How’s this for an unfair investment of time? You can spend weeks getting to know someone over email, text, and phone. You might let yourself get a little excited about meeting him or her in person for the first time. Maybe you’ve checked out his profile in the meantime and admired his Alaskan vacation photos or re-read her comments in the “most important thing I’m looking for in a person” section and thought “Wow! She totally gets me. This could be the one!”
Cue to the first date. Within 20 minutes, it becomes clear there won’t be a second one. When your friends ask you how it went, you reply that it was “pleasant.” That’s about the best adjective you can come up with. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t amazing. It was just okay.
Yes, you know about the risk of building up someone in your head – which is why it’s important to meet sooner than later. And you know that attraction is an elusive concept (even if you both really do look like your pictures!).
Still, the whole thing bothers you. Maybe you felt a little “off” that night. You were a little upset about something that happened at work or got stuck in traffic and arrived 10 minutes late feeling stressed out. You can’t help but wonder if you’d met at a different time when you were feeling more confident and relaxed whether you’d have a better result.
Don’t blame yourself! You can’t control the outcome. Yet there are a few things you can control.
Here are a few tips to make sure you’re creating the best conditions for chemistry to develop:
1) Think “I wonder” instead of “Probably not!”
There are people who walk into dates fully counting on them to be successful, and there are others who protect themselves from disappointment by having few expectations. They immediately think, “This would never work. Who’s next?”
You should trust your gut, but it’s also important to ask yourself if you really gave your date a fair chance. After all, there was something you initially liked about that person. Was it the sound of her giggle? Was it his smile or heartfelt writing style? Focus on what you liked and ask yourself if an attraction could grow over time. Maybe not — but you owe it yourself to ask anyway.
2) Make sure you’re in the right physical and emotional mindset.
— Consider fitting in a run or yoga class beforehand, so you feel relaxed.
— Eat a little something, so you’re not famished.
— Get there early so you don’t make an apologetic, disheveled late entrance.
— If you’re coming straight from your job, try to schedule a mental “transition” – whether it’s listening to upbeat music or engaging in a few minutes of meditation – so you don’t arrive in work mode.
— Wear your favorite outfit…again. Who cares if you’ve worn it to the last five first dates?
Finally, make sure you’re really ready to welcome love, and you’re not pining over past relationships. Note: If you’re checking your phone in the bathroom to see if your ex texted, you should probably wait a bit.
3) Set up the right logistics.
Many people prefer a “no pressure” coffee or a creative active date, such as a hike or zip-lining adventure. Yet there’s still something to be said about meeting in the evening in a nicely-lit, air-conditioned place, where the atmosphere is conducive to romance. You can take a deep breath, lean back in your seat, and have a nice chat.
4) Set aside enough time.
We are all busy, but try not to overextend yourself by squeezing in a “quick date” before joining your book club – or (gasp!) a dinner date with someone else later on. You don’t want to cut short a lively conversation or say “Sorry, I’m having a great time, but I really have to go.” The best romance stories usually involve couples bragging that they talked all night long or kept the date going by suggesting dinner or dessert. You don’t hear many great first date stories involving this line: “I knew she was the one right away. Then she had to leave for Pilates 40 minutes later.”
5) Savor the awkwardness.
This can be the most difficult advice to follow because many of us have a social persona that’s used to glossing over awkward silences. Worse, we might have a “shtick” that we rely on, if we’re feeling insecure. “Don’t you LOVE online dating? Isn’t it just crazy when we think about how we meet people nowadays?”
Force yourself to take the date slowly to maximize the chances for connection.
— When you first meet, let him or her admire you for a moment before you start talking about where you’ll be sitting.
— Let compliments sink in by responding with a meaningful “Thank you” instead of a nervous shallow “Oh! You think I’m beautiful? Aren’t you the sweetest? Wow! Isn’t this a great view?”
— Lean back and really listen to your date’s stories. Laugh. Let them resonate before launching into your own.
— Linger at the end of the date and don’t resort to the quick “So great to meet you!” with the half-hug while you dash to your car.
Offer to walk her to her car. Flirt a little. Allow a minute to say, “Thanks! This was such a lovely evening” and give your date a chance to respond, look down at the floor, play with her hair, etc. That’s when the kiss happens!
If you’ve done your best to give your romance the best possible start – and it’s still a dud – don’t dwell on it. Say “Next!” with confidence and grace.
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.