Four First Date Tips from a Couples Therapist
Staff Therapist Briana Bogue, MFT works with young adults, couples, and families who are experiencing distress due to grief and loss, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, conflict, and communication problems.
As an adolescent, I frequently got nervous to put myself out there. Socially, I was scared of vulnerability. My mom, trying to be helpful, would say things like, “just be yourself” and “you’re great the way you are.” I remember thinking that was silly, since being myself was what made me uneasy! Ironically, now that I’m a couple’s therapist, I find myself coaching clients to put themselves out there using similar strategies.
First dates, and dating in general, can be scary. For some, it’s uncharted territory. Here are four tips I use to coach my clients through dating, to help them not only survive, but find what they are looking for. Follow this guide and you might experience the same!
Love yourself first.
Self-love is the energy that drives love of others. In order to radiate love outward, you need to build up the fire inside you. If you hold yourself in high regard, you are less likely to accept poor treatment in a relationship. You may have heard the common phrase “confidence is key”, but it’s really the foundation of self-love underneath.
Show your true colors.
Most people try to “put their best foot forward” on a first date. That’s a great strategy for making a good impression. However, it’s very hard to walk with just one foot! Eventually, you want to be with someone who can accept the best and worst parts of you. So don’t hide things about yourself on a first date—they will just come out later anyway.
Calm your nerves.
It’s normal to be nervous before and during a first date. Beforehand, get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated, especially if the date involves drinking alcohol. Before and during the date, remember to breathe. Say nice things to yourself, like, “I am doing a good job putting myself out there.” If you’re feeling extra nervous, plant your feet on the ground and remember that this is a moment in time that will pass. Then, try to relax. After all, dating is supposed to be fun!
Take in everything as data.
While it is a good idea to go into a date knowing “what you want in a partner,” do not use the first date as an interview opportunity to check off those boxes. People are more than they appear to be on paper. Look for chemistry, attraction, spark, or a deeper connection, in addition to the qualities on your list. Each new moment together is data about whether this person will be a viable match for you. Take in the whole picture with all the details that you can.
Remember, it is totally normal to seek counseling as a part of the process of dating. Therapy/counseling/coaching can help you figure out who you are, what you want in a partner, and what you are bringing into new relationships. Never be afraid of the self-discovery that comes with a new journey or person, and don’t be ashamed to ask for help.