When you meet someone who you would like to know more about, whether that is through an online dating site or app, at an event, or through friends or family, the first date is more than just a time for you and the other person to learn a bit more about each other; it’s a time to make a wonderful first impression.
If you’ve been in the dating scene long, you’re painfully aware of the different types of first dates. There’s the coffee meet-up with someone you have nothing in common with; the dinner with the person who keeps bringing up their ex; and then, sometimes, there are drinks that you just don’t want to be over.
Depending on how things go with that first date, one or both of you may decide the initial interest in each other is no longer present, or you may want to get to know each other even more and move on to a second date (and beyond!)
Dating someone new is an exciting time. You’re getting to know each other and having fun together. However, dating can also be stressful and exhausting, even disappointing when your hopes for the dating relationship don’t materialize. The process must start again, this time with a little less optimism.
If you’re tired of this merry-go-round, consider these dating mistakes people make and learn to avoid them.
1. Misreading the Signs
When the “sparks” fly on your first date, enjoy the feeling--and be cautious.
The limerence you feel for the other person may be strong, but it does not mean you’re in love. Love builds over time and is not something you can be sure about after the first few dates. When you feel the spark, and the chemicals in your brain are making you feel incredible, be aware that even though it feels wonderful, it can also cloud your judgment and it may not last. It’s easy to take those feelings and interpret them as love before you really know the other person. Notice the feeling, appreciate the feeling, and focus your attention on truly getting to know the person you’re having the feeling toward.
2. Having Alcohol Present on Every Date
Do many or all your dates start, or end, at a bar?
Getting together for drinks after work is a good excuse to get together, and wine with dinner is great. However, try to mix it up so that you have different experiences together. The same goes if both of you use substances recreationally.
Alcohol, and other substances, cause a release in your brain that makes you happy. You want to be able to find a deeper connection with each other than simply using substances and riding on that high.
3. Spending Too Much Time Together Too Quickly
Have you ever seen a relationship go from “nonexistent” to “always together” very quickly? Spending a lot of time with this new person in your life may be fun, but it can cause things to burn out just as quickly.
It’s perfectly acceptable to have boundaries and slow things down in order to learn more about one another before diving in too deep. Drawing that line can be difficult, but it is worth it in the end.
4. Staying Constantly Connected
Are you constantly texting and messaging with one another? Are you bouncing between Snapchatting, following each other on Instagram, and sending Facebook messages of cute puppies? When you’re in a new relationship, every message you get may be electric and intoxicating.
The excitement these messages bring can lead to the biggest dating pitfall. It’s perfectly healthy to create space and have your own lives while you are dating. Allow for space, and appreciate the moments you do spend together.
5. Not Being on the Same Page in Life
Are you established in your career and the person you are dating is still trying to figure out what they want to pursue in life? Are you looking for a committed relationship, but the other person just wants to date? Do you want children in the future, and you meet someone who does not, or perhaps they have children already and are not interested in having more?
These are examples of not being on the same page in your lives. It doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, but it does mean you may not want the same things.
Slow things down and take the time to get to know each other over time. Remember that there are many wonderful people out there, and that connection doesn’t always imply compatibility.
6. Talking about Your Previous Relationships
Talking at length and in detail about your previous relationships is a common mistake some people make when first getting to know someone new. Focus on the present and getting to know your partner. There is time to learn more about each other and your previous relationships, but sharing too much too soon can send both people into over-thinking spirals.
If you are still hurting from your last breakup, maybe you’re not ready for a new relationship, which could be unfair to the other person. If you talk a lot about your ex, your first date or two may not turn into more. Allow yourself the space to grieve the past before diving into the future.
7. Expecting Perfection
You’re on your third or fourth date and discover that the other person isn’t as perfect as you expected. It’s going to happen!
If you hold everyone to an impossible standard, they will eventually fail. Be understanding and know that everyone is not going to live up to their online profile or the glowing reports from friends who introduce you.
8. Thinking “This Is The One”
Don’t go into a first date wondering if “this is the one.” It’s not fair to you, or the person going out with you, to put that much pressure on the date. Just wondering “do I or do I not like this person” is pressure enough!
Why not go into a date thinking, “I hope to meet someone nice,” instead of thinking that they could be “The One.” It takes a lot of pressure off you and them. You might also find that the other person may not be a future romantic interest, but he or she could turn out to be a good friend.
Friendships are nice too!
9. Using Self-Deprecating Humor
Don’t devalue yourself! Even if you feel you have plenty of flaws, it’s a mistake to put yourself down or beat on yourself when dating someone new.
Dating someone new is an opportunity for you to shine. Be proud of your accomplishments and what your goals are in life. You don’t need to boast or talk about yourself constantly, but don’t put yourself down either, even if it’s humorous.
Being confident in yourself will draw people toward you, being down on yourself could push them away.
10. Not Listening
Have you ever had a date that you thought went really well, and were surprised when you never heard back from them? This might be your pitfall. After spending a date talking, the talker often perceives the date as having gone well--the listener, not so much. If you can’t listen effectively on the first few dates, how do you expect to have a relationship? After all, communication is a cornerstone of a good relationship.
You don’t need to have perfect listening skills, but you should be open to learning more about the person in front of you. Listening, being attuned to what the other person is saying, and being curious and asking questions about what they’re telling you is an excellent way to get to know someone better.
Dating is hard, and everyone encounters pitfalls as they go along. Acknowledge your own, and do your best to be gracious toward others’. Hopefully these tips minimize dating mistakes and allow you to make the best of your dating experience.
Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, is a therapist at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Grace works with individuals in their 20s and 30s who are exploring identity, values, and driving forces in their lives. If you have found yourself stuck on the merry-go-round of bad dates and are looking to improve communication, listening skills, or self esteem, we can help. Call Grace at (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.