The first date isn’t what it used to be.
You’ve matched online, you like the look of each other. A few witty messages have been exchanged and you’ve arranged to meet in person. This is someone you’ve already decided you like, and you want to make a great first impression. So, what’s the secret to the perfect first date?
You turn to your friends for advice and I would guarantee the one thing you will hear most is ‘just be yourself’.
Excellent advice but the bugger of it is how many of us actually know how to do that? How many of us even know exactly who we are, let alone how to convey it to a practical stranger the first time you meet? After more years of dating experience than I care to admit to, I discovered the secret. Not far removed from the aforementioned ‘be yourself’ plan, I altered it. The best way to approach a first date?
Treat your companion as a potential new friend before anything else.
Take the pressure off you and them. At this stage, you’re just meeting to test the waters. There is always the possibility that there is a lack of physical attraction, but something brought you together and you could end up with a very good new friend, even if that wasn’t the end goal you envisioned.
Of course, there is just as much chance that the chemistry is awesome and sparks are flying all over the place. This is where the advice really makes a difference.
A younger me in this position would have been desperate to impress. Unfortunately, it’s human nature when we act like this to covey a false image of exactly who we are and this will rarely lead to successful multiple dates, and let’s face it, by this stage you’re mentally planning your wedding!
I stumbled on this secret a few years ago. After being single for a while it was my first experience with online dating. I received a great first message from a guy, detailed, witty and it was obvious he had made a proper effort. It stood out immediately, which wasn’t hard to do among the many ‘Hi there’ messages cluttering my inbox.
His profile looked good, three photographs and all looked perfectly normal. With no sign of a potential sex pest or serial killer, I responded, and we began a daily message exchange which lasted for more than a month.
The only reason we hadn’t met in person during this time was distance, but he definitely had my attention. I decided he was worth the two-hour train journey to finally meet face to face
Nervous was an understatement.
I was new to online dating and this was the first date I’d ever had where I hadn’t met the dude at least once in the flesh. I was terrified of what he would think of me, stressed over what to wear, whether or not I looked like my photo’s – the train journey felt a hell of a lot longer than two hours…
But brave little soldier that I was I did it.
To this day I can still picture getting off that train. Spotting him waiting at the end of the platform. Feeling my legs shake as I walked towards him.
I smiled back.
He said hello.
I said hello back.
In that instant, I knew I wasn’t attracted to him in any way, shape or form. I was gutted of course but after a bit of a trek to get there, and as good manners would dictate, I could hardly say ‘See ya’ and get back on the train.
Our plan had been to head to the coast for a day of hiking, but Northern Ireland weather put paid to that idea. Instead, we scurried across to the nearest pub to get out of the rain.
Table found, pints purchased, we sat together and chatted. The conversation soon turned to first impressions and our initial thoughts. I had to be honest, as kindly as I could. I explained I just wasn’t feeling it. He had kinda worked it out for himself, but we were getting along so well we decided to continue the afternoon and had a long lunch together.
With everything out in the open and the pressure off we had a great day together. The time flew by and we seemed to do nothing but laugh. He left me back to the station and we agreed to stay friends. Reflecting on things on the long journey home, I realized it was one of the best dates I’d ever had.
The physical attraction thing was obviously a massive block to anything developing romantically but everything else had been perfect.
Talking about it afterwards with friends I realized the secret. As I had no interest in pursuing a romantic relationship, I had treated him like a mate. It was fun, relaxed and neither of us was out to impress.
I was massively disappointed of course and decided online dating just wasn’t for me. I logged on a few days later to close my account but a message caught my eye. I replied and discovered the dude in question lived nearby. Since I’d invested so much time and effort in my previous potential match, I kept this exchange short and sweet. We agreed to meet within a couple of days.
This time I approached the date with confidence. I figured I’d nothing to lose, and expectations were much lower. I hadn’t spent weeks imagining what this guy would be like so I hadn’t had the chance to idealize how things would be. With the previous disappointment so fresh I was more than prepared for the night to be a failure.
We met and damn!
The sparks were very much there! Somehow, I settled my nerves (pretty sure having a couple of drinks helped) and decided to try and replicate the successful element of my ‘failed date’.
I treated the dude as if he was a mate and we had a great night….and another….and another….and many more.
We were together in the end for a total of three years. It may not have been forever, but my new tactic played a part in getting things off to a good start. If I had have put on a show, so to speak, on the first date he may not have been as interested. Giving a false image of yourself can be easily seen through and very off-putting since it can give the impression you’ve something to hide.
How many times have you spoken to someone and your gut has told you that something just doesn’t fit?
It could be perfectly innocent in that they like you and are trying to impress but that nugget of distrust can sometimes be enough to derail any potential relationship developing.
Before your next date think about how you interact with your friends. You show an interest in what’s going on in their lives and how they are in general. You listen carefully to what they are saying without obsessing about how you will respond. You interact without the worry you’ll be judged (most of the time) and you’re not quick to jump to conclusions in return.
Keep your mind focused on making a friend and nothing more, after all the best relationships always come from good friendships!