So, you finally got the date. Maybe a miracle happened, and a man was given the sight and courage to not only see you, but ask you out. Maybe after your 12-year sentence to the friend zone, you found a nice female warden to let you out to see the sunshine of a romantic first date. Or maybe this is your sixth first date this month. Whichever storyline brought you to this point, here we all are on the first date ... trying not to mess it up. Your past experience and beliefs about how things should go or could go will have more influence on your date than picking the right clothes will.
Here are four different traps I’ve seen people fall into, putting too much weight on the first date and leaving them floundering:
The ‘job interview’ date
You have standards and qualities you’re looking for. You don’t believe in casual dating, so let’s get down to it: Is this person a potential spouse for me? You break out the mental list and start evaluating it through direct or indirect questions: Kids? Check. Loves Jesus? Check. Likes Outdoors? Check. Comes From Good Family? Questionable. Called to Missions? Oh, woah. He is interested in business?! Okay, we’re done here. Next.
Hopefully, you’re not that "efficient” in matters of the heart. You know what you want (or think you know what you want based on your life up until this point), don’t want to get hurt, don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and are ready for a spouse. If the person in front of you doesn’t measure up, you’re out. Ouch. It’s a lot of pressure to judge a whole person’s life and character in a 45-minute cup of coffee. It’s also pretty bold to assume you know exactly what you want and where you’ll be in 5-10 years, enough to put it all in a checklist. You don’t marry a calling or an assignment, you marry a person you can do life with. Put down the list and get to know the soul in front of you. Even if he/she isn’t for you, they are still valuable enough to get to know and show honor to.
The ‘whatever you want me to be’ date
You don’t really like exercise. Oh, but she does. Well, you had been thinking of going to the gym more often. That’s funny, you really like chick-flicks too … except you’ve never seen one. You’ve always been the strong silent type … except when you’ve had everyone cracking up at any party you’ve ever been to. It has always been in the plans to have four kids. No, two kids? You mean, one kid … who’s a fluffy dog … that’s actually a cat. Yeah, yeah. Of course, you love cats. Is she still talking about cats?!
You have a strong desire for connection and unity. Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve had this opportunity and you really don’t want to blow it. You may feel like the clock’s ticking and you just don’t want to be alone. It’s okay to be aware, but you’re most attractive when you’re yourself and confident. If the other person is into who you are, then great! If not, well, they didn’t have eyes to see you. Someone else will think you’re the best thing they’ve found since grumpy cat.
The ‘this is the story we tell our kids’ date
You just know “this is the one.” You photograph every moment mentally, and some with your phone to make sure you have it captured for nostalgia. You did a video diary with all your girls before the date and you just know he’ll show up with roses and chocolates, and you’ll go to the best restaurant in town. Like, if he doesn’t wear a tie and plans your first kiss under fireworks, you’ll just know he’s not the one.
You have a great heart for remembering things and making moments special. You want to have a great story to tell your kids and your friends about how God came through and gave you the hottest slice of pie this side of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, your expectations are just a little too high and you’re putting so much pressure on the other person to perform. Even Queen & David Bowie couldn’t handle it.
Let the story unfold as it does. Don’t try to force anything and don’t force the other person to carry out your fantasy. Live in the moment and let it happen. Grab a selfie while you’re doing something fun, then put the phone away. Don’t be so busy capturing the moment that you don’t experience it.
The ‘tell me everything’ date
You hate small talk. You’ll figure out what kind of movies she likes when you’re watching them together in three months on Netflix … if she makes it that far. “So, what are your dreams and your calling? What’s your greatest fear? What are you called to? How do your parental relationships influence you today? That coffee was good but tell me about your soul.”
You have a good heart for connection, but boundaries aren’t on your top 10 strengths. Brené Brown calls it “hot-wiring connection” when you skip the small talk and go for the deep intimate talk to feel connected. It’s the old adage, “too much, too soon.” Most likely it comes from a fear of wasting your time or not valuing the little things in life that influence someone. Breathe deep. You’ll get to those special places in their heart once you’ve grown to trust each other in your relationship. You don’t need to rush it. Part of the fun of discovery is a sense of mystery. You don’t need to prove yourself or know their whole story. Keep it light, there are already enough nerves going on.
A healthy approach
Deep breath. Check yourself beforehand. Do you like you? Would you enjoy taking yourself on a date? You are fun and enjoyable. You may need to go date yourself to understand that before you join anyone else. Are you excited about the date, or does it feel like it’s make-or-break? Eventually, your goal is a great friendship with some butterflies, but right now you’re just at step one, so relax.
Keep the conversation light and fun. Ask some good open-ended questions (“What,” “How,” and “Why” questions that you can’t answer with “yes” or “no”). This helps you learn about the other person without diving into the depths of their soul. We’ve included 25 questions down below for your first date if you get stuck.
Your goal on a first date is to figure out three things:
1. Do they love Jesus? 2. Are you attracted to them? 3. Do you have fun together? Here’s what we tell people in our Date Well Community about the second date: If you enjoyed the first one and there aren’t any big red flags saying this is a no-go, have a second one. It’s nice to give the person a few different dates to show their authentic self.
Focus on being yourself, learning someone else, discovering what you like, and don’t forget to have fun. The first date shouldn’t have level 10 expectations or commitment. It’s about enjoying yourself and respectfully getting to know the other person.
We understand dating can be complicated, but we don’t think it has to be. We’ve built an online community to help you get healthy, see clearly, and date well. Some Christians over emphasize the character and leave out the practical. Other resources teach you how to be smooth without having the integrity to go the distance. We married the two to help Christians win at dating. Find out more at letsdatewell.com.
First date questions:
- Tell me about yourself. What do you find yourself doing with your free time?
- What’s the best book/movie you’ve read/seen recently?
- What’s your go-to for a great Friday night?
- What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?
- If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
- If you were a member of The Office, who would you be and why?
- What are you kind of obsessed with these days?
- Are you a dog or cat person?
- What odd talent do you have?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, fully paid, where would you go? What would you do there?
- What’s one of your favorite memories from your childhood?
- If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
- If you could invite any three people from history to dinner, who would you invite?
- What’s your current favorite song?
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- How did you meet your best friend?
- How many siblings do you have? What do they do?
- If there were an Olympics for everyday activities, what activity would you have a good chance at winning a medal in?
- What three words would your friends use to describe you?
- What’s the best thing that has happened to you this month?
- What’s your favorite app on your phone?
- What country do you never want to visit?
- What’s the most essential part of a friendship?
- Best and worst flavor ice cream? What would make for an excellent new ice cream flavor?
- What makes you smile in life?
Abram Goff is wired to help men become men and win in relationships. His passion is to see people across the nations extravagantly fall in love with Jesus and walk in passion, purity, and purpose. He spent his teens and 20s navigating life, the nations, and relationships before meeting his wife in Switzerland in his 30s. Now, his friends call him the "real life hitch" because he's leads the Date Well Program (letsdatewell.com) and is all about helping people navigate and be successful in relationships.