I’m nervous about starting a second relationship

How do you go about your second relationship? I've only had one relationship. It was a bad one. My ex would dump me on an annual basis and beg me to take him back 24 to 72 hours later. I said yes each time, not knowing how to live life without him. We were together for four years until he dumped me for the fourth and final time earlier this year. For those of you familiar with attachment styles, we were definitely in an anxious-avoidant trap.

Five months later, I feel like I've moved on and am open to dating again. There's this guy I really like and I think he likes me back, too. I'm going on a date with him tomorrow, but I'm really nervous about becoming physically and emotionally intimate again. He's not the first person I've been with since the breakup, but I actually care about this one and don't want to screw things up or get hurt. How do I enter this in a fun and positive way without freaking out? I have no idea what to expect; I've only known one relationship, but I know I need to get over this hump. Help!

– Dating

One of the many things I've learned from this column is that it's natural for people to want to raise the stakes before they need to. They might ask, "What if it doesn’t work out?" after (or before) a first date. The what-ifs can be endless. It's OK to feel excitement, dread, and anticipation about your upcoming outing. You don't have to be cool. Just remember to call it what it is – a first date.

The truth is, for you, the stakes are in a very nice place right now. You're ready to have new experiences, and now there's opportunity. If one date leads to two, that's awesome. If one date leads to nothing, you know you'll be OK – because you’ve proven you can be on your own.

This guy seems like a big deal because you "actually care" about him, but try not to assume he'd be a good partner. Your first sentence mentions a second relationship. I assume you're speaking more generally, but let's not jump there yet.

Also, if you feel like the "freaking out" part of dating is ruining the experience, consider talking to a professional. You might be doing that already, but if not, please know it's an option.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you relax about a date with potential?