A first date is loaded with expectancy – will she/he like me and will I like them? Is this person going to be 'the one' or will I want to run for the hills before the starter? Will I do or say the right thing or will I totally embarrass myself? Will we have anything to talk about and if not, how will we get through the evening?
It is definitely possible to think too much about a first date. The key is to relax, enjoy yourself and not to analyse everything too much. Regardless of whether you hit it off, wouldn't it be great if you could both say that you blessed each other through the experience? So, how can you make sure that your first date is the best it can be (even if it turns out to be your only date together)? Here are some suggestions on what to do and what not to do.
Things to do:
- Chose the venue carefully
If you are doing the choosing, pick somewhere that you think your date will like.
A drink in a quiet bar, a quick supper or lunch in a little place you know are great ideas. The advantage of keeping the first date short and simple is that if you don't hit it off, you haven't got to make it through a seven-course meal together. If you do like each other, you can either extend the date or plan a longer one for next time. It is always better to leave wanting more.
- Make an effort
Make an effort with your appearance – but not so much of an effort that your date wouldn't recognise you if they bumped into you in the street the next day.
Making an effort shows that you care and that you want to make a good impression. Unwashed hair, bad hygiene and yesterday's clothes aren't likely to win anyone over.
- Be kind
Whether you are attracted to the person or not – be kind. It doesn't cost you anything but it will make a big difference to the other person's enjoyment of the date.
I have two American friends, Jack and Susan. Early on in their relationship Jack said something like this to Susan: "I don't know if we'll get married in the future but I want to treat you so well that if we split up one day and you end up marrying someone else – I would be able to look the other guy in the eye, shake his hand and say: 'Here is Susan, I looked after her for you.'" They did end up marrying each other but I thought that was an amazing thing to say. I'm not suggesting you say that on the first date. But wouldn't it be fantastic if people were better off in life from having spent time with you, not worse off? That means being kind and considerate and treating your date as you would like to be treated yourself.
- Stay present
It can be tempting during a first date to keep a running commentary going in your head about how the date is going and how you are doing and your thoughts on the other person. Try to switch the commentary off. Stay present and focus on your date. Get curious about who they are and what makes them tick.
- Be yourself
Let the other person see the real you. A first date is not the time to try out being the person you'd like to be or the person you think your date would like you to be. After all, you don't want them falling in love with a false version of you. You want someone who likes you for all you are, with your good bits, your not so good bits and your little quirky bits, and all the things in between that make you, you.
Things not to do:
- Don't dominate the conversation
If you do all the talking – especially about yourself – it will give the impression that you aren't interested in your date. Take the time to listen to them, ask them questions and draw them out.
I'm not suggesting that you don't talk about yourself. It is important that the other person has a chance to learn about you but try and make sure that you are listening as much – or more – than you are talking.
- Don't forget your manners
Bad manners aren't attractive and are likely to irritate your date. Make sure you turn up on time and if you are going to be late for any reason, let them know. Turn off your phone (or put it on silent if you are expecting an urgent call) and remember to say "thank you" if the other person is footing the bill.
- Don't over share
Whilst it is good to be authentic and honest – there is such a thing as over-sharing on a first date. If you have a huge line in exes, a past addiction to therapy and you still can't forgive your Dad for missing your sport's day when you were five, keep it to yourself on your first date. Too much emotional baggage too soon is never attractive. It helps to build a level of trust and reliance in a relationship first before sharing too intimately about yourself.
- Don't make an instant judgement
Many of us make up our minds as to whether we like someone in the first few seconds or minutes of meeting. But our first impressions can be misleading. Try not to rule people out straight away. Instead, spend some time getting to know them. If you're not sure about someone, it may take two or three dates before you can really decide.
- Don't rush things
Take time to get to know the other person before getting too emotionally or physically involved with them. Kissing can be a powerful bonder and if you do kiss on the first date it may blind you to any fundamental problems between you. It helps if you can establish that there's more to the relationship than just chemistry before getting too physically close to someone.
Equally, don't get too emotionally involved too quickly. Saying "I love you" on the first date isn't romantic – it's a bit creepy (unless you've known them a long time).
Sarah is the author of Inside Out – How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life (Hodder and Stoughton). You can follow Sarah on Twitter @nakedhedgehogs.