Let's not mince words: dating is no fun.
It's awkward. It takes lots of time. You have to spend money. Plus, you probably won't feel a connection with most of the people you meet!
I'm not here to tell you I'm a dating expert – far from it. My ratio of first dates to second dates was so abysmal I reached out to family and friends for their best dating advice. What I learned from folks of all ages and relationship statuses changed my life.
Keep reading for top dating tips to help you have fun, stay safe, and find your perfect match.
Don't Assume the Person Is "the One"
A first date offers the exciting promise of meeting someone wonderful. But temper your expectations early on. Just because you had a great time on a date or two doesn't mean the person is someone you'll spend the rest of your life with.
Expecting to meet the love of your life after every casual date will only set you up for heartbreak. Plus, you could end up seeming desperate. Instead, approach each date as an opportunity to have some fun with someone new.
Take Care of Yourself
You know how, when you're on an airplane, the flight crew always says to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else? The same idea applies to relationships.
If you're suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue that's seriously affecting your life, you won't find a cure in a new relationship. Instead, you'll want to get yourself emotionally healthy.
Self-care is not only good for you, but it helps your dating life, too. When you're confident and comfortable in yourself, you'll have an easier time connecting with someone else.
Don't hide who you are! Staying true to yourself is the best way to make a real connection with someone. For instance, if your date loves sci-fi movies, but you can't stand them, don't pretend otherwise.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should trash your date's interests. The main idea here is that you should avoid pretending you like something you don't just, so your date likes you.
Don't Overlook Non-Negotiables
Non-negotiables are automatic dealbreakers in a relationship. Everybody has different needs, but common relationship non-negotiables include:
- Spending Habits
- Political and Religious Beliefs
Even though some of these issues seem like problems for the far future, you should discuss them as early in the relationship as possible. Otherwise, you could develop feelings for someone that you can't realistically have a future with.
Meet People Online (and Off)
Fifty-four percent of Americans say relationships that start online have an equal chance of success as those with in-person beginnings. If you're not already on a dating site, take the plunge.
However, don't rely on dating sites exclusively. Online dating can feel like a world all its own. If you're serious about dating, put the word out. Tell family and friends you're interested in meeting anyone they know who might be a good match.
Don't Pursue Someone Who Isn't Interested
TV and movies are littered with terrible examples here. If someone doesn't seem interested in you, you can win them over with messages, gifts, and other grand romantic gestures.
Unfortunately, real life doesn't work that way. If you have difficulty reaching someone after a date or two, back off and move on.
When two people have a genuine interest in one another, finding times to talk becomes effortless, even if they both have busy schedules.
Don't Fear Rejection
If you want the benefits of the sunlight, you can't keep the shades drawn.
That is to say, if you want all the joy and security of a relationship, you have to put yourself out there. You'll face some rejection along the way.
But that's okay! Accept rejections with grace and think of them as learning opportunities.
Go to Bed Angry
You've likely heard the phrase "don't go to bed angry." The idea behind the phrase is admirable: Don't let disputes in a relationship fester over a long time.
However, I've found that going to bed angry does have benefits. Sometimes, an issue that feels like a big deal right now doesn't seem so serious after a good night's rest. If you and your partner find yourself in a drawn-out argument, take a break, chill out, and approach the issue after some time apart.
(Note that this advice applies to couples in any stage of a relationship. You don't necessarily have to live together.)
Meet in Public
Safety first. When meeting someone for the first time, always meet them in a public place. Even if the date goes well, avoid going back to their home or another private location.
Stick to the "public places only" rule regardless of how you met the person, whether it was online or a friend fixed you up.
Also, if the person refuses to meet you in public, consider that an instant red flag.
Mind Your Manners
Your mom was right: Manners matter.
Politeness is about more than saying please and thank you. It's about treating everyone with respect – not just your date, but also servers, ticket-takers, and others you encounter throughout the evening.
Acting rude to waiters is a significant no-no on a date. It signals that you're unreasonable, impatient, and lack empathy.
Additionally, rudeness taps into one of most people's biggest dating fears. Nobody wants a partner who they feel might embarrass them. Yelling at staff or causing a scene is a surefire ticket to Embarrassment City for anyone you're with.
Stick to the Classics
When planning a first date, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Some activities remain classics for a reason.
Your best bet is anything casual and self-directed that allows you two plenty of opportunity to talk, such as:
- A painting/wine tasting class
- Coffee in a place with plenty of people-watching opportunities
- A visit to a local farmer's market
- A stroll through a museum or art gallery
First dates tend to go better when the two of you can engage in a shared activity, which gives you both something to do when there's a lull in the conversation.
On the second or third date, consider drinks, dinner, or other activities that lend themselves more to direct conversation with no distractions.
Ask (and Answer) Questions
Feeling understood is at the heart of every successful relationship.
When on a date, ask the person lots of questions. But don't overdo it. You don't want to interrogate them or pry deep into their personal life.
A good conversation is like a friendly tennis match, with a natural back-and-forth. You'll ask the person a question, they'll answer it, and then ask the same question to you. When two people have chemistry and mutual interest, the conversation usually flows naturally.
Don't let the idea of dating get you down! Stay true to yourself, set appropriate expectations, and approach each date as a no-pressure chance to have fun. Even if your next date isn't a perfect match, you're developing new skills and attitudes to help you win the heart of a future special someone.