Starting to date again?"I've been out of the dating game for a long time now... any advice on how to get back in the swing of things without making silly mistakes on first dates?"
Dr. Debbie, Licensed Psychologist, says:
There are no hard-and-fast rules about "how to date". There are, however, basic practices that can help you to navigate your way through dating and have more success. The tips mentioned below are some of the more common things that I have seen people overlook or forget. If you have a good grasp of the fundamentals of dating, the rest will come along more easily.
Be Aware of Your Expectations
What is important to you in a relationship? What qualities do you value in a person? What kind of relationship are you looking for?
These are questions that you need to ask yourself in order to discover and pursue your dating goals. You should be aware of what you are expecting out of dating so that you can make wise decisions - for example, if you are interested in finding a relationship that may lead to marriage, you will want to avoid dating someone that is interested in only having a sexual relationship, and vice versa. Or if you don't know what you want yet, that's fine too; going out with different people and having different experiences can be a great way to help you figure out what you want. The key is to be aware of where you are mentally and emotionally, so that you can approach dating accordingly.
Keep an Open Mind
OK, now that you know what you are expecting, ask yourself questions to re-examine your expectations.
Are my expectations realistic? Am I being desperate? Am I being too picky? Can I be more flexible?
Asking questions like these can also be a good thing to do if you're feeling unsure before going on a first date. People often create a set of ideas about another person before they have even met, based on hopes, past experiences, judgments - or even fears. Sometimes these preconceived ideas can keep us from seeing things as they really are. If you approach each date with an open mind, you will at the very least have a more enjoyable time, while also expanding your possibilities for developing a happy relationship.
Check In with Yourself
You may go through a variety of emotions when going on a date - excitement, nervousness, and so on. It is important to be aware of what you're feeling so you can keep tabs on how your feelings may be affecting your behavior. Take anxiety for example -- it's perfectly normal to be nervous on a date, but nervousness can get out of control if you don't manage it well. When we're nervous and not attuned to how we are feeling, we may end up saying or doing things that we later regret. Troubling emotions can get the better of us if we don't realize how they affect what we do or say. They disrupt our focus and prevent us from enjoying the moment. If we recognize what we are feeling -- and most importantly, how we are reacting to it -- we can then do a better job of managing our behavior.
I know you might have heard this time and time again, but I thought it was worth mentioning as a friendly reminder! There's no use in trying to present yourself as someone other than who you are; you will be left trying to maintain a charade, which will inevitably fail in time. If you are looking for a happy and healthy relationship, then it must be built on honesty. Everyone has both strengths and weaknesses (or areas for improvement, as I prefer to call them). Go into each date owning both of those parts of you. Be true to yourself, and be proud of who you are!
...and Most Importantly - HAVE FUN!
Remember that you are there to meet, and hopefully enjoy, another person's company. If the date doesn't go as well as you had hoped, that's OK! Maybe you need to go out again to get a better sense of your compatibility, or maybe you know that there will not be a second date for whatever reason. Either way, look at each date as a learning experience. With each encounter, you have an opportunity to learn more about yourself, what you are looking for in a relationship, and what you may need to do to work toward getting what you want. The dating process is an exciting adventure of getting to know yourself and others on the path to romantic happiness.