Online dating can be a good medium for finding a partner. A first date is either an important determiner of chemistry and a measure of how much you enjoy one another’s company – or it’s a formality that you can’t wait to get out of the way so you can get on with dating properly. When I’m on a first date there are many things I look for which, surely, must be the same for everyone.
For safety reasons, my first dates are alway at a cafe or restaurant. If it’s night time my car is parked in a well-lit, secure area and I always let somebody know where I am and who I’m with. Yes, as secretive as we like to be with our dating activities – we need one person we can trust to know where we are, when we arrive, when we are about to walk out to the car park and when we’re safely driving home.
When I meet a man for the first time I like to give a hello hug and a kiss on the cheek. This isn’t because I’ve been single for so long that I’m lusting for some human contact. It’s because I’m a tactile person and like to date people who are relaxed about being hugged. In the past I have hugged men who stood holding their body tensely and gripped me with surprisingly stiff arms and a hard pat on the back – as if they were soothing their pet dog in a thunder storm. Such a hug carries an awkwardness that shouts, “I am unaccustomed to human touch!”
It doesn’t normally take long to figure out whether I click with a person, so I plan on our first meeting taking less than 90 minutes, which is long enough to know how I feel about continuing on to a second date, calling it quits or just adding another ‘friend’ to my long list of male friends.
In my experience, ninety minutes was plenty of time to sense that I was profoundly attracted to two particular dates; enough time to feel disgusted by a few and interested but uncertain of many. A total of three dates took the ninety minutes to let me know they viewed dating as an opportunity for sex with random women – one man grasped my hand and actually put his appendage into my palm as we hugged goodbye! The men who weren’t ready to date were nothing short of boring as they took the opportunity to vent their ex-wife rage over our lunch date. The insecure men usually bragged about how amazing they were in their younger days or how remarkably young other people are alway telling them they look or act. Most of my girlfriends agree that conversation with the opposite sex is most attractive when the man is revealing he has empathy and care for others.
First date conversations have been important for revealing the true person under the scripted, social exterior. On one first date a lovely man said he wanted a woman’s touch in his home so that when he came home from work the light would be on, his house warm, dinner on the table and he would have someone to cuddle in bed. He also said he only dates professionals, so they can contribute to the household instead of sucking his bank account dry. This may seem sexist but he was totally unaware that it was anything but true love. He would love a woman who did this for him. Being taken care of was his pure and honest definition of love. I didn’t want to see him again.
For me, dating isn’t about finding someone to take care of me; it’s about finding a partner who doubles as a best friend, a confidante and someone to share my life. We take care of each other. I slip into my comfort zone when my date demonstrates his emotional intelligence through understanding that hugs and hand holding are forms of non-verbal communication. I enjoy conversation when we discuss a range of topics – even if one of us is only asking questions or posing hypotheses. I click with people who are so open that they are able to accept differences and reject prejudice. I look for people who are verbally expressive with their emotions.
My next point isn’t always a first date issue but some men have pushed to make it an issue. If not on the firt date, then shortly afterwards. Men who have escaped loveless marriages fear being rejected again and can’t wait to ask whether I enjoy sex and how often I ‘want it‘.
Sadly for them my response to these off-the-cuff questions is too technical for a yes/no response. While these men may be experienced enough to know that women come with varying degrees of desire, I’m experienced enough to know that men have varying degrees of emotional intelligence. There are men who want the freedom to climb on to relieve themselves of the ache that won’t go away; there are men who see a new woman as an opportunity to try out new, weird and kinky things (one date actually referred to this as wanting to be like “a kid in a candy store”). And there are my type of men, who define lovemaking as a mutual and meaningful event of communication through touch. The mind and body are both involved, time and space are important and frequency isn’t a necessary part of the discussion. However I wouldn’t bother telling this to a man who aks, “do you like sex…. how often do you want it?” because they won’t want to hear that lovemaking is a long, drawn out physical and cognitive event.
The take home message I’m trying to give here is to use the first date to make sure you are spending time with a peron who communicates like you communicate, who floats your boat, who enjoys delving into conversation that interests you, who shares your values, wants to do as much for you a you do for them and who you are able to imagine building a relationhip based on friendship, happiness, respect, honesty, trust and love. If you can achieve most of this, you should continue seeing one another.
But what if you get to the end of your ninety minute first date and find you don’t have any desire to see this person again? Or you feel so neutral that you don’t care whether you see him again? If this is the case then it’s time to say, “Thank you but no thank you” but there are some ground rules to this result.
Rule 1 is to please don’t allow him pay for your meal when you know you’re not interested – this is just greedy, brings bad Karma and damages the guy’s sense of worth. If giving him the, “Thank you but no thanks” (TYBNT) talk feels mean or awkward because he is excited about how well he thinks you’ve hit it off and how he feels like he’s known you for years, say you’ll call him the next day and make sure you DO call. This TYBNT phone call should include a genuine and sincere thank you for the lovely date. You should mention some things you liked about him and finish by saying that you didn’t feel a romantic attraction, which is what you’re looking for. Wish him well with the next person he dates.
Don’t settle for somebody you don’t really like because, although you may not believe it right now, there truly is somebody for everybody and it doe take time and effort to find one another.
Remember that nobody will be perfect so finding a great match who has imperfections that you can tolerate is the key.