The easy way to have a good first date, even if you don’t like each other.

First dates are exciting and completely bloody terrifying.

At least, they are if you do it the way our society typically says you’re supposed to and buy into the relationship escalator.

According to the John Hughes movie version of relationships, the first date is a magical time where one person just impresses the ever-loving crap out of their date and troooo wuvvvv follows.

Yeah, right.

Think about this for half a second.  Yes, put your best foot forward.  But a first date – especially when up to a third of all marriages start online – shouldn’t be a high-risk venture. “Clicking” with someone online is not the same thing as clicking in real life, so it’d really kind of suck to make a huge extravagant gesture only to find out the two of you have no interest in hanging out further.

Luckily, there’s two simple things you can do to solve this problem.

The first – and perhaps most important – is to redefine what “success” means for you in this situation. Tell yourself that “success” is simply meeting a new person and getting to hear about a someone else’s life for an hour or two. There have been several first dates I’ve gone on where there was no romantic connection in real life, but I definitely enjoyed and valued the time we sat down and shared a drink and conversation.

Second, have “nested” plans.

I originally did this when I lived at Fort Leonard Wood; the closest real city with attractions was ninety minutes away, so I had to plan things… but also had to contend with young kids and their very erratic energy levels.  So I’d plan one big thing – say, going to the Children’s Museum.  Then I’d have a short and medium length “backup” in place that I didn’t tell the kids about.  That way, if the kids had more energy, more fun could be had and a pleasant surprise for them. If not, nobody felt let down – not even me, because I knew they were “backup” plans.

Here’s how this plays out with a first date:

Set aside an hour or so for coffee or a drink “officially”.  Set a firm “official” duration for this so that if things aren’t going well, either of you can easily say “Whoops, look at the time” and bail without having to officially reject the other person.

UNofficially, have a backup plan for a meal or other activity, and a backup-backup of just having more time if the conversation goes super-well. If things are going great and you want to just keep talking, don’t bring up the time. If it’s getting close to a mealtime, you’ve got a plan in your back pocket.  (“Hey, I’m getting a bit hungry, how about you?  There’s this restaurant just around the corner, if you want.”)

By reducing the stress on everyone it’ll make it more likely that you’ll really be able to see how well you “click”, and thus make this first date one to remember.