By Sarah Abell

A first date is loaded with expectancy – will she/he like me and will I like them? Is this person going to be the “One” or will I want to run for the hills before the starter? Will I do or say the right thing or will I totally embarrass myself? Will we have anything to talk about and if not, how will we get through the evening?

It is definitely possible to think too much about a first date. The key is to relax, enjoy yourself and not to analyse everything too much. Regardless of whether you hit it off, wouldn’t it be great if you could both say that you blessed each other through the experience? So, how can you make sure that your first date is the best it can be (even if it turns out to be your only date together)? Here are some suggestions on what to do and what not to do.

Things to do:

Chose the venue carefully

If you are doing the choosing, pick somewhere that you know your date will like. Just because you fancy the idea of eating a snake banquet, it doesn’t mean that they will.

A drink in a quiet bar, a quick supper or lunch in a little place you know are great ideas. The advantage of keeping the first date short and simple is that if you don’t like each other, you haven’t got to make it through a seven-course meal together. If you do like each other, you can either extend the date or plan a longer one for next time. It is always better to leave, wanting more.

Try and avoid very noisy places (where you can’t hear each other), cinemas (where you can’t talk), sporting events (unless you know for a fact that they are interested) or your home (because it could be risky if you don’t know them).

If you already know the person and are pretty certain that you both like each other then by all means go for the big romantic gesture. But remember it is possible to overdo things. My husband turned up for our second date with a bottle of wine, flowers and a box of chocolate biscuits but soon realised he only had two hands and decided to leave the biscuits in the car!

Make an effort

Do put your best food forward. Make an effort with your appearance – but not so much of an effort that your date wouldn’t recognise you if they bumped into you in the street the next day.

Making an effort shows that you care and that you want to make a good impression. Unwashed hair, bad hygiene and yesterday’s clothes aren’t likely to win anyone over.

Be kind

Whether you are attracted to the person or not – be kind. It doesn’t cost you anything but it will make a big difference to the other person’s enjoyment of the date.

I have two American friends, Jack and Susan. Early on in their relationship Jack said something like this to Susan: ‘I don’t know if we’ll get married in the future but I want to treat you so well that if we split up one day and you end up marrying someone else – I would be able to look the other guy in the eye, shake his hand and say: “Here is Susan, I looked after her for you.”’ They did end up marrying each other but I thought that was an amazing thing to say. I’m not suggesting you say that on the first date. But wouldn’t it be fantastic if people were better off in life from having spent time with you, not worse off? That means being kind and considerate and treating your date as you would like to be treated yourself.

Being kind also means not lying or giving false hope. Don’t tell someone that you will phone and that you can’t wait to see them again, if you have no intention of following through.

Leave your emotional baggage at home

If you have a huge line in exes, a past addiction to therapy and you still can’t forgive your Dad for missing your sport’s day when you were five, keep it to yourself on your first date. Too much emotional baggage too soon is never attractive. If you end up in a relationship – you’ll have plenty of opportunity to air your past emotional history, your hang-ups and all your past regrets and mistakes.

A first date, like a first interview is the time to emphasise your best points not to draw attention to your weaknesses.

However, if your date asks you a direct question like “Have you ever been married?” then of course give the true answer.

Be yourself

Let the other person see the real you. A first date is not the time to try out being the person you’d like to be or the person you think your date would like you to be. After all, you don’t want them falling in love with a false version of you. You want someone who likes you for all you are, with your good bits, your not so good bits and your little quirky bits, all the things in between that make you, you.

Things not to do:

Don’t dominate the conversation

If you do all the talking – especially about yourself – it will give the impression that you aren’t interested in your date. The other person will feel flattered and special if you take the time to listen to them, ask them questions and draw them out.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t talk about yourself. It is important that the other person has a chance to learn about you but try and make sure that you are listening as much – or more – than you are talking.

Don’t forget your manners

Bad manners aren’t attractive and are likely to irritate your date. Make sure you turn up on time and if you are going to be late for any reason, let them know. Turn off your phone (or put it on silent if you are expecting an urgent call) and remember to say “thank you” if the other person is footing the bill.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat the waiters or waitresses and how they react if things don’t go their way in a traffic jam or a queue. So don’t just be polite to your date, be kind to other people too. It will reflect well on you.

Don’t pretend to be anything you’re not

In an attempt to impress, it can be tempting to exaggerate, dress up the truth or just plain lie. You may get away with that if you don’t see them again after the first date but if the relationship does last any longer, you may find yourself in a tricky situation later down the line.

So, if you are separated, don’t say you are divorced. If you hate football don’t say that you can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon, than cheering on Bristol City. If you’ve never fasted or been on a retreat – don’t try to make out you have. And if you work part-time in a call centre – don’t say you’re something big in communications. Stick with the truth and it will be a lot easier to remember what you said on future dates.

Don’t make an instant judgement

Many of us make up our minds as to whether we like someone in the first few seconds or minutes of meeting. But our first impressions can be misleading. Try not to rule people out straight away. Instead, spend some time getting to know them. If you’re not sure about someone, it may take two or three dates before you can really decide.

Try not to be too quick to judge or too fussy or rigid about what you are looking for in a potential partner. I nearly ditched my gorgeous husband on the second date because he was wearing a tight polyester sports top and I’m not a great fan of man-made fibres (apparently I wasn’t meant to see it but he got too hot under his thick jumper). If you get too restrictive about what you are looking for or if you make up your mind about someone too quickly – you will risk missing out.

Don’t rush things

Take time to get to know the other person before getting too emotionally or physically involved with them. Kissing can be a powerful bonder and if you do kiss on the first date it may blind you to any fundamental problems between you. It helps if you can establish that there’s more to the relationship than just chemistry before getting too physically close to someone. We all know people who have had a passionate affair with someone only to “wake up” two months later and realise that they don’t even like the person and that they have nothing in common with them.

Equally, don’t get too emotionally involved too quickly. Saying “I love you” on the first date isn’t romantic – it’s a bit creepy (unless you’ve known them a long time).

How to be the One

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