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Seven First Dates Dos — and Definite Don’ts

So you are embarking on a first date, maybe even contemplating re-partnering. Perhaps you have been flying solo for some time and want to finally settle down…you are filled with optimism about the prospect of a new beginning. But dating isn’t as easy as you had hoped.

You know what they say: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” First impressions, powerful as they are, can make all the difference between a successful encounter and a failed one. Let’s consider how you behave and what you should reveal on a first date to ensure a second.

1. Maintain your information boundaries. Even though your long-term goal may be to establish a “we,” you must remember you are still an “I.” On the first date, you don’t want to be an “open book.” Save your personal information for later when the foundations of trust and intimacy have been established.

2. Create a balance between the two “I’s. Your “I” is aiming for a peek into your date’s “I” to determine the possibility of a second date. Listen to your date and show interest. Likewise, bring yourself honestly to the table by sharing what you want your date to know about you. You shouldn’t wait passively for your date to run the show. Regardless of who initiated the meet, take control by asking questions that will give you insight into their character. However, it is important to be mindful that your inquiries could prompt your date to ask the same of you, so try not to ask a question you wouldn’t be willing to answer in return.

3. Before your date, do a little soul searching. Be honest about what kind of a partner you are looking for and what kind of partner you can be.

4. Be authentic and real. You are asking (and anticipating) honesty and some level of transparency from your date, to which you should offer the same. This does not, however, mean you must share your darkest secrets.

5. Be calm, not overly emotional or dramatic. While it’s healthy to emote, over-dramatization can be viewed as a turn-off. More often than not, keeping yourself relaxed will put your date at ease as well and open the door for a more open and honest discussion.

6. Reveal your strengths, not your weaknesses. People want to see what’s good about a potential partner, so make sure you do yourself justice. It’s okay to sell your positives, so long as you don’t seem boastful.

7. Be polite and considerate. Nothing kills a date faster than rudeness. Remember, if you’re expecting your date to conduct themselves in a certain manner, you should exhibit that same behavior in return

Now let’s look at things you should definitely not reveal at first meetings.

1. Do not talk about your ex(es).  It is best not to resurrect the wrongs of your past relationships because you can inadvertently reflect light on possible previous mistakes. Besides, you are looking to move forward, not back.

2. Don’t mention your finances. You want your date to get to know your personality, beliefs and values, and in turn, find attractiveness in them, not your income earning potential.

3. Stay away from boasting about your children, if you have them. If the relationship moves forward, your date will be given the opportunity to meet your children and form his/her own views.

4. Do not discuss sexual practices or experiences with past loves. A first date is not the appropriate time to discuss these topics. This is something that should be broached as the relationship progresses and you find yourself ready to be intimate.

5. Don’t talk about how miserable and lonely you are. That is a huge turn-off and should be kept between you and your therapist or trusted friend. You also run the risk of appearing “desperate” or “looking for a relationship for the wrong reasons.”

6. Discussing health issues and physical ailments are a no-no. That will land you in the “problem child” category. Everyone has issues of their own to handle, and a first date is not the place to air them.

7. Avoid the following topics: special diets and arrest records. Need I say more?

In Summary:

Do: Take charge of your first date by presenting yourself as a desirable person. Share what is good and positive about you and your life and be open to learning all you can about your date.

Don’t: Do not attend a first date as a “victim”… of a bad marriage, a painful childhood, financial problems or ill health.

What is on your list of first date dos and don’ts?

Deb Hecker headshotAuthor of the recently released book, “Who Am I Without My Partner? Post-Divorce Healing and Rediscovering Your SELF,” Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist with over 35 years of private practice experience. She received her Master’s Degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from The Union Institute. In addition, she is certified as a psychoanalyst and has extensive training in the following areas: addiction counseling, grief counseling, collaborative practice and mediation. For more information, please visit