There are all these expectations and nerves. There’s awkwardness. There are a bunch of decisions to be made; from where to go to how to greet your match (a hug? A stilted wave?).
Some first dates are doomed from the get-go, while others stumble at hurdles because of some common mistakes – that you’re probably making.
Ahead, psychotherapist and relationship expert Neil Wilkie breaks down ten common mistakes people make on first dates.
The aim of this is not to make you feel silly, but to open your eyes to likely pitfalls, so you can learn from these mishaps and easily sidestep them the next time romance is on the cards.
So, where are we going wrong?
Thinking it will be perfect
Don’t hype up a first date to the point that anything less than perfection will be a massive let-down.
Neil tells Metro.co.uk: ‘You are both human beings and are imperfect. There are also an infinite number of things that can make the meeting less than perfect.
‘If you are looking for perfect, then your life might be full of disappointments. If, instead, you are looking for wonderful, then you might achieve that.’
Or thinking it will be a disaster
Don’t go the opposite way and head into a date expecting it to be sh*t – you’ll just set the person up to fail.
‘If that is your belief, then you will be looking for confirmation of that and may well be proved right,’ explains Neil. ‘If, instead you set your target at having an interesting conversation with a new person, you are likely to achieve this and more.’
Neil says: ‘So, you have done your spreadsheet of ideal attributes, you have stayed up all night creating your questionnaires and have them ready on your clipboard. You have reconnoitred the meeting place and planned what you will eat and drink and worked out how long your journey will take you.
‘Having done that, how will you cope when something doesn’t go to plan?
‘As that great philosopher Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Hopefully you won’t get punched in the mouth, as that is rarely the basis of a great relationship.
‘But you can decide to relax and just let it all unfold. Choosing a place where you are going to feel comfortable and relaxed will help.’
It’s difficult to make a connection and feel that spark when you’re overthinking everything and refusing to stay open.
‘This date is important so you will be feeling anxious and constantly worrying about how you are looking and sounding,’ says Neil. ‘You may also be constantly comparing them with your expectations. Are they half an inch taller or shorter than their profile? Are they really the age that they said? Do they have more wrinkles than their photo? What on earth are they wearing?
‘If all that is going on inside your head, what are you really able to focus on?
‘It takes less than seven seconds to form an impression of someone that may become fixed in your mind.
‘Look for the things you do like about them rather than the things in your first impression that you did not like. They may be sweating because they are anxious. Their hair might be a mess because they had to rescue an old lady from the path of a juggernaut.
‘Breathe, relax and let your perceptions slowly unfold.’
Talking too much
Aim for a balanced conversation, rather than monologuing your way through the evening.
We get it – you might be so nervous that you feel you have to fill any moment of silence. Try to relax. Ask questions. Listen.
That being said, make sure you’re not firing an endless onslaught of questions at your date – it can start to feel like a too-intense job interview.
‘If they start sweating and twitching, this may be a sign you need to reign it in,’ notes Neil.
Neil tells us: ‘Your focus is on what you are going to say next. Those words that will make them think that you are clever, witty and wonderful that you forget to bother to listen to what they are saying. They will pick up that you have tuned out.
‘Instead, if you listen really well and ask open questions about their feelings, they will think you are amazing. If you just talk about yourself and how wonderful you are, you will attract hollow people.’
Talking about your ex
Don’t do this. Let go of baggage and don’t let its impact creep into what should be a fun, hopeful occasion.
Talking about your children
No, parents, you don’t need to keep the fact that you have kids a closely-guarded secret. But remember that this date is about you, not your offspring.
‘If you have children, hopefully they are lovely, and you are proud of them,’ says Neil. ‘They are hugely important to you but are not the focus of your first date.
‘If all that you can talk about is them then your date might wonder whether you have your own life.’
Not saying how you feel
Neil says: ‘The end of the first date is a really important sliding doors moment.
‘Where are you on the spectrum from “never wanting to see them” again to “let’s get married tomorrow”?
‘What can you say that is most likely to get you to the outcome that you want?
‘Check in with your three centres of intelligence; your head, heart and gut. What do each of them think of your date?
‘Then decide on your next step. If it is a no; say so gently and politely. It is unfair to keep them hanging on.
‘If it is a maybe; ask them “What would you like to have happen next?” That will give you a better idea of their feelings.
‘If you want to see them again, say so gently and arrange the next date. If you are feeling really positive but do not say that, you may lose a wonderful opportunity.’
Neil Wilkie is a relationship expert, psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm series of books, and creator of online couples therapy programme, The Relationship Paradigm.
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