Modern Tips For First Date Etiquette

Modern Tips For First Date Etiquette

If you're in need of a confidence boost before heading back out on the dating scene, it might be worth knowing some modern-day dos and don'ts. From nailing a good first impression to understanding whose job it is to pay, this is what the experts told us…

Nail The First Impression

While there aren’t many strict rules about how to dress for a date, try to make your outfit appropriate for the setting. “It is best to wear something you feel great in,” advises relationship psychotherapist Silva Neves. “Remember that a date will make an instant assumption about you as you walk in, so wear something that reflects who you are.” Relationship expert at eharmony Rachael Lloyd adds: “Your clothes tend to be an extension of your personality, so you should dress with that in mind. However, it’s important to make an effort. Not only does this show you take care of yourself, but that you respect your date and are serious about spending time with them.”

Relax & Be Yourself

Once you've settled into the venue, experts agree it's imperative to try to relax and be yourself - as soon as possible. "One factor that often has an impact is confidence," warns Rachael. "If you’re not at ease on your date, remember you’ve made it this far, and that they are interested in you and what you have to say. The likelihood is, you’re just underestimating yourself and how interesting you are to them." That said, a little bit of preparation can make all the difference. Establish what the realistic result or goals are from the date before you go, and you're likely to avoid unecessary disappointment. 

Get Personal, But Stay Savvy

“Asking personal questions is okay, as long as they are paced with some good humour and stories about yourself,” says Silva. “When you date someone, you’re assessing whether this person is going to be suitable for you, so ask the questions which you feel are important, but don’t make it sound like an interrogation or a psychological test.” As for how much you give away about yourself, caution is urged. “On a first date, you should be careful how much personal info you give. Trust your gut instinct. You could feel very comfortable straight away with some people, in which case self-disclosure can be easier. But with others, you may need to keep sensitive information to yourself until you feel more comfortable.”

Be Open & Honest 

Knowing whether or not to disclose how many people you’re dating can be tricky territory. “If you’re looking for a monogamous relationship and are serious about meeting a life partner, you might not want to disclose that you’re seeing other people before figuring out if you want to meet them for a second date,” warns Silva. “If you do want to continue, it’s best to stop seeing other people as soon as possible, in which case you don’t need to tell your date about it because there’s clearly no commitment there.” If an open relationship is more to your taste, you may want to disclose the existence of other partners straight away so your date can make an informed choice to continue seeing you or not. “If seeing other people is a discussion, be clear with your intentions,” concludes Silva.

Limit Talk About the Past...

The discussion of past relationships can also feel like a bit of minefield on a first date. But as we get older, Silva says, this starts to be more of an important issue. “If a past relationship is still significant in your life today, for example, you are co-parenting, or your ex still lives with you, it may be a good idea to mention it briefly. It means you won’t end up wasting your time with someone who is not interested in dating someone in this situation.” As for past relationships which have no impact on your life today, there’s no need to talk about them on the first date, says Rachael, particularly if it risks giving the impression you still have feelings for them. “We all have a past and this isn’t something we should shy away from. But remember that previous relationships end for a reason, and that nine times out of ten, they teach us a valuable life lesson.”

…But Explore The Future

As for the future, discussion of what you want from a relationship is likely to depend on your stage of life. Rachael admits it’s a balancing act. “It’s important not to presume anything if you’ve not known each other very long, but it can be positive to talk about your future priorities. This way, you can establish if you are compatible on things like family relationships, marriage, or even living together. These are big topics, but if the conversation goes in that direction naturally, it’s often best not to shy away from it.”

Play It Safe And Split The Bill

“In the modern world, there is no gender preference for paying, which usually means splitting the bill straight down the middle,” says Silva. Rachael agrees, adding there’s no right or wrong answer – it just comes down to each individual’s own values. “Some women may feel flattered by a man footing the bill, while others may feel offended. Splitting the bill is one of the best ways to play it safe.”

Let Them Down Easy

Picture the scene: it’s the end of the evening and you know the chemistry isn’t right. You might be surprised to know the classic phrase “It’s not you, it’s me” is actually considered one of the most appropriate by the experts. “If a date didn’t work out for you, it’s because they didn’t match your values or you didn’t have a shared vision,” explains Silva. “That’s fine, but it is your issue. If you didn’t like something personal about them, it’s still your perception. It’s therefore best to start with ‘I’ rather than ‘you’.” Despite being an awkward situation, Rachael agrees honesty is usually the best approach. “Often, you’ll find when you haven’t felt things are right with a date, they won’t have either and it might be an easier conversation than you expected. Be firm but polite.”

Pace Yourself

While it’s not unheard of to have more than one date in a night, experts agree giving proper time to each potential match is important. “If you’re rushing from one date to the next, you’re not likely to be fully present and you might not have the best time,” admits Silva. “Honour it as two people spending some quality time to meet each other, rather than a disposable experience.” Rachael admits the pace of modern life makes it important to maximise a free night. “Just know there’s nothing worse than having to rush off if things are going well,” she warns. 

Silva Neves is a specialist in couples therapy, sexual health, bereavement and trauma. Visit for more information.

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