. Just don’t have the mindset of being taken when you’re technically still available. When you’re not anxiously holding onto an outcome (in this case a committed relationship with a specific person) you can allow things to unfold at their natural pace. You can take your time getting to know each person you’re talking to, so you can better decide who’s the right one for you. There’s nothing sweeter than having the power of choice.
Learn what is and isn’t out of your control.
If you want to avoid tripping out over the future, get in touch with what you can and can’t control. For instance, you can control how you present yourself, what you wear, and what stories you tell on your dates. You can’t control how someone thinks, feels, or reacts to you. As much as we’d like for someone to react the way we want them to, it’s just not realistic. If you can be at peace with the things you can control and the things you really can’t, you’ll find it easier to enjoy things as they come. If you’re into affirmations, repeating one like, “If it’s meant for me, it will be,” can help you let go.
The worst thing about future tripping is, it takes you out of the moment. It’s hard to enjoy the relationship you’re building with someone new when you’re so worried about when you’re going to define the relationship or when they’re going to breakup with you. I know it’s easier said than done, but try not to worry about things that may or may not happen in the future. Just be present and take things day by day. In doing so, you can avoid the future trip and enjoy your relationship as it is right now.