The hardest part about a first date is getting there. The anticipation in the day ahead is often enough to make someone cancel their plans and opt for a rain check — even to throw in the towel altogether. If you do make it to the moment you sit down across from this stranger to begin what could be a flourishing relationship, you'll probably realize you have nothing to lose, though.
If nothing more, dating is about taking chances. It's about pulling yourself outside of your comfort zone — about sharing an experience with another person. The potential for a seed to be planted, roots to form, and a new life together to grow may be present, but a first date is as simple as two people coming together to find common ground. The point is to not put too much pressure on yourself. Maybe it's the start of a new relationship, or maybe it's just two people learning new things about each other. It doesn't have to be a high stress event if you have the right perspective.
First date conversations can run pretty standard, never escalating from the surface-level connection you'd make with a passing stranger. To save you time, energy, and another boring conversation, consider these 11 talking points that can often reveal everything you need to know on the first date.
1. Is This Person Ready For A Relationship?
If you're going on 10 first dates every month in hopes of a long-term relationship, why beat around the bush? If you know what you want, find out if your date is on the same page. The key to building a life together is equally committing to making it work.
2. Does This Person Communicate Easily?
"Relationships that are the most successful are those where both partners share their inner world with one another — their real thoughts, feelings and desires — and where their partner, in turn, is able to really hear them. When you share a validating style of interacting together, you build trust and intimacy. These are the bonds that make relationships last," Dr. Shannon Kolakowski wrote for Huffington Post.
If interacting with your date feels like pulling teeth, this could be foreshadowing, revealing a mounting issue in your future. Without the ease of conversation, tension becomes more frequent and arguments prominent, as marriage therapist Talia Wagner tells Bustle.
3. Why Did This Person's Last Relationship End?
Without prying too far, find out what you can about your date's relationship history. What's the common denominator where things went wrong? Without outright asking, you can deduce what this person likes and doesn't like in a dating scenario. What makes him feel loved? What makes her feel inadequate? What makes them feel secure?
"What's interesting is that your significant other's primary love language may be completely different from yours. Not recognizing this key potential difference can leave even the best of people sad and confused about why they just can't seem to have a happy relationship," Dr. Ben Kim wrote on his personal website.
Every person experiences emotion in different ways, and every relationship is different from the next. Discover early on what would make your relationship with this person work well.
4. How Did They Treat The Waiter?
First impressions are everything, and a person will usually put their best self forward in communicating with a stranger they are meeting for the first time. When it comes to manners, how your date treats your waiter should mirror the way they treat you. Basic interpersonal skills reveal the roots of a person's character and could be enough to make a sound judgment call on whether your date is the one for you.
"If I had to summarize over 60 years of excellent relationship research in just one sentence, that sentence would be: If you can find and be someone kind and respectful, your relationship will probably work; and if you can’t, it won’t," Dr. Duana Welch wrote for Psychology Today.
Dr. Welch said, "Research clearly shows that relationships can’t survive happily without kindness. Kindness sets down deep roots to keep love alive even when winter comes; but every season is bleak without it. ... Decades of research underscore that getting and giving basic respect is a necessity, not a nicety. Respect can create love where there was none, but habitual character assassination will eventually kill even the most fervent romance."
5. Is This Person Preoccupied With Work?
Do you see this person supporting your goals and dreams, or is your date a one-track mind kind of person who only has time for their own? Will your careers support each other in a way that supports your hopes for a family, or maybe a life of travel with just the two of you? Will this person's commitment to work overshadow their commitment to your relationship?
"Having the felt security that a partner is 'there for you,' not only makes for a smooth functioning relationship, but also may facilitate feelings of romantic love," according to a 2009 study from Stony Brook University.
With no judgment in mind, think about the future you want for yourself. Someone who is flooded with their own workload may not have the capacity to recognize your career happenings. Likewise, if you consider yourself a workaholic, it's important to consider what it would be like to date someone equally invested in their work.
