When I was single, I remember the excitement I felt as I anticipated a first date. The excitement was quickly followed by loads of anxiety that caused many first date disasters throughout my 20's. I recall that at one time the fear became specific to the end of the first date. My mind would race as I recalled the movie Hitch, and the signs I was apparently giving off by my struggling to get the key in the door.
Was I supposed to play with my keys if I did want a kiss? Was he the 90 and I am supposed to be the 10? One time I even told my date that I didn't do the "doorstep thing" as he pulled into my driveway. He got a high-five, and I was out! Yeah, we didn't go out again.
In my late 20's, I finally sought help and learned how to combat my anxiety, and I was fortunate to have many more successful relationships and one that eventually lead to marriage with the most wonderful man.
Here are some tips I learned and that I now teach clients in my private practice:
It's JUST a first date
The goal of a first date is to find out if you want to go on a second date. Take away the pressure of needing to know if you can be with them forever and just keep it focused on getting to know each other.
Have an opinion
When your date asks you for your opinion, give it! For example, if you are asked where you'd like to eat respond with, "I really like Chinese food" or "One of my favorite restaurants is (fill in the blank)." Having an opinion will serve to help your date know how to make you happy, and when you're happy, you can relax and get to know each other.
Match the conversation
This can be tricky because it involves self-awareness. Sometimes when we get nervous we either over share or don't talk at all. Try and figure out where you fall on that spectrum and be sure to have a matching conversation.
Keep the past in the past unless it's in the present
The first date is not the place to get into your past relationships. The exception to this would be if your past is now in your present, as in you have children from a previous relationship.
Sharing a brief statement about your current status such as, "I am a single parent. I have children that live with me and share time with my ex-partner" is important for a potential future partner to know. If this is to be elaborated on, be sure you feel comfortable sharing and that you feel the information is safe with this person.
If the answer is a maybe, consider holding back details. Be sure to offer little bits about what you learned from your previous relationship and what gives you hope for future relationships.
If you are having a nice time and are enjoying their company, then be sure to let your date know! Again, second dates are often built off what began during the first date. It's true that people remember how you make them feel more than anything else. If you're not interested in moving forward romantically, you can let that be known by carefully telling your date that you don't feel a romantic connection. If you do, feel free to let your date know by directly communicating that you are having a nice time and hope to go out again.
Loni Kennington Harmon, LCSW is the co-owner of Millcreek Counseling and Adoption Services located in Holladay, Utah. She runs a Successful Relationship Building group for women and also holds a part-time private practice.