It doesn't matter if you're 20 years old or several decades down the line:
First dates can stir up a lot of emotions -- and some pretty intense expectations!
When clients come bounding into my office -- gushing with excitement about a first date that they are convinced is going to lead to marriage-babies-seaside-retirement-in-Tahiti, I often say, "That's wonderful! And... let's focus on releasing those expectations, so that you can relax and have a good time."
And when clients come plodding into my office -- simmering with anxiety about a first date that they are convinced is going to lead to yet-another-miserable-night-all-alone, I often say, "I'm sorry you're feeling anxious. And... let's focus on releasing those expectations, so that you can relax and have a good time."
Whether you're excited or anxious or a little of both, that's the secret to enjoying a first date: Let your expectations... go.
Of course, that's easier said than done!
That's why I created this little pre and post-date game plan which can help you stay calm and centered -- and keep your expectations in check.
Before the date:
Have fun "getting ready" -- whatever that means for you. An extra-long shower... a little extra time in front of the mirror... or maybe some extra time at the gym, to burn off some nervous energy.
Take pride in your appearance, but don't try to make yourself into something or someone that you're not.
This is not the time, for example, to straighten your naturally wild and curly hair -- if you never intend to wear it that way again. This is not the moment to slather on lots of dark, exotic eyeliner -- if that's not how you normally present yourself.
Be yourself. Accept yourself. Put your best foot forward -- but make sure it's your foot, not the foot of a totally different person who has temporarily taken over your body!
Then, consider getting yourself into a calm, confident place with this pre-date script.
(You can read the words silently to yourself or say them out loud).
I feel good about myself. I am not going to make myself into someone I'm not. I give myself permission to be me. If someone's going to like me, I want them to like me for who I am, not who I pretend to be.
I hope that this date works out. I hope my date ends up being "the one." But I know that I can't force this experience. I can't make this date be "the one." People have free choice to behave as they desire. If they don't want a second date with me, that's their preference. And I have preferences, too.
I am here to relax and have a good time. My life does not depend on this date working out. I hope it works out... but no matter what, I will learn from the experience, and I appreciate the chance to share a few hours with another person and enjoy the moment.
After the date:
You might want to sit quietly and take a few moments to process what happened -- or better yet, do some journaling. Good, lousy, confusing, amazing... it can be helpful to get your thoughts & feelings down on paper.
You might be feeling...
Doubt. "I'm not sure if I want to see this person again. We had an OK time, but I don't know if it's worth investing more time in a second date. But if I don't, I'll always wonder."
Insecurity. "I think I like them, but what if they don't like me. Did I talk enough? Did I talk too much? Did I talk with my mouth full? Did I eat too much? I should've dressed more casually. My date is so smart. What if I didn't come across as educated enough?"
Guilt. "I know this is not 'the one,' but I feel bad about breaking this to them. They seemed so sweet and nice. But it's just not right."
Once you've poured out your thoughts & feelings, take a deep breath. Give yourself a self-hug if it feels good -- wrapping your arms around yourself and squeezing, gently. Give yourself some love and affection. Because you deserve it.
Then, consider using this post-date script to help you feel at peace with whatever happened, and whatever is going to happen.
(You can read the words silently to yourself, or say them out loud).
I am proud of myself for going on a first date.
I am proud of myself for releasing my expectations (or at least, most of them!) and savoring the experience for what it was... rather than trying to make it something "else."
[I would like a second date, and I hope they do, too.]
[I don't have a desire to go on a second date, and that's OK. That's my preference. And my dates have preferences, too.]
No matter what happens next, I know that my life will keep moving. And no matter what happens next, I know that I can express myself tactfully, tastefully and with class.
I am excited for what comes next -- whatever that may be!
When it's time for your next date -- with this person, or with somebody else -- all of the same principles apply.
Enjoy the experience, but...
Just relax, flow and enjoy.
As a clinical psychologist and professional life coach, Dr. Suzanne Gelb's insights have been featured on more than 200 radio shows, 150 TV interviews and too many articles to keep score.
Step into her virtual office and discover how to change your life by changing the way you handle your own emotions.
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