- Know Thyself: Take some time before a first date to review your mindset and goals. Are you truly ready for commitment? Are you clear about the kind of person that will make a proper life partner? It’s both dangerous and surprisingly common for people to attempt changing who they are or their most important aspirations for life to accommodate a date. You will live a happier life if you set the stage for dating with clarity.
2. Dress for Success: Put effort into looking your best! Even if you are coming straight from work you can bring fresh clothes, some makeup, perfume, cologne, or simply a warm smile that says, “I’m looking forward to meeting you.” It sets the tone for the meeting in a way that communicates you WANT to be here. It also makes your date feel respected and that you took the time to prepare.
3. Be Punctual: Try your best to make your date the priority of your evening. It sends a message of “I respect your time and take this date seriously”. Excuses are cheap. Be on time for dates as you would make sure to be on time for any important appointment. If you are going to be a few minutes late, try to be courteous and contact the person to let them know, so that they are not waiting or worried without any information.
4. Attitude: Whether you are looking forward to this date is irrelevant. A vibe that you’d rather be in 20 other places is a guaranteed date killer. Be positive, present, and open-minded, remembering that even if you never see this person again, they still deserve your undivided attention, respect, and interest on the date. If you are going through a difficult time in your life, unrelated to dating, you may consider taking a short break from dating so as not to misrepresent yourself with a poor mood or attitude. For those dating hours, leave the stresses of your life behind so that you can be present and enjoy. You may even surprise yourself and have a good time!
5. Choose the Right Venue: The venue will set the mood and tone for conversation and can also provide comfort for the two of you to relax and open up. Different venues communicate different messages on a date. If you want to go on a fun date, choose something interactive, outdoors, or a playful game. Similarly if you don’t do well with small talk and intensive face-to-face eye contact, don’t choose a hotel lounge or coffee shop. Rather opt for a walk and talk type of date that will make eye contact and conversation more natural for you. Alternatively, find a venue that will help you with conversation such as a museum, botanical gardens or an interesting exhibit. If you know that focus is a challenge for you, stay away from heavy traffic zones and distracting venues. There is nothing more insulting than trying to have a conversation with someone whose attention is wandering and/or distracted.
Dating is a process of self-discovery. We learn critical lessons in what we need, what we want, and what works through experience in the field. Even if a first date doesn’t work out, the perspective it offers can bring us one step closer to our spouse.
6. Avoid Hot Topics: The first impression you leave should be a positive one. Topics such as religion, politics, or former relationships can be danger zones. You don’t want to present as an argumentative or disagreeable person with inflexible views. Avoid saying hurtful or condescending things about any group. Besides the significant halachic problems with such statements, you might be criticizing the person sitting in front of you…ouch! That is a quick and guaranteed date killer right there. Negative talk about dating is best avoided. Nobody enjoys the stress and pain of being single, best to keep things upbeat. If necessary, there will always be room to discuss sensitive topics down the line when compatibility and trust have been established.
7. Show Interest: Even if you are sure that this person is not appropriate for you, you are still stuck for the next few hours – make the most of it! Every person is unique in some way. Why not spend the time discovering what interests them, what hobbies they may have, or projects with which they’ve been involved. You never know – you may see a side of them you didn’t think they had. Alternatively, having felt respected and understood they’ll be much more likely to recommend you in the future or even set you up with a friend.
8. Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Try not to get caught up on externally impressive qualities. Try to get to know your date for who they are on the inside. One way to do that is to focus on their actions on the date, rather than how they present. Just because a guy is good-looking and charismatic, does not necessarily mean he is good husband/father material. Just because a girl presents as quieter, doesn’t mean she has no personality, opinion, or depth. Give people a chance. Some take time to warm up but have deeply valuable internal qualities that can be experienced and appreciated only by those that stick around.
9. Be Yourself: Don’t try to be someone that you are not to impress a date. Although there’s a level of formality on first dates, authentic presentation – without posturing – is refreshing. This should be balanced. I would caution against letting someone get to know all of you upfront, that would be inappropriate for a first date. The parts you do choose to reveal should be genuine to who you really are so you don’t send mixed messages or create complications for yourself later down the line.
10. If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get: Whatever your level of observance, there is always room for Prayer/Tefillah. Pray/daven for clarity, peace of mind in the decision-making process, that the date goes well, that the relationship should continue only if it is good for me, and that it should happen in the right time for both of us. If there are qualities you are seeking you haven’t yet found, feel free to add those as well. We are blessed with an infinite source of abundance Above, yet often we don’t ask for that abundance to come down. If you don’t ask…you may not get. If we’re perfectly clear about the source of all blessing, we prepare ourselves for success and soften the blow of failure. We’re lucky that The One Above runs the show. His care for us is unbounded and He knows far better than us what is in our most profound best interests.
Dating is a process of self-discovery. We learn critical lessons in what we need, what we want, and what works through experience in the field. Even if a first date doesn’t work out, the perspective it offers can bring us one step closer to our spouse. No need to linger on disappointments. Pick yourself up, move on, and spend your precious time exploring other options for that route to your longest relationship.
By Rachel Burnham