First dates can be a little nerve-wracking, especially when you don’t know what to expect. Questions such as: “Will they like me?”, “Can I kiss on the first date?”, and “When should I follow up about a second date?” often fill any singleton’s mind before meeting up with a Tinder match for coffee. Dating has always had its challenges, but with endless apps and an inescapable hookup culture, it seems dating now comes with an even bigger gray area.
Before you agree to drinks with a match you met on Hinge, it’s worth knowing the sort of things you can expect on a first date. We chatted with relationship experts to help make sure that every first date is smooth sailing.
What makes dating so awkward in the first place? Well, for one thing, we may be placing too much pressure on first dates. Really, a first date is simply the time we take to get to know someone. Does the conversation flow? Do you feel comfortable with them? Is it even worth a second date?
There are two main fears people have before going on a first date: What if your date doesn’t like you? And what if the date is awful? Gina Hendrix, a Los Angeles matchmaker, suggests keeping an open mind. Think of every first date as a new experience, rather than trying to seek the approval of others.
“In order to overcome those nerves, one must not over think it too much,” she told The Independent. “They shouldn’t put too much pressure on this one interaction and should instead look at it as going out for the experience as a whole – enjoy meeting a new person, regardless of outcome. Check out a new bar, restaurant, or whatever the location might be. Be there for the experience, not necessarily for the person, because that puts too much pressure on everyone.”
Of course, that may be easier said than done. The only way we can take pressure off a first date is if we take the pressure off ourselves first, and that starts with building your confidence and self-esteem. “The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the better it’s going to be. Just remember that the other person’s definitely nervous too,” Kate Durocher, a dating coach living in Los Angeles, told The Independent. “Dating isn’t easy for anybody and the people that it’s easy for are probably the people who need to take a step back and not date as much.”
Another important step before going on a first date is to make sure you know exactly what it is you want from dating. Are you looking for a serious relationship, or do you just want to have some fun?
“Some people are just looking to date for fun, and I don’t necessarily agree with that, because there may be somebody on the other end of the spectrum who isn’t looking to date just for fun,” Durocher said. Be straightforward – not just with your date, but also with yourself.
Now, it’s time for the first date. How should you greet your date, especially if you two have been talking online and it’s your first time meeting in person? In some cultures, it’s standard to greet with a kiss or two on the cheek, but others might find this to be too much. In that case, a simple handshake or even a casual hug will suffice.
According to experts, one of the most important dating reminders is gauging your date’s comfort levels. If the conversation is flowing freely and there seems to be a spark between you two, then maybe a nice hand over the shoulder as you two walk to dinner will feel natural to you both.
“Everyone has different comfort levels,” said Sabrina Alexis Bendory – a New York City-based dating coach and co-author of the women’s relationship site, A New Mode. “I personally believe that you should keep physical affection to a minimum because it can cloud your judgment and create a false sense of closeness. A first date should be a time to establish fundamental compatibility and if you have some level of attraction to one another. If you’re all over one another the entire time, the chemistry side of things will overrule your ability to see compatibility.”
However, there are many debates that have stood the test of time, and kissing on the first date is definitely one of them. Deciding whether or not to kiss on the first date is tricky, but experts say to just trust your instincts. “I don’t think there’s any right or wrong when it comes to kissing on the first date; it’s just how you’re feeling, what the vibe is, what the connection is, what you’re comfortable with,” said Durocher.
Really, building up to a kiss should feel more like a natural progression, and less like something you feel you must do. If you share a kiss at the end of the night because it feels right to you, then go for it.
“Dating should be – there should be a cadence to it. It shouldn’t be something that you rush into,” she added. “It needs to go slow so that we can build the foundation. That way if there are red flags, you can see them.”