How to Effortlessly Navigate a First Date, According to Experts

·5 min read
A happy young couple from the chest up smiling with a city street in the background
A happy young couple from the chest up smiling with a city street in the background

Nothing quite conjures up a more unique, diverse group of feelings and emotions than a first date. As the first official meeting between you and a potential new partner, a first date means that impressions are of the utmost importance, and there is little room for error. While you don't have to be entirely perfect, it still doesn't hurt to put your best foot forward to knock the socks off a potential flame.

When it comes to the highly anticipated, but equally dreaded and nerve-wracking occasion, there are what seems like an infinite amount of factors to consider and questions to weigh in on. Should you kiss? Should you pay the bill? What should you wear? These are just some of the things you may be considering before making the leap to meet someone for the first time.

If you are experiencing first date jitters and need a little guidance in navigating the dating world, POPSUGAR spoke to two relationship experts to help calm your anxieties and give you tips for a smooth first date experience.

1. Ensure Your Safety

When embarking on your first date, safety should always be a main priority. While you have to be a little trusting of the stranger you are going on a date with, you also want to ensure that you are protecting yourself in the process. Before you set foot out of the house, inform friends, family, or anyone you feel close with what your plans are.

"When going out on a first date, let one or more friends know when and where you are going, and all of the information you have about your date like their name, where they work, and what neighborhood they live in," says Maria Sullivan, dating expert and vice president of Dating.com.

Additionally, you can add an extra layer of safety to your first date by getting your own transportation to and from the date, and meeting in a public location. Shan Boodram, sexologist and relationship expert, recommends places like coffee shops, restaurants, or a well-populated park to ensure your well-being. "The important thing is to tell a friend or trusted contact where you are meeting ahead of time, and make sure it is a location you feel comfortable," Boodram adds.

2. Don't Overthink Your Outfit

Finding the perfect outfit for a first date can undoubtedly be an ordeal. While it's important to put effort into your attire, don't get consumed by the pressure to put together a show stopping outfit. Instead, select something that you feel good in- it's that simple!

"Everything on a first date should be viewed from the lens of 'this is a chance to get to know me,'" Boodram notes. "Pick clothes that help tell your story, or even better, offer natural prompts for you to tell interesting anecdotes like a bracelet you got while traveling."

3. Ditch the Small Talk

While small talk can help break the awkward silence between co-workers or lighten a tense mood in an uncomfortable situation, it's not ideal for a first date. When you're meeting a date for the first time, it's best to get past the superficiality of small talk, and dig deeper into who a person truly is. Take advantage of that and leave the weather conversations or news discussions off the table.

Instead, engage in questions that will show your date's personality and background. "Feel free to ask about their hobbies, how they like to spend their time, what they do for work, and what their favorite TV shows or movies are," Sullivan suggests. Additionally, Sullivan recommends posing different questions about their family and where they grew up to further dive into their background, and maybe even find areas you both have in common.

4. Don't Let the Bill Intimidate You

When the dreaded bill lands on the table, try not to get too puzzled about making the right move in regards to paying. Communication is key when it comes to handling the bill, so try and be flexible if either you or your date are discussing possibly covering the entire outing, or if you'd like split it evenly.

"One safe bet is to always expect going into a date that you will pay for yourself," Boodram recommends. "If you are happy to split the bill or would like to treat the other person, feel confident in vocalizing that ahead of time to eliminate any awkwardness when the bill comes."

5. Set Boundaries

If there is any place to establish boundaries, it is on a first date. In fact, setting boundaries on this occasion is another opportunity to get to know the person. Though the idea of setting boundaries can seem a bit uncomfortable, it is best to be vocal and transparent from the start to avoid any miscommunication later.

"Remember that boundaries are things we set to keep people in, not push people out," Boodram explains. "Don't think setting a boundary as a negative thing, because in essence, you're trying to set guidelines to enjoy each other."

6. Think Before You Kiss

Making the move to kiss is probably one of the biggest first date conundrums. Ultimately, the decision to kiss while on a first date boils down to whether or not the situation feels right. "There is nothing wrong with sharing a kiss on the first date if you feel comfortable and inclined to do so, and it is actually a great way to tell if there is a "spark" between you and your potential partner," says Sullivan.

However, if things seem off, or your date hasn't been very touchy or showing signs of interest, it's best to avoid making a move. Boodram says that consent is major when it comes to a first kiss, so don't be afraid to ask beforehand. Additionally, reading body language is key, so double check the situation before you make the move. "If you've been mutually and consensually touching, leaning into one another, exchanging words of affirmations, and discussing future dates, going for a kiss is likely the move!"