6. Is This Person Talking Only About Him Or Herself?
If your date is trailing on about him or herself without asking much about you, it's likely this person is a little self-absorbed. By the end of the night, you may know all there is to know about your date's family, career, and social life, but you've revealed absolutely nothing about yourself. This is a red flag, as a narcissistic partner is often an uphill battle.
"Narcissists are often arrogant, self-important, and devoid of empathy. They are so in their own world they can’t even see you. It’s hard to stand in someone else’s shoes when you can’t see past your own. Narcissists see you not as you, but more as an extension of themselves," Dr. Robin Berman wrote for Goop.
7. What Are Their Friends Like?
"There is a sense that each person [in a happy relationship] has a rather full world of their own, and these two worlds meet. Rather than hungry people who each are trying to feed off each other. It's one thing to share the food together, it's another thing to want to be fed by the other," relationship expert Esther Perel told INSIDER.
What would it be like for your two worlds to collide? A crucial element to bountiful relationships is variety and spice. To learn from one another and to show one another new aspects of life, including friendships, contributes to growth.
8. Does This Person Have Any Pets?
Despite the naysayers, to own a pet is to become a parent, and the great deal of accountability is daunting. If your date is supporting a life other than their own, you can assume this person knows that with commitment comes responsibility. Like owning a pet, relationships require attention, love, and care.
If a relationship is what you're looking for, you should be sure a potential partner is capable of the same.
“The strongest most enduring relationships take lots of hard work,” Los Angeles-based psychologist Lisa Blum told Psych Central. Dr. Blum compared a healthy relationship to a good garden, saying, "It’s a beautiful thing, but you wouldn’t expect it to thrive without a whole lot of labor and TLC."
9. What's This Person Doing In Their Free Time?
Does your date live life in routine, or is there some spice in there? Life outside of the monotony reveals a person's true colors. When your potential partner isn't busy, they could be spending time with friends and family, working on a creative side project, volunteering, or any number of activities that show depth beyond a 9-to-5 and living for the weekends.
"[Happy couples] respect a lot the individuality of each person. Meaning, they are couples who often have quite a large space where each person has worlds of their own, inner worlds of thought, of pursuits, of hobbies, of passions, friendships," Perel told INSIDER. In a relationship, you share a life with another person, but it's essential for you and your partner to have lives of your own, as well.
10. What Are They Most Excited About In Life Right Now?
Is your date looking forward to anything? Whether it be a big career moment, a personal achievement, a major event, or some other anticipation, understanding what gets someone's wheels turning will shine a light on the extent of their independence. Is this person looking for someone to make them happy, or someone to add to the life they're already happy living?
"Classic attachment theory research has shown that individuals oriented towards anxiety in relationships crave a great deal of time with their partners while individuals oriented towards avoidance often prioritize independence," Dr. Theresa DiDonato wrote in Psychology Today.
While a relationship adds color to your life, maintaining independence is key to laying a good foundation. Your life without the influence of another person should be sufficient in supporting your happiness, and the same goes for your partner.
11. What Do They Like About You?
Go ahead; don't be afraid. Ask the unexpected questions to unearth the grit you've been digging for. Someone's first impression of you will tell you how much they've been listening to your conversation and how closely they've been paying mind to your nuances. Poke around to scale how well this person can read you right off the bat.
Should you two end up in a long-term relationship, knowing why this person fell for you could save you from losing the spark down the road. "We fall in love with someone for a reason. Daydream and get lost in the memory of those first dates in order to remind yourself that your partner is still that person. Pausing to remember what brought you together and looking at the life you've built together is extremely important. Appreciation can be an amazing aphrodisiac," relationship therapist Jill Vermeire told Redbook.
When push comes to shove, don't take it all so seriously; what's meant to be will be. This is only the first date. You still have time to be a little selfish.
Images: Olu Eletu, Joâo Silas, Angelina Litvin, Annie Spratt, Jens Johnsson, Kevin Curtis, Azrul Aziz, Patrick Fore, Cameron Kirby, David Straight, Jordan McQueen, Kimson Doan, Alex Harvey, William Stitt, Ayo Ogunseinde, Priscilla Westra/Unsplash