First dates are these awkward, uncomfortable, nerve-racking experiences that become the jocular anecdotes we swap with friends over drinks. Online-specific dating issues like catfishing only add to the stress. The whole process can drive you to log off and buy a cat.
Before you cancel your Tinder account, consider this: one-third of all married couples report that they met their spouses online. Full disclosure: there’s no secret formula that will bring you from your first date to the altar. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ensure that both you and your online match have a great first date. [Read: 14 important dos and don’ts of online dating]
How to have the best date with someone you met online
Here are ten tips that will get you through your first meeting IRL unscathed.
#1 Tell them what you want. There’s nothing sexier than confidence. If your cutie asks whether you’d like to see a movie or go dancing, speak up and make your choice. Taking charge will spare both of you the rigmarole. Your boldness also assures them that you’re someone who knows *and gets* what they want. Look at you, being all hot and stuff.
#2 Dress accordingly. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your first date. We are often more concerned with wowing our date than the activity itself. That said, wearing a cocktail dress to a sports bar is never a good look. And showing up in sweats and a ratty t-shirt to a fine dining restaurant will only get you ditched. Over/under dressing for an occasion can attract unwanted attention and make both you and your date feel uncomfortable.
To avoid any unnecessary awkwardness, use your date’s setting as a style guide. Once you’ve created a foundation for your look, you can use flirty accessories to dazzle your date *if you’re a woman* or you can jazz it up with some timeless pieces *if you’re a dude*. There is a time and a place for every outfit. Play your cards right, and you’ll have the opportunity to break out that cocktail dress or that fancy button up on your second date.
#3 Food for thought. Your date isn’t stupid. They know you want a burrito. Most men understand that real women have real appetites and eat real food, and most women are probably already acquainted with the male population’s voracious appetite. Still, many still often choose the lightest item on the menu for their first date meals.
When you skimp on your dinner order, you cheat yourself out of what you want, and you risk giving your date the impression that you have issues with food or even your body. For some, these behaviors are red flags. First dates are no country for red flags.
I’d also like to note that there is something innately alluring about a woman who knows how to savor a delicious meal. In your date’s mind, your reaction to the things you place between your lips during dinner mirrors your bedroom behavior. Go ahead and get the Fettuccine Alfredo. I assure you, he won’t mind.
As for the men, women are very, very forgiving when it comes to what you eat. However, whatever you do, please curb the urge to chomp down on a massive steak sans fork and knife. Stay classy. [Read: 13 tips for a happy blind date]
#4 Have a drink. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink with dinner. In fact, it may help you calm those nerves when you finally see your online match in the flesh, without the barrier of technology between you. That said, it’s important to remember that alcoholic beverages tend to lower inhibitions and cloud our judgment. Inebriation makes us less perceptive to red flags, which can harm you in the long run. Careless alcohol consumption also makes you more vulnerable to predatory daters.
Let’s be honest: no one wants to spend their first date babysitting a train wreck. Conversely, no one wants to be a first date horror story. If you’re a social drinker, try to keep things light with a glass of wine or a light beer during your first outing. You can go Cosmo crazy the next time you’re out with your friends. [Read: 14 signs you’re ruining your first date without even knowing it]
#5 Do unto others. Everyone deserves a certain measure of basic human respect. As you’ve only previously conversed online without the company of others, now would be a great time to show your date that you’re a great person to be out in public with. Show your date a bit of common courtesy by arriving at your meeting place on time. Be polite to both your date and the wait staff. Converse with your cutie actively and attentively.
Treat them like they’re the only person in the room. Also, feel free to leave your phone in your purse or pocket during the date. For a moment, forget that Tinder exists, despite the fact that it’s what brought you together. It goes without saying, but treating someone with courtesy and compassion will only help you establish a lasting relationship. Be nice.
#6 Embrace the awkwardness. Perfect dates happen in perfect worlds. Here on Earth, drinks are spilled, first names are forgotten, and laughter is punctuated with snorts. You and your match may even find yourselves at a loss for words IRL. The best thing to do under these circumstances is break the ice by acknowledging the awkward energy.
Addressing the quirks head on will show your date that you’re down-to-earth, and put them at ease. Personally, I’d prefer to date the guy who can make a joke about spilling his beer, than the one who gets eerily quiet afterwards. I’m sure your date feels the same way. [Read: 40 first date questions to have a great conversation]
#7 If you’re a lady, let the guy lead. As cheesy as it sounds in this day and age, when it comes to your first date, it’s a good idea to let your guy be the man. Let me explain the rhyme for this reason:
First dates are stressful by design. When we’re nervous, we revert to familiar practices. Some men are genuine gentlemen, and when their nerves take over, that instinct goes into overdrive. Setting gender roles aside on the first date gives you both one less thing to stress about.
If your partner wants to hold the door open for you, let him. If he wants to pull your chair out for you, let him. If he wants to cover the check, girl, let him. Who are you to stop him from proving that chivalry is alive and well in the 21st Century? Go Dutch on the next date.
#8 Don’t be afraid to touch. There is a strong case for letting your date slip into your personal space on your first night out. Physical contact creates an instant bond between the two of you. The goal here is to keep the vibe between you light and fun, so think graze, not grope.
For the ladies, try softly brushing your date’s knee when they crack a joke, or lightly tapping their arm to emphasize a point. A gentle touch lets him know you’re interested, and his response to that touch will tell you if he’s into you too.
For the gents, make sure that you get a positive response before getting all touch-feely. By this, I mean you should wait until she shows signs that she might be into you, such as strong eye contact, lots of smiles, leaning in closer, and even light, familiar touches. Reciprocate by taking it slow with a brush of your hand on hers or a hand placed gently on the small of her back when you lead her through a door. [Read: 6 signs she’s ready for you to kiss her]
#9 Pace yourself. You’re not a contestant on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, so there’s an excellent chance that your first date won’t culminate in a marriage proposal. First dates can, however, become second dates. Revealing yourself slowly will create just enough mystery to score some additional face time. This exact air of mystery is also ideal for when you’re setting up your online dating profile: reveal just a little bit, and discuss the rest through chat or in real life.
One of the simplest ways to keep yourself from sharing too much too soon is a 70/30 split. Try listening about 70 percent of the date and speaking 30 percent. Stay attentive, ask questions, and casually say little things about yourself when it makes sense. You’ll give off an air of mystery that will have your date begging to learn more about you. Hello, second date. [Read: 10 ways to build sexual tension through flirting]
#10 The billion dollar question…
Is it a good idea to have sex on your first date?
The sexual timeline is arguably the most debated aspects of dating in the 21st century. Carrie Bradshaw says the third date is the perfect time to show him your stuff. Steve Harvey advises young women to wait 90 days before having sex. Your hormones may be telling you to bed your hottie before your check arrives at the end of the night. Who’s right?
We all know women who’ve been tossed aside after putting out on the first date. We also know plenty of couples who’ve married their first-date sex partner. Every date is a unique experience. Listen to your gut, follow your moral compass, and do what feels right. Make your final impression the way you see fit. If things don’t turn out the way you planned, own your part and move on. [Read: Sex on a first date – yay or nay?]
First dates are just that– first dates. If things don’t go the way you’d hoped, there’s a good chance you’ll get a free meal and an anecdote out of the deal. Be your awesome self, and do what feels right. If you can follow those instructions, you’ll survive your first date with your online match.
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