Don’t Try These at Home: 30 First-Date Mistakes to Avoid
We could list hundreds of dating mistakes to avoid, but instead, how’s about 30 of the top first-date no-nos?
Dating No-Nos to Avoid If You Want Relationship Success
Woot, woot, you have a hot date on the books for Saturday night! Good for you, and we understand that you’re super excited — and, hopefully, you know that you need to shower and make yourself presentable before meeting up. Wait, you didn’t know that? Mate, we gotta have a talk!
First dates can be incredibly nerve-wracking situations, both for yourself and your date, and there’s a litany of behaviors and practices you definitely want to avoid, even when things are going well. We could list hundreds, but instead, how’s about 30 of the top first-date no-nos?
Don’t bring up too many medical problems.
I’m sure your ongoing gallstones and hemorrhoids make your daily life miserable, but some things are better left unshared — certainly on a first date. Going into extreme detail about your medical history is not only boring for the listener, it’s the very definition of “oversharing.”
If you’re trying to lure the person back for a second date, maybe save the medical history for date No. 2. Or 10.
Don’t dress to unimpress.
This one is mostly directed at the guys, although any bad dresser should take note. As a generalization, men will put in as little effort as possible most of the time, especially when it comes to their wardrobe and grooming. As a rule: Think before you put on that novelty shirt you got at a bar in the Keys or the jeans with several holes in the knees.
You might think such clothing is ironic, but if your date heads for the door, clearly he or she didn’t “get” it.
Don’t get too handsy.
Two words: personal space. Anyone on a first date wants things to go well, but learn to read the situation. If you touch your date’s arm and she or he doesn’t respond — or removes your hand — it’s safe to say this forwardness wasn’t wanted.
As part and parcel to this: Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and you might be tempted to try again. But if you don’t get a response, or get told off, it’s safe to say you’re making the person uncomfortable. Time to back off.
Don’t tell off-color jokes — until it seems safe.
Chris Rock once said that when you meet someone for the first time, you’re actually encountering “their representative.” You don’t know what topics might make your date uncomfortable yet. Put your best foot forward on a first date; think of it as a job interview — especially when it comes to humor.
Avoid the potty mouth and keep the proceedings PG-rated. That said, a good rule of thumb is that if your date drops some saucy language or shares a randy jest first, it’s probably safe to move into PG-13 conversation.
Don’t forget to listen attentively.
Conversation is an artform, whether you’re with your family and friends, business associates or on a first date. Thus, it’s important to remain polite when it comes to the give and take of conversing on a date.
This means listening when it’s your turn not to talk and acknowledging what you’ve heard with such phrases as “no kidding!” or “tell me more” and being prepared with follow-up questions. After all, being there doesn’t mean you’re necessarily “present” if you’re not paying attention.
Don’t just talk about yourself.
A big-time red flag that you should cut and run is if you can’t get in a word edgewise and the date totally monopolizes the conversation. Perhaps it’s nervousness, but more likely it’s something called “conversational narcissism.”
This means that the person won’t (or can’t) stop talking about themselves and becomes uninterested if the talk turns away from how great they are. News flash: People who talk like this typically also act like this. Next!
Don’t talk about an ex you aren’t yet over.
Sometimes relationships end naturally, and sometimes they end poorly. That doesn’t mean you should spend too much time talking about an ex, especially if you’re not over that person. If you still secretly hope to get back together with the ex, then you’re also not ready to be dating yet.
If you whine about how pained you are because that relationship ended, your date will almost certainly excuse themselves to the bathroom — and never return.
Don’t forget basic hygiene.
It should go without saying, but in case you needed a primer on pre-date rituals: Brush your teeth. Shower. Shave. Liberally apply deodorant. Trim your fingernails. Wipe the crust out of the corners of your eyes.
In other words, if you need to ask if something body-related should be taken care of before heading out, the answer is likely yes.
Don’t talk about the future just yet.
OK, so things are going well. The two of you are yucking it up, and you can’t stop talking about other activities you would like to do on successive dates. Hold your horses, Cowboy! Remember this is only a first date, and you’re not wedding dress shopping just yet.
Take a breather and take a step back, even if you sense this person has promise. Rather than asking how many kids they want or what kind of house you might buy together, ask if your date might like to go mini-golfing sometime. In due time, if it’s meant to be, you’ll get to that other stuff.
