11 Tips to Feel More Comfortable On a First Date
If first dates make you nervous, these tips might settle some of those butterflies.
First dates can be exciting. Meeting someone new, the possibility of romance, and doing something fun all mingle together to make you look forward to a first date. At the same time, meeting someone new, the possibility of romance, and worrying about how you’ll come across combine to make you nervous.
First dates can be awkward and uncomfortable, but without them, we can’t find the love we’re hoping to find. So how can we make them more comfortable? Try these tips for before, during, and after your first date to make it a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Before the date
There might be nothing worse on a first date than being sick. Whether it’s a cold or flu, food poisoning, or just feeling bloated from a heavy meal earlier in the day, feeling sick is going to have you at less than your best. That’s not the first impression you want to make, which will ratchet up your nerves.
Take steps to keep yourself healthy. Eat nutritious foods and light meals. Get regular exercise. Pay attention to the calendar and don’t schedule a first date when you know you’ll be suffering from PMS symptoms.
And if you do get sick? Call your date and reschedule for when you’re feeling better.
Let go of unrealistic expectations
Sometimes we put way too much pressure on a first date. Before we even go on the date, we start imagining a future, complete with marriage, kids, and dying together in a nursing home in our nineties.
Let’s get clear on something: Not every date leads to love. Some first dates will be a disaster because you don’t like each other (or one of you doesn’t like the other, at least). Some will be a pleasant experience, but you won’t want more than friendship, if you even want that. And then there’s the rare one that will lead to a relationship and perhaps that happy ever after you want.
So let go of unrealistic expectations before you go on the date. Assume that you’ll have a nice time and perhaps make a new friend — nothing more. Anything above and beyond that is a bonus. That will take the pressure off and make you feel much more relaxed, knowing that if it doesn’t go anywhere, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Plan low-key fun activities
First dates shouldn’t be some big, extravagant experience. You’re figuring out if you even like each other enough to want a second date. So instead of planning expensive dinners, road trip destinations, or anything else major, keep it low-key and fun.
A simple dinner is a classic first date for a reason. It gives you a chance to talk and get to know each other without investing more than two or three hours.
You can also plan a picnic in a local park, a walk along a lake or river, bowling, batting cages, or listening to live music. Look for activities that allow you to talk, since the point is getting to know each other. So skip the movies, plays, or loud concerts.
Make it a daytime date
There’s something about the darkness of evening that makes any date feel more romantic. For women, there’s also the potential for added anxiety about meeting a stranger in the dark and walking to and from our car in the dark. So make it a daytime date to keep things more relaxed for both of you.
Consider lunch as a simple first date. Breakfast is another good option, as is brunch. If you want to skip a meal, consider a walk somewhere, a meeting in a coffee shop or bookstore, or a bike ride. Paddleboats, rock climbing (outdoors or in a gym), or hiking are other good ideas.
Look for activities that last no more than about 2–4 hours. You may find you really enjoy spending time with this person, but if you don’t, you don’t want to be stuck with them all day.
Wear comfortable clothing
You might look amazing in that little black dress and those spike heels, but if you don’t feel comfortable, it doesn’t matter. Of course, I’m not suggesting you go in sweats with your hair in a bun, either.
A pair of jeans with a nice blouse can work. A pretty flowing skirt with a nice top is another option. Wear sandals or sneakers if those are what you feel most comfortable in. If you prefer to wear your hair up, look for a style that’s nice but not overly formal or requiring a lot of effort — but better than your usual bun or ponytail.
A good idea is to plan a handful of “first date” outfits. Have 2–3 outfits that you know make you look good and feel good that you rotate between first dates. This way, when it’s time for a date, you only have to select from those choices instead of your entire wardrobe.
During the date
Prep some small talk
Think about current events that have been in the news over the last few days (but skip politics or religion for now). Maybe you have some anecdotes or stories about things that happened to you today or yesterday that would be funny or interesting. Keep a running list in your mind of movies and TV shows you’ve recently watched, books you’ve read, and new music you’ve listened to.
All of these things are excellent small talk. Whether you need to get the conversation going, or there’s a lull that’s stretching a bit too long, you can grab one of these and start talking.
While it’s not all on you to keep the conversation alive, it’s good to have a few ideas in your back pocket just to be safe.
Focus on your date
First dates are about getting to know each other. This means there should be some back and forth questions, but your focus should be on your date.
What does that mean? It means don’t be that person who, for every story your date has about something that happened to them, you have one too — and you just have to tell it. It means when they ask you a question about yourself, answer it but don’t talk forever and finish with a question for them.
Keeping your focus on your date lets them know you’re interested in them. And even if you’re not, it’s a small form of respect that everyone deserves.
Offer to split the bill
Whether it’s a meal or an activity, if the date costs money, offer to at least split the bill, if you don’t offer to pay the whole thing. Even if your date declines and pays, it shows that you’re not expecting them to foot the whole bill. It also eliminates the niggling worry at the back of your mind over who’s paying.
Also, bring cash. If they take you up on your offer to split it, you don’t want to find out the place is unequipped to split your bill between two cards and be unable to pay your share. Bring cash that you can simply offer to your date if they use a card to pay the whole bill.
After the date
Have an exit plan
I’m not talking about the fake emergency mid-date call — although you can certainly arrange that, too. Instead, I’m referring to your plan for ending the date if all goes well.
How long will you stay? Maybe you’re having lunch and you decide you’ll stay 20 minutes longer than it takes for you both to finish your meal. Or if it’s a simple walk in the park, you might decide it’ll be an hour.
Are you open to a kiss at the end of the date or would you rather a hug or a handshake? Deciding this beforehand eliminates the awkward attempts for something one or both of you isn’t really comfortable with.
Start the date by mentioning when you’ll need to leave. Offer up that you have an appointment or other plans after your date if that makes you feel better.
Don’t over-extend the date
You’ve had a really good time and you enjoy this person’s company. You’ve both already agreed to see each other again. It can be tempting, especially if they ask, to extend the date. If you’re enjoying the time together, why not let it continue?
While it’s unlikely to suddenly go south if you extend the date, it does set you up for a lack of boundaries from the beginning. You had a plan for this date, so stick to it. Keep those boundaries in place so that you can continue to have boundaries if a relationship develops.
Plus, the excitement of knowing you really like someone and the anticipation of when you’ll see them again will be that much greater if you leave when you’d rather stay.
Do something you enjoy after the date
After a good date, there can be a bit of a letdown as you go home and settle on the couch. So don’t do that. Instead, plan something else that you enjoy so you have more to look forward to than just your date.
Maybe you make plans to get together with friends. You might pick up that book you’ve been dying to read or swing by Redbox to rent that movie you’ve waiting for. Maybe you’ll take the kids to do something exciting.
By having something to look forward to after the date, you not only ensure you don’t over-extend the date but also that you don’t feel that letdown after.
Take the pressure off first dates
Most of the time, our lack of comfort on a first date comes from putting too much pressure on the date. If you take nothing else from this, take this: relax and let it unfold naturally.
Whether it’s a first date that leads to lifelong love or doesn’t even lead to a second date, you’ll get something out of the date. It might be as simple as learning that you don’t want a particular personality trait in a partner. It could even be as minor as learning that you don’t like Thai food.
See it as a learning experience, no matter how it turns out. If you do that, every day will be more fun and less stressful.
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