FIRST dates can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you've never met the person before.
There are so many unwritten rules – from how long to stay to when to send a text if you like them without looking "too keen".
And with so many people connecting on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble these days, how can you tell if there's any real chemistry?
Relationships expert Jo Hemmings says: "Whether you are a dating veteran or a newbie singleton, first dates are always nerve-wracking. For both parties.
"That’s part of the potential excitement of where it might lead."
Here she shares her tips to help your next first date go without a hitch – and the red flags to watch out for.
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Plan to keep your first date to an hour and a half maximum.
This way you can avoid all the anxiety about whether you like each other or not or where it might be going by telling them before the date that you have somewhere else to be later on.
If you find the date goes better than expected, either ‘fess up to your plan or have a mysterious cancellation come up.
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Choose a Tuesday
Sunday evenings are peak app dating time. Meet your match then, chat on Monday and meet on a Tuesday.
No need to hover around and wait for the weekend, Tuesday (or at a push, Wednesday) is the perfect mid-week first date time.
If you really like each other, it paves the way for a follow-up date at the weekend.
First impressions DO count
You may try and revise your first impression of your first date, because you want to fancy them or you don’t want to upset them.
Or maybe because you want to give them a chance, which is all good.
But notice and remember your first reaction to them as you saw them in that initial moment.
It can be quite telling. Your heart may not skip a beat, but those few seconds often matter more than we might care to think.
And an initial feeling of ‘no way’ is unlikely to reverse itself, however hard you try.
You're not on The Apprentice
I know a first date is a bit like an interview, assessing whether you will suit each other or not.
But try not to fire off a load of questions at your date.
It will make both of you feel more awkward.
Sure, you eat a healthy diet – and even if you don’t and you live off Maccy D’s, you want them to think you do, right?
But pretty much anything small and green – from spinach to parsley or watercress – has a nagging habit of getting stuck just in that place on your teeth where your smile is at its broadest.
Actions speak louder
Signalling whether you like someone on a first date – or don’t – can be stressful to put in words.
A simple tip is to lean in towards them if you like them, and back from them if you don’t.
It's subtle enough to deliver the message, and easily picked up on by your date.
The WOW rule
That’s wine, one water.
It’s really easy for a first date to get messy because you’ve been too anxious to eat or because a few drinks gives you a bit of Dutch courage.
To keep a clear(ish) head, have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink.
You'll thank me in the morning.
Keep an open mind
You shouldn’t be expected to launch into details of how your wedding day will look or how many children you want when on a first date.
But if you’re looking for something casual or more serious, be honest about what you want.
Respect your date’s views and candour even if that is not what you were hoping for.
Listen to your instincts though.
Your date may start sounding off about their ex or something politically uncomfortable, or just behave in a way that you know doesn’t feel right.
If your gut tells you something is seriously off, then make your excuses and just leave.
When to text
Firstly, there is nothing more uncomfortable than seeing a couple out on their first date, nervously glancing at their phone to check on pings and notifications.
Your phone may well be a modern day security blanket, but alerts can wait. Put it away.
If you liked your date and are keen to see them again, go in for a thank you text when you get home.
It shows enthusiasm without being over keen.
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If you didn’t fancy them, then no need to follow up at all.
First dates are often first and last dates, don’t mislead someone you don’t fancy.
5 first date red flags
- Putting you under pressure to do anything that you have said or indicated no to. Whether it’s trying to make you have another drink, snog them, stay out later or an invitation back to theirs – no one should make you feel uncomfortable or guilty about what you do or don’t want to do.
- Rudeness to others. Nice as pie to you but rude to waiting staff or others around them? This suggests a less-than-nice character who may be trying to charm you but has little respect for people in general.
- Negging – the back handed compliment. ‘You look good for your age.' ‘I like blonde hair, even if it is out of a bottle.' ‘I don’t usually go for curvy women, but you’re pretty enough to get away with it.' This is done to create some self-doubt and make you want them to approve of you. Basically, an early doors form of gaslighting.
- Talking about ‘crazy’ exes. Discussing ex partners on a first date is never to be encouraged, but talking about them in a disparaging or negative way is definitely not acceptable. It shows disregard and disrespect to both you and them.
- Asking few questions about you but happy to talk about themselves. If they are not curious about you, then maybe they are disinterested. But if they barely ask you anything and are keen to talk about themselves and their achievements and successes, this is a big red pointer to a narcissistic personality, poor emotional intelligence or immaturity and best avoided. If they can’t make some effort to have a two way conversation at this early stage, then they are very unlikely to change.
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