Don’t be glued to your phone.
There was a time when you didn’t know the score of the ballgame, what the Kardassians were up to or what your friends were planning for this summer … until you got home. Those were the days when, barring a barroom TV, you had no choice but to pay full attention to your date.
Nowadays, the world is at your fingertips, with constant news alerts and people wanting your attention via social media. We all look at our phones, but for a first date, unless you’re showing your date a picture of you with David Hasselhoff holding a recently caught marlin, keep it in your pocket.
Don’t get too drunk.
People drink alcohol on a first date for many reasons, be it to calm nerves or simply to move the conversation along — or to help you forget this horrible meeting is happening. Whatever the case, getting a little buzz is fine, especially if you’re shy, but you don’t want to go much beyond that on an initial date.
Firstly, you and your date likely have to drive home eventually, and secondly, it’s bad form to get blotto as you might say and do things that “sober you” would immediately shut down. Think about that before ordering that fourth “ultimate martini.”
Don’t be someone you’re not.
You’re trying to impress the person you’re out with, so you might be tempted to exaggerate this or that story or make something up. Don’t do this — just be yourself!
It sounds trite and simple, and that’s precisely the truth. Whatever is cool or interesting about yourself, bring that out to the fore. If there’s anything we’ve learned from real life, it’s that lies are going to get found out sooner or later, and covering them up is an endless trap. Don’t be someone you’re not.
Don’t spend too much money.
This is a first date, not a gala. It might sound silly, but in addition to the time and energy you’re expending on this date, you’re also “investing” in the evening financially.
Also, if you try to impress the other person by taking him or her to the swankiest restaurant in town, they might get intimidated or feel they might “owe” you something in return. So keep it economical — which isn’t the same thing as “cheap.” Drinks or coffee and maybe some munchies are a good way to get to know someone.
Don’t take them to a sleezy place.
You might have a favorite karaoke bar where you can throw peanut shells on the floor and the bathrooms haven’t been cleaned since Eisenhower was president. But no.
You’re trying to make a good impression here, and you want your date to feel respected (and safe). And if you’ve ever seen “Taxi Driver,” there’s one place you should never, ever, ever take someone on a first date.
Don’t slag off on previous partners.
We get it, we’ve been wounded in the game of love, too. Chances are so has your date. The subject of why a past relationship ended is bound to come up in conversation, but you know what’s super unattractive: unleashing a litany of woes about what an awful person your ex was.
Whether you’re on this date seeking new love or just looking for some companionship in the short-term, no one wants to be around a person who is bitter. To put it another way, be present. Your ex is gone, probably not thinking about you. Move on to the here and now.
Don’t talk with your mouth full.
If the first date at hand entails a meal or snacks, keep in mind what your mother told you about not talking with food in your mouth.
If your date puts forth a question while you’re mid-chew on some jalapeno poppers, smile, put up your pointer finger in the “hold on a sec” motion, swallow, wash your mouth out with water or a sip of cocktail, and then proceed to answer.
Don’t show up drunk.
Ah boy, nothing says trouble like a date who rolls into the bar having already made a few stops at other watering holes on the way.
As we said earlier, having one or two drinks to calm your nerves is perfectly normal, but showing up for a first date already deep in the bag is both rude and bad form — especially if the other person is sober.
Don’t bring up politics and religion.
We’ve all had Thanksgiving or other large gatherings where you just know that people sitting next to each other couldn’t be more distant when it comes to politics and religion. But over the table isn’t the time for it.
Ergo, on a first date, it’s best to adhere to the “Thanksgiving rule.” If it’s a topic that would only raise the temperature of the proceedings and lead to arguments if you don’t see eye to eye (and you might not yet know your date’s personal beliefs), leave it alone.
Don’t bring your friends — or parents.
Unless it’s been established ahead of time that your date is joining you for a social activity, such as a party or a bunch of folks bowling, don’t bring the posse. Heading into a situation where the date has an entourage of several people can make it seem like you’re walking into an interrogation rather than what should be a casual one on one.
And for the love of all that is holy, leave Mommy and Daddy at home! (Stories of parents sprung on an unsuspecting first date can be found here.)
Don’t brag about your salary.
