I’ve lived with moderate social anxiety most of my life, and recently started going to counseling to deal with it. Through this counseling I’ve come to terms with the fact that my social anxiety is almost exclusively rooted in dating and relationship anxiety. I am 23M who has never had a long-term or stable relationship and have spent a majority of this year discouraged about whether or not things will ever come together for me.
Over the past few months I’ve gotten to know this girl who matches my energy really well and we’ve become good friends. In the past few weeks, I’ve become romantically interested in her and it really appears that she feels the same (although I could be wrong). She also lives with social anxiety and relationship anxiety and we’ve been very open with each other about it, and she has been the victim of abuse through her childhood and teenage years and even into her first years of college. Her history is largely the source of all the anxiety – again she has been very open with me about all of this.
A few weeks ago, this girl told me she tends to panic and withdraw at the first obvious sign that someone she is interested in is reciprocating those feelings. I finally felt confident enough to ask this girl on a date a few days ago, to which she said yes. However, a day later she seemed a little nervous and distant, and the day after was entirely withdrawn and seemed to be in a state of near-panic around me. It’s fairly easy to see what happened, so I’ve been trying to give her space and decided that I want to try and meet up with her soon to tell her that I would like to go out with her, but only when she feels comfortable with it and pretty much entirely put control of what happens here in her hands.
This has all been a very stressful and very difficult challenge, and I understand why she is reacting the way she is. I feel like I know what to do to move forward, but I feel extremely discouraged because of this. How can I manage my mental health over the whole situation and respect her needs and give her space in the meantime? All I’ve been able to think about today is this girl and how afraid I am of hurting her and losing the opportunity to be in a relationship with her. I’m emotionally exhausted and looking for advice or encouragement. What should I do?