A first date can reduce you to a nervous wreck, especially if you’ve met your date online and so haven’t met face-to-face before. But it doesn’t have to be like that. To help make your first date less scary and more enjoyable, we’ve asked David Miller from disability dating site DisabilityMatch.co.uk for his tips on how to ace your first date.
So, your online dating profile has been perfected (if it’s not quite right, see my previous article on writing the best online profile) and you’ve found a suitable match, so now it’s time to meet for real. Time to move out from behind the anonymity of the computer screen and into real life. If you have been sending pictures of you from 20 years ago, or pushing Photoshop to its limits, it’s now time to come clean before you meet, or, better yet, don’t do it in the first place!
Preparing for a first date, mentally and physically is important to get right. You’ll want to make the other person feel relaxed and leave the situation open to romantic development in the future if you feel it goes well. So here’s how to do it…
Dress the part
You’ll want to dress in a manner that will fit with most situations. The trick is to look good without going over the top. The term ‘smart casual’ springs to mind. Most of us have an outfit we enjoy wearing that expresses our personality without raising eyebrows or alerting the ‘fashion police’.
You can certainly wear jeans, but make sure they are clean and that you match them with a nicely coloured shirt or blouse, so that the look goes from relaxed to intending to impress. Colour is also very important in creating a positive impression, so it’s worth taking a bit of time and effort to get right.
If you don’t feel you have anything you feel great in, charity shops are full of wonderful items that carry designer labels, so even if you are on a very low income, you can dress nicely for any occasion.
Where to meet
As a savvy dater you will have certainly checked out that the meeting point is ‘accessible’ for both of you. In your pre-meet conversations with your date, you’ll have covered this, so that you both know you’ll be comfortable. If you haven’t, it’s worth going back to your date and checking they are happy with the venue. A quick Google search will usually clarify this, but it is worth double-checking by phone if you have any doubts. Time spent on preparation for a date is never wasted.
As well as accessibility, think about noise. Choose a place where it is easy to chat and where you will not be drowned out. A quiet bar or pub is an obvious choice, but there are lots of other options that might work better for you. Depending on your shared interests, which you have probably discussed online.
You could meet for a stroll in the park or a visit to a museum or exhibition (depending on mobility). This style of date takes the pressure of you to be continually searching for conversation topics as there will be plenty to talk about there. Comedy venues are also good places for first dates because people are being witty and amusing for you, so it takes away the some of the pressure.
Wherever you go, make sure you leave plenty of time to arrive at the date so that you don’t keep the other person waiting – lateness is never a good first impression.
When meeting someone from an online dating site, chances are you’ll be a little apprehensive about making sure you can spot each other. It’s a good idea to exchange a picture or two before you meet, so there’s less ambiguity. But to really make sure your date doesn’t miss you, why not wear or be doing something distinctive that you can tell them about, such as carrying a rose. That’ll be a nice first touch too.
So, once you have found each other, how do you greet your date for the first time? Should you do a hand shake, a cheek kiss, or a hug? I would suggest taking the lead from them. See what they go in for and reciprocate. If you’re really unsure, why not mention it to them before you meet? Make a light joke of it so it isn’t awkward when you’re face-to-face.
What to talk about
You will need to break the ice if you want things to move on smoothly. A good tip is to admit to having first date nerves by saying something like; “I know we connected very well online, but now I feel a little bit nervous, what about you?” Most people will be relieved to admit that they too feel a bit uncomfortable, so this is giving them permission to be shy.
After you’ve got over the initial hurdle of meeting, you’ll now want to use the time to get to know them, the real them, which can seem awkward after you’ve built up a ‘connection’ online and then have to move that into the real world. Let’s look at how we can make this transition as easy for you as possible.
Getting to know someone is always a process of exchanging more and more personal information, and you should make it as easy as you can for your date to open up to you. Ask them questions, but make them light and easy until you’re date is well under way. For example, ask about their hobbies, what their job is like, where they have travelled to etc. Before the date, it’s worth trying to think of some of these questions so you have them in reserve if you get nervous.
You can also mention details from the profile, or your email exchanges that particularly appealed to you. Above all, you want your date to feel ‘special’, which will certainly help them relax. Try to find topics of conversation that let your date tell a story. Ask questions such as; “I really like the necklace you’re wearing, did you buy it in England or abroad? If your date is displaying obvious tattoos or body art, then there will almost certainly be an interesting tale behind it that they can share with you.
The one thing you should try to avoid at this stage is trading relationship histories. If the topic turns to other people you have met from the dating site, then this should be handled diplomatically. Do not talk badly about other people you have met. Instead, be positive and say; “I have been in contact with other members, but your profile was the one that really struck a chord with me, so I am delighted to finally meet you.” Focus on the present and the future, and don’t hark back to things that went wrong for you romantically in the past.
You should also steer well away from setting out your romantic hopes and dreams on a first date. This can make you seem ‘needy’ and puts undue pressure on the other person, who might be taking their time in assessing you as a potential partner. Remember that dating is a way of getting to know someone, and that takes time. Do not hurry the process unnecessarily, it may take several dates before you, or they, feel secure enough to trust each other and share intimate parts of your lives.
One of the most difficult things to deal with on a first date is periods of silence when the conversation dries up. Don’t let it worry you, and don’t try to make small talk just to fill in the gaps. If you just relax and smile, then your date will feel they can be comfortable in your presence without the pressure to talk for the sake of talking. It’s hard to do, but can be very effective in bonding with the other person.
Politeness goes a long way
Without doubt, the one thing that will impress your date is old-fashioned courtesy and politeness. Of course, being an Oxford scholar or a fund manager shows intellect and success, but being an all-round good guy or gal will score more points in the dating stakes. If you are having a meal together on your date, make a point of being friendly and polite to the restaurant staff. This is especially important if you or your date have mobility issues, which need special attention at the venue.
People often ask me what the etiquette is of splitting bills on a first date, and this is a thorny question. I believe that the man should offer to pay, but if the woman says she wants to share the costs, then I think that it is fine to do so -her wishes should be respected.
You should also take particular attention in making sure that your date gets home safely, especially if they are in wheelchair or have health or mobility problems. A friendly text checking they are fine and saying how much you enjoyed meeting them will let them know that you have the potential to be a caring partner. If the date has gone well, then you can also say that you look forward to seeing them again.
Now you have completed the final stage of your journey to finding love online, from here onward your story, which started in the virtual world, will go forward in the real world and, hopefully, bring you much personal happiness and satisfaction.
By David Miller, DisabilityMatch.co.uk
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Have you tried online dating? We’d love to hear your story. Get in touch by messaging us on Facebook, tweeting us @DHorizons, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving your comments below.