A Therapist’s Guidelines for A Great First Date

Woman sits on bench, man with rose stands againstAttracrive woman sits on a bench in park, man with rose stands against. Romantic date of love couple
By Tina Tessina*Safety First – Before you go on this date, make sure you have thought about who will be in control at what times, and of what situations. You don’t want to be caught fighting with yourself over a decision when you need to make one. Decide in advance what behaviors and situations will be acceptable to you and what won’t. As long as you are comfortable and feel your boundaries have not been breached, you can relax and enjoy the moment. However, once a line is crossed, you must be willing to take control of yourself and not just go along with something you find uncomfortable, unacceptable, or dangerous.

Here are some ways to figure out what your boundaries are in advance.

First Date – or Later Dates

Boundaries will be different on the first date than on later dates. The more you know your date, the more relaxed you can be. In the beginning, however, set the line pretty high. If your new date shows signs of rage, drunkenness, hysteria, rudeness, disrespect (such as leaving you alone and flirting with others) recklessness, or other embarrassing or dangerous behavior, do not be polite or tolerant. Remember, your date is supposed to be on his or her best behavior, and if you tolerate this, it will only get worse.

If your date’s behavior gets seriously out of line, don’t hesitate to leave. If you’re driving for both of you, tell your date you will take him or her home immediately. If you’re not the one driving, tell your date you want to be driven home (unless the driver’s been drinking too much), and if that doesn’t work get yourself home by taxi or public transportation. Yes, it’s rude to leave your date, male or female, at the restaurant, in a bar, at a party, or at a movie, but your date makes it necessary if he or she has already been rude or out of line. If the date is your treat, leave enough money to pay the check, or see the waiter before you leave. If you stick to your limits on the first date, you’ll find that your date will get the message, and either move on to someone else (good riddance!), or apologize and correct the unacceptable behavior.

Here’s a partial list of limits you should mentally set in advance – there’s no need to talk about them unless the lines are being crossed.

  • Your drink limit (driving and not driving)
  • Your date’s drink limit (driving and not driving)
  • Behavior limits (rudeness, social acceptability)
  • Sexual limits (don’t allow yourself to be pressured)
  • Territory limits (not going to dangerous places)
  • Distance limits (not getting too far from home)

* Avoid Anxiety, GiddinessYour first date is exciting and energizing. Have fun and enjoy the moment, but be aware if you get too excited, anxious and giddy, you might come on too strong. Don’t let your anxiety prevent your date from seeing the real you. Remember this is just a first date, and don’t get too far ahead in your fantasies. This is a crucial time for learning about this other person, so take your time and allow the relationship to develop.

* Be Charming

Don’t underestimate how powerful your smile can be – use it often, make eye contact and keep the conversation flowing. Pay attention to what interests you about your date, and show interest in his or her opinions, experiences and activities. Be complementary whenever possible, and respond intelligently to whatever is said to you.

* Have Fun – Don’t Get Too Heavy

Keep your date light and easy, and have a good time. Focus on being pleasant, having fun, and not getting too far ahead of the relationship, and you will be great company. Be careful not to soliloquize – don’t talk too long about any one subject without inviting a comment from your date.

* Keep Conversation Interesting, Light, No Deep Secrets

You can talk about anything, including your personal lives, past relationships and love in general, but don’t be the one who brings up the intimate topics first. Be wary of prying too deeply into your date’s private life and secrets, unless the information is voluntarily offered.

* Don’t Talk Too Much about Yourself

Keep your focus on learning about your date and don’t talk too much about yourself. Dole out some information about you, especially if it relates to what your date is saying, but don’t talk endlessly about your own life, opinions, experiences or activities. Punctuate your conversation with questions: “What do you think?” “Has it been that way for you?” And listen to the answers.

* Pay Attention!!! You Have Things to Learn Here!

The most important aspect of this date, in addition to having a good time, is to get to know each other better. No matter how excited, turned on or thrilled you may be about this date, listening to what your date says, watching what your date does and understanding how your date feels are still your primary objectives.

* What Your Date Thinks of You Is Not Your Business – Your Business Is What You Think of Your Date.

One of the easiest ways to lose your objectivity and balance in this is to worry about what your date thinks about you. If you spend your time essentially trying to look at yourself through your date’s eyes, guessing what he or she is seeing when looking at you, or hearing when listening to you, you’ll miss what’s really happening. You’re supposed to be evaluating the other person, not thinking, positively or negatively, about yourself.. Pay attention so you know what YOU think of your date.

Hopefully, because you’ve thought about the serious issues in advance, you’ll still be able to relax and have a good time – so good, that you decide to keep dating each other. Then, you’ll need a whole new set of skills.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

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