You’re over the first hurdle, you’ve got a date in the diary, a venue picked out and a time etched so clearly in your mind all other activities work around it, your first date with the potential man or woman of your dreams. First dates are important milestones in our relationships with others, or should I say potential relationships. The likelihood is you have spoken with this individual for a short while, messaging or calling and now is the time you meet face to face. It is at this point the chemistry is exposed, the marrying of body language, as discussed by Kendra Cherry, and linguistics, laying bare the potential of the person in front of you. You would think it a simple task, to sit in front of another and tell them just enough about yourself to peak their interest but listen sufficiently to understand whether this person is right for you. Yet things go wrong and quite often we are left scratching our heads wondering why.
Men and women both make mistakes but often differ on their reoccurring errors. When it comes to first dates and women, there is an overwhelming over-analysis of the situation, before, during and after. As a result, women read into situations and come out with a multitude of meanings, none of which may be correct. However, rather than expressing any concerns or asking for clarification on specific points women often seek external advice after the date. The focus on details can reduce the overall date to one small failure, when in fact the date, as a whole, was a huge success. The scrutiny put on the details, such as what drink he ordered etc, can result in an opportunity missed and a potential relationship unexplored. In order to overcome this, see the individual as a whole, a collection of the facts and stories that they tell you. What does the big picture show you, what is the overarching feeling you get when you are with this person? Putting emphasis on this rather than focusing on the minute facts will increase your chances of finding a successful relationship.
Further to that, once women know how they feel about someone on a first date they often want to know what will happen in the immediate future. Most women, if they are interested in their date will seek the confirmation of a second as soon as possible. As mentioned in the article ‘Here's What Men (And Women) Are Actually Thinking On A First Date’by DeAnna Lorraine, women tend to look ahead but should demonstrate an understanding that men may be going at a slower pace than them, so women should try to stay in the moment and take things one step at a time rather than planning their next 10 years together on the first date. Despite this, women are often unclear in demonstrating their wants to a date. What they believe to be up front behaviour can come across subtly and could simply be missed by a man. Take solace in knowing that if your date is interested in you they will let you know but there is no harm in making it easier for them by showing them how you feel. If it concerns you enough, then simply ask them if they would like to meet again or if you are looking for them to take the lead then perhaps say how much you have enjoyed yourself or talk about an activity or place you want to try in the near future.
A mistake often made by both genders is trying to be something that they think their date wants, as opposed to just being themselves. This can transpire in women being overly demure or poised. They forget to have fun and enjoy the experience of meeting someone new. Initiating humour as well as remembering that you are both in the same boat will help eliminate the feelings of trying so hard. Remember a first date is something to be enjoyed, the first page in the novel of your relationship and that goes for both genders.
When it comes to the errors that men make on first dates, there is a resounding sense of urgency. Often seen as first date jitters, men tend to talk a lot on first dates and mostly about themselves. This is down to the fact that men want their abilities as a partner acknowledged. They are keen to establish their strengths and minimise their weaknesses. However, this can make your date feel as though you are uninterested in them and is often the case with women, can lead to them feeling misunderstood. However, as the acknowledgement of feelings is a huge part of the success women attribute to the first date, it is best to minimise this. Research by Marisa Cohen, in the article ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me…No, Actually It’s You: Perceptions of What Makes a First Date Successful or Not’has shown that the topic discussed most on successful dates is the woman. Of course, it is about both parties finding out about one another but if you are looking for triumph in dating as a man then it is best to start talking about the lady.
However, the difficulty arises in the form of balance, as over complimenting your female date is another mistake in judgement. I hear you say but how? When over used, compliments become disingenuous and your date will become disengaged and lose faith in your credibility. The key is to compliment your date when it feels most natural to do so and to be specific in your commendation. A compliment is worthless if you feel as though it can be applied to a multitude of people. For example, simply saying that someone is attractive could be attributed to any number of individuals. What is it about them that you find attractive, what features catch your eye, do they tell good jokes, are they a great storyteller? What do you see in that person that you don’t see in others? We discuss this topic in our podcast ‘First Dates in Relationships’.
On the topic of attraction, a fatal mistake men can make on first dates is over-sexualising the conversation very early on. There is no dispute that physical chemistry should be present but it is important to recognise that this is still your first meeting and what you may be comfortable discussing, your fellow date may not. Now is the time to learn about one another on an emotional and intellectual level. Find the balance and enjoy flirting with one another but it is important that all parties feel comfortable otherwise you jeopardise your date getting to know you.
With all of this said, sometimes we do everything that is deemed right for a first date and the date still may not go to plan. In some instances, you do everything the way you wanted and planned, and all seems to have gone well but still things don’t work out. It is important to remember that this can happen to anyone and often does and that it is not necessarily a reflection on you. The key is to mark it down as experience and keep moving forward. This is highlighted in the article ‘12 Things NOT To Do After A Bad First Date’by Kelsey Dykstra,whereby continuing to be open minded, even to a potential second date and not blaming yourself are significant ways to continue on the path to love. As is the case in lie, sometimes instant connections are made and sometimes you take time to warm up to a person or new situation. The key is to remember that when you meet someone new it could be the latter that applies to this individual. Therefore, dismissing someone simply because there isn’t an instant connection could prevent you from growing to love someone.
Relationships are an extremely important element of our lives and first dates are the start of them. Of course, we are only human and on an occasion dates won’t go well and on others they will. Sometimes the feelings will be mutual and sometimes they will not. There needs to be an appreciation of the differences between the genders in approaching first dates and an understanding that at the end of the day you are just two individuals looking for love. By no means will every person make these mistakes but for those of you who are finding it hard to get past the first date stage perhaps it is best to reflect and ask yourself whether you may make any of these common mistakes. Try to take an objective view and grow from your experiences.
Marisa T. Cohen, “It’s not you, it’s me…no, actually it’s you: Perceptions of what makes a first date successful or not,” Sexuality & Culture: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 20, no. 1 (2016): 173-191.