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5 Tips For Navigating The First Date

Dating can be a fun and enjoyable experience.  However, for some, it is an anxiety-producing task. Uncommunicated expectations, unrealistic plans, and hidden motives can wreak havoc on first dates.

Even defining what is and is not a date may be difficult.  There is a new term almost every month.  One of the most recent terms brought to my attention is “pre-date.”   A “pre-date” is an activity that is engaged in to determine if one wants to go on a date.  Yet the activities may not differ from activities that another person would consider a date.  The time of day is another factor in defining whether or not something is a date.  Some people do not consider anything done during the day a date.  Are you confused yet?  It is important that you and your potential date know one another’s definitions.

Now that you have defined that this IS the first date, here are some helpful tips to reduce some of the dating anxiety:

  1. Choose an activity with a natural end
    Meals are the classic activity with a natural end in that the interaction may conclude at the end of the meal. Movies also have a natural end but there is not any time to truly communicate.  Tea or coffee is simple and is enough time to get to know one another yet can be over once the beverages are finished.
  2. Be in the moment
    It is hard to get to know a person if you are already thinking about how the date will lead to a relationship or even worse how the relationship will end.  Give yourself some space and grace to enjoy what is happening in the now.  Being elsewhere is going to hinder your ability to perceive the authentic interactions that are happening in the moment. In doing so, it is easy to give the date too much or too little credit.
  3. Turn small talk into an engaging conversation.
    Getting to know someone can feel awkward.  What do you talk about?  There are only so many things to be said about the weather.  Here are a few topics beyond “what do you do for a living” to spur conversation.

    • Last great meal
    • Fictional character with whom they identify
    • Last book that was read
    • Favorite podcast
    • Dream vacation
    • Best and worst first day of school/work
    • Colors that represent various aspects of their personality
  4. Leave the exes in the past
    Although, knowing a person’s dating history can help shed some light into preferences and stressors.  Previous partners do not need to be present at the first date.  This may send the unintentional message that there is still “something there” or that the person is comparing and judging this date against the “ex” standard.
  1. Keep your standards but release your unrealistic expectations.
    A standard is a level of quality while an expectation is a belief that something will happen in the future.  An example of an unrealistic expectation is that your date is responsible for how you feel.  Turn that into a standard of wanting and needing your date to behave in a respectful manner.  It can get confusing but a good rule of thumb is to break down things into wants and needs.  Another one is to ask yourself “how would this person know this.”  If the answer is “they just should” then that may be an unrealistic expectation.

Now that you have a few tips, take some time to develop your own and most importantly go into the real world and practice!


Nicole is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA who specializes in mental health and relational wellness.  Dedicated to infusing mental health into your overall wellness regimen and promoting healthy relationships.

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Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
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Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here