Even if you're pretty sure you're hitting it off with someone, the signs of a good first date aren't always easy to recognize (especially when nerves are involved). But while most people probably define a "good" date as one that leads to more dates — and maybe even a relationship — down the line, that's not the only, or the healthiest, way to look at it. According to dating coach Julie Spira, the one thing you need to know about a good first date is that it's totally OK if it doesn't lead to a second date.
"While it can be disappointing if a first date doesn’t turn into a second one, especially if your mind wandered to thinking they could be 'The One,' having a first date, regardless of the outcome, is both an ego and a confidence booster," Spira tells Bustle. "It reminds you that it’s fine to go out and have fun with someone interesting, rather than staying home staring at your phone, wondering why someone hasn’t texted you back."
Of course, it goes without saying that it's awesome when a great first date leads to a second date, but you shouldn't put too much pressure on first dates. They can't all lead to love, but that doesn't mean they can't be good, fun, and memorable experiences that add value to your life. "It’s very important to go on fun dates, even if they don’t develop into a full-on relationship," Spira says. "More often than not, a date with the same person doesn’t go past one or two dates, so it’s time to manage your expectations and cast a wide net."
Even if they don't result in love somewhere down the line, first dates can still be fun — not to mention beneficial to your growth as a dater. Here are seven tips for having more fun on first dates and making the most of each one, regardless of what comes next.
1. Have Realistic Expectations
When you're stoked to meet someone, it's understandable to want the first date to go well — and while it's OK to be optimistic, you shouldn't enter every date with the mindset that it's going to lead to a relationship.
"It’s important to manage your expectations of what going on a first date means," Spira says. "[Instead of] wondering if you’re auditioning to be [partner] material, you should just go and have fun and bring the best and happiest version of you to the table"
2. Don't Take Things Too Personally
If your date turns out to be a dud, it can put a real damper on your mood. But you shouldn't let one bad date sour your whole attitude towards dating, because their poor behavior isn't a reflection on you, but rather on them.
"Don't take anything too personally," Rebekah Buege, body confidence coach, tells Bustle. "This is a FIRST date. This person doesn't know you. Anything they say or do that could be offensive or hurtful has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them."
3. Try To Avoid Interview-Like Dates
If you have a hard time having fun on first dates, it might be because you're limiting your dates to things that resemble interviews: asking each other question after question over dinner or drinks, instead of doing something more personal and unique.
"Don't get trapped in the job interview date (coffee shop, bar, restaurant)," Eric Resnick, owner and lead dating coach at ProfileHelper.com, tells Bustle. "They are awkward and high stress... These dates are rarely fun and they never give you a real sense of the other person."
4. Go On Dates That Get You Moving
Have a hard time getting conversation flowing on first dates? Try planning dates that are active or interactive in some way, like going to an arcade or walking around a museum.
"Good dates are interactive," Resnick says. "Do something where you are both on your feet and moving around together... The point is that you have something to focus on other than the date. This gives you both a chance to breathe and be yourselves. It also provides you with built-in things to talk about if the conversation hits a dead spot."
5. Set A Simple, Personal Goal For Each First Date
If nothing else, you can have more fun on first dates by thinking of each one as a chance for you to practice your dating skills, and challenge yourself to get out of your dating comfort zone.
"Think about something that is hard for you and make up a personal challenge around it," Christine Carpenter, PsyD, dating and relationship consultant at Evolve Dating, tells Bustle. "If you worry that you talk too much on dates, practice periods of silence. If you have a hard time making decisions, take responsibility for planning the date. But stick to one challenge per date. It will keep you from getting overwhelmed and you will really be able to hone in on that one goal."
6. Use First Dates To Explore New Things
Even if things don't work out in the long-term, you can still make fun, lasting memories on first dates — especially if you use them as an excuse to do something new that you might not otherwise try out.
"Use it as an opportunity to explore something your friends won’t do with you or that you have been too afraid to try on your own," Carpenter says. "Go to an improv show and sit in the front row. Take a trapeze lesson. Karaoke at an after-hours bar. See a magician. Regardless of how the date goes, you will have had a fun experience and possibly checked something off your bucket list."
7. Recognize That It's OK To Feel Uncomfortable
Because dating feels so personal, it's bound to be a little weird sometimes. It's totally normal to feel awkward or uncomfortable on a first date sometimes — that just means you're realizing what you don't like, and thus learning and growing as a dater.
"Take comfort in the idea that If you are uncomfortable, you are growing," Carpenter says. "The more you grow, the better a dater you will be. The better a dater you are, the better the fit will be when you do land the relationship."
Of course, there's no way to ensure that you never feel disappointment, discomfort, or hurt as a result of a good first date not working out long-term. But as long as you have realistic expectations and don't take first dates too seriously, you can still find meaning and fun in every one — or at least learn valuable lessons about yourself along the way.