Oh, so you’re a senior muckety-muck at the Big International House of Money Unlimited. No kidding. And you make how much money? Listen up, Gordon Gekko, no one likes a braggart, and people who can’t stop talking about how healthy their bottom line is are either malignant narcissists or so insecure that they’re using money to help them feel better about themselves.
Even if you’re a baller, instead of boasting about your bank account, maybe share a story about something nice you did for someone else with your money. Just sayin’.
Don’t declare your undying love.
Too many movies have conditioned us to think that true love happens all the time. Maybe it does, but even if you’re absolutely head over heels for the person you just met for the very first time, dial it back.
For one thing, your date might not be feeling the same way and could be scared off. And for another, there’s a phenomenon called “misattribution,” wherein what is causing you to feel aroused may have absolutely nothing to do with the other person. Take a breath, calm down, and maybe, instead of suggesting happily ever after, suggest a second date instead.
Don’t be a jerk if it’s not going well.
Dating is a numbers game, meaning only a very few will lead to a long-term relationship — or even a second date. Far from seldom, it’s clear very early on that the date is a dud, and you’re ready to get out of there.
Even if you find you can’t stand this person, it doesn’t give you license to be impolite. Hold off on the insults or name-calling. A simple “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel this is going well, and I’d like to leave” will suffice.
Don’t be late.
Think of a first date as an appointment — i.e., you’re due to meet up at a certain place and at a certain time. Period.
Yes, sometimes things happen beyond your control, such as traffic or a flat tire, but a simple text of apology in such situations shows you’re still conscientious. Tardiness is rude and also shows the other person that you don’t respect their time. So why should they care about yours?
Don’t go in for the kiss without ‘yes’ signals.
If you’re smiling and laughing together and giving little touches of affection or even holding hands, can a kiss be far off? Maybe, but it’s still important to read your date and not step over a certain line.
Sometimes, a kiss just happens, but if in doubt, it’s best to ask. That might sound corny, and you might be turned down, but it again comes down to respecting your date’s comfort level.
Don’t abandon your date.
Let’s say you’re out at your favorite bar and chatting up your date. Then your friends show up and come over to your table. You’re super excited to see them, but remember, your primary focus should be on your date. The polite thing to do in this scenario is to introduce your friends to your date and say you will catch up with them later on.
The absolute wrong thing is leaving your date alone and spending more than five minutes hanging out with said friends. Or just forgetting about your date altogether.
Don’t show off how smart you are.
Smart is sexy, but you know who likes a know-it-all? Absolutely nobody. Being smart means you have a lot of knowledge up in that noggin to share, but you also need situational intelligence to know when to show off your smarts and when not to.
Bragging about your IQ is similar to boasting about your salary: crass and unattractive.
Never demand sex, even if invited into someone’s living space.
OK, so this date is going really well, and your date suggests you move things back to their place. This doesn’t mean sex is absolutely happening, nor should you expect it — certainly not demand it!
Once again, respecting boundaries is crucial. You might have been invited in just for drinks or to watch a movie or to cuddle and kiss on the couch. Or to spend the night without any funny business. That might be all. But it might not be all. Which leads us to…
Don’t forget protection.
It’s on! Woot woot! Saints be praised. But as this is a first date, you need to be extra careful. Despite modern medicine, STDs are still very much prevalent, and the simple — and very cheap — condom is your friend here.
Assume the other person has other partners (chances are, in the dating scene, so do you), and thus the chances of disease goes up. Furthermore, prophylactics can prevent an unwanted pregnancy, which is something a first date should not end with.
Don’t just leave the next morning.
Well, what a night that was. Now it’s morning. Maybe it was such a great time that you’ll discuss your next date over breakfast — perhaps it’s the start of something wonderful. Or perhaps you have no intention of ever seeing this person again.
Don’t just leave because you might not know how the other person is feeling about the situation. It’s best to say goodbye face to face, but if not, at least leave a note or text, thanking your date for a “great time.”
Don’t be that person — pay up.
OK, we’ve officially entered the modern dating world. And no we’re not talking about the gender roles of who should pay on the first date.
We’re talking about those people who do offer to pay on a first date and then send their date a Venmo request the next day. Yes, this is unfortunately a thing — and it’s not cool! Either agree to split the bill or stick to your offer to pay!