Surprised guy ShutterstockDating can be scary. Let’s just put that out there and admit it. If you’re not looking for a hook-up, but actually want someone to spend your life with, then going on a first date might prove rather daunting. After all; you could be meeting Mr. Right, the one you’re going to be with forever. So, it’s no surprise that we get ourselves worked up into a frenzy of nerves before meeting someone for the first time. The problem is, these nerves can make grown men trip on their words, can cause the most talkative of people to become mute, and seemingly disconnect the mouth from the brain so that you start saying things without thinking first. Then, after that first mistake, the anxiety becomes even worse and things begin to unravel. How do I know this happens? Because I’ve been there many times.

I would never say that going on a first date is easy. It isn’t. I’ve been somewhat of a dating fiend in the past, and even then, I’d be slightly anxious before meeting someone. In some ways, if you’re not a little nervous, then you’re heart probably isn’t it. The challenge is to keep your excitement in the right place so that though there are butterflies in your stomach, you don’t let anxiety eradicate everything else.

There are a couple of tricks I learned when I was undergoing my 52 First Dates plan. I’d concocted a formula to help me find ‘the one’; one first date, every week, for a year. I hoped that I’d find Mr. Right early on and wouldn’t have to go through 12 months of dating, but I realised that the only way to find him was to actually get out there and date on a continuous basis. I’d dated before, of course, but without a plan, time quickly gets away. You meet someone, there’s a connection, and you go on two or three dates over the course of a few weeks. Then, for most people, there’s that period where one or other of you decides it’s not quite right. There’s two more weeks of waiting for texts and hoping another date will ensue. Even more weeks are wasted because you’re disappointed it didn’t work out and want to take time away from the dating scene. Before you know it, three or four months have passed and you’ve only met ONE new person. One potential Mr. Right. So, by going on a new date every week, you’re maximising the number of new hot guys you’re in contact with. It’s a bit like speed dating, except you actually have a couple of hours with someone instead of just five minutes.   

 

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So, anyway, back to the aim; reducing nerves on a first date.

By far, the most important thing I learned was that not everyone is going to like you. With the use of Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d etc, it’s pretty easy to meet people and, after you’ve sorted through the men that only want to hook-up, it’s simple to arrange a time and place for a date. However, what these apps can’t tell you is if there’s chemistry. He might be hot, you might click conversationally, but until you’ve actually stood in each other’s presence, there’s no way to tell if you’ll actually ‘like’ each other. It’s vital to keep this mind going into a date. If you don’t like him, or you get the feeling he’s just not into you, don’t stress. It’s fine. He’s just another guy you’ve met, crossed off the potential list, taken out of the pool of fish. If he’s a nice guy, then take the date as a pleasant afternoon/evening with someone new. If he’s awful, just cut the date short; there’s no reason you have to stay.

Secondly, the choice of time and place can make or break a first date. There’s a lot of social pressure to impress on a first date, to take someone out to dinner, shower them with roses, chocolates, their personal favourite tipple etc. This really isn’t that helpful in calming the nerves, or even getting to know someone properly. In my opinion, save all of this for date two or three. Take the pressure off both of you and have coffee. If you have dogs, take them for a walk. Visit an art gallery or museum. Just do something you’ll enjoy, can both relax into, which allows you to show your real personality instead of a stuttering fool, and doesn’t involve eating whilst simultaneously trying to appear sexy. It’s also far easier to cut these types of dates short, or lengthen them, depending on how much the chemistry is fizzing away.

Lastly, RELAX. This is hard to do, even I’ll admit that. When you’ve met the muscled hunk of your dreams on Grindr AND he’s a nice guy AND he wants to go on a date, it’s hard not to get carried away. The challenge is to funnel those nerves into excitement rather than anxiety. It’s hard to make a good first impression if you’re so overcome by nerves and the thoughts of what your future might be, that you can’t even speak. If your mouth goes dry and you start feeling a little panic, flip your mindset. Use those signs to understand that a spark IS there, that something MIGHT happen, but focus on relaxing and enjoying the date for what it is; the chance to meet someone brand new and see, just as a start, whether you even like each other.

Going on a first date isn’t easy, and it can be a hard to get those nerves under control. But, by taking the pressure off and reminding yourself that you’re simply meeting a new guy who could just as easily be a douchebag as he could be Mr. Right, you’ll making your dating life far easier and more enjoyable.