The first date – an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience that can make even the most confident individuals break into a cold sweat. Whether you’re meeting someone new or finally going out with that special someone you’ve had your eye on, first-date nerves can take a toll on your confidence and overall enjoyment. But fear not! We’ll explore the common causes of first-date nerves and provide practical tips to help you easily navigate these anxious moments.
What are First Date Nerves?
First-date nerves are a natural response triggered by anticipating meeting someone new or entering a potentially romantic situation. These nerves often stem from the fear of judgment, rejection, or not meeting expectations. It’s crucial to recognize that you’re not alone in feeling this way – most people experience some level of anxiety before a first date. You might be nervous that you’ll like them and they won’t like you or that they’ll like you, but you don’t feel the same spark. You might feel like you’re on a strange sort of job interview, applying to be someone’s partner. If you’ve been seeking love for a long time, you may be experiencing a bit of worry that you’re “running out of time” or concern that something is “wrong with you.”
Like most nervous experiences, they occur because we view the stakes as being high. Fun fact: how your body experiences nervousness is very similar to how it experiences excitement. It may be
helpful to replace “nervous” with “excited” in your mind, but you may also find that you want to feel as calm as possible, and excitement isn’t your desired emotion, either. The need to feel calm and emotionally regulated comes from a desire to feel confident and in control of the situation. Unfortunately, many of us are plagued by self-doubt that undermines our ability to feel that way.
3 Ways to Soothe First-Date Nerves
1) Prepare Mentally:
One effective way to combat first-date nerves is through mental preparation. Remember that nerves are a sign that you care about making a good impression, which is a positive thing. You boost your confidence by engaging in positive self-talk, setting realistic expectations, and visualizing success.
Positive self-talk doesn’t only relate to what you have to offer your date but what you have to offer yourself regardless of the outcome. For example, you may feel a confidence boost from going through your list of admirable qualities, such as being a good listener, having interesting hobbies, being smart, being funny, and so on. The next step in your affirmation process is to remind yourself that you will continue to be all those things even if this person doesn’t value you the way you would like them to. And most importantly, those characteristics are what allow you to be happy on your own. Yes, of course, you would like to meet a great partner and share experiences and life with them. But there is a difference between wanting a partner and needing one. Your affirmations should remind you that you deserve to have your standards met when it comes to your values, your safety, and your boundaries.
Realistic expectations can be tricky because you want to feel confident and positive, but your experiences with dating may have led to disappointing conclusions. When considering your first date, the best way to be realistic without being pessimistic is to stay focused on the date itself. Just the first date, with no plans any further in the future. Realistically, you are going to a location to meet someone you have been communicating with. There may be a spark, or there may not be. One person may be more invested than the other at first. The point of the first date is to chat with this person and see how you get along on your first date. You do not have to know by the end of the date if you’d like to spend the rest of your life with this person, from the wedding to children, to come to see me for marriage counseling in Woodland Hills, to retiring happily. Remaining focused on the short-term project (the date itself) is a good way to stay realistic, which is also a good way to avoid being unnecessarily disappointed. A lot of the need for therapy for couples comes from unmanaged expectations; there is no need to jump the gun before the relationship has even started!
Visualizing success may include picturing where you are going if you’ve been there before. If you haven’t, and you have time, maybe you want to pop by with a friend or loved one first. If you’d rather it be a complete surprise (or you told your date that you’ve never been there and want to start off on honest footing), then visualize other aspects of the date. Plan your outfit, put it on, and sit in it. Daydream about how comfortable and self-assured you will feel in that outfit when you are on your date. Browse the menu beforehand, if that applies, and consider what you might choose to order.
2) Plan Ahead:
Having a solid plan can alleviate some of the stress associated with first dates. Choose a comfortable venue to ease your nerves, and think of some icebreaker questions to discuss to prevent awkward silences. Make sure to dress appropriately for the occasion to boost your self-assurance.
Making a plan of where to meet and what to do can feel a little bit tricky because you will want to be accommodating. Remember that the person who is right for you is going to want you to feel safe and happy to be there. If
your date wants to go for a hike as a first date and cannot understand why you don’t want to go into the wilderness with a stranger, that is not the date for you. Setting safety aside, if you can’t agree on a similar vibe for the first meeting, this is not a personal failing on either of your part. It may just mean that you’re not super compatible. You have the right to ask for the date that serves you best, and so do they. Hopefully, there is something you can both agree upon!
When you consider what questions you will ask, determine for yourself what you’d most like to know and what you think is important for that person to know about you. You may already have an idea if your date passes your “deal breakers” test; if they want children and you don’t, they’re a smoker, and you have asthma or some other major life incompatibility. Hopefully, you either have an idea already, but you might not. Beyond those “big questions,” you may have some go-to questions about where they’ve traveled or would like to travel. You might want to know how they spend their free time, what they like most about their best friend, and if they admire any specific public figures. These questions can help to paint a picture and lead to deeper conversation, which is the whole point of being on a date! Remember that you’re not only trying to find out if they like you but if you like them.
Another part of your plan can be to have an endpoint of the date if that makes you feel more comfortable. In theory, it’s nice to imagine a first date that goes on and on because the two of you are connecting so much that you can’t walk away from one another. You might want to be open to that and leave space for it, and that is up to you. However, if you feel better having a time limit, then make one! Make a plan or appointment for a reasonable amount of time after the date. Give yourself enough time that you feel your date has a proper chance to get to know a little about you and share some things about yourself. Having somewhere to go or to be taken away concerns about how to exit the situation because you already have one. If you’re getting along really well and you’re both sad to see it end, you can make a plan for a second date. If your date isn’t willing to accept that you have a life outside of them (especially now, when they are a total stranger), that could be a warning sign that similar issues could arise in the future. As a couple’s counselor in Woodland Hills, I see a range of people who can trace some issues back to the very beginning. It’s not always the case, but it does happen.
3) Practice Self-Care:
Prioritizing self-care before a first date is essential. When you take care of yourself, both physically and mentally, you’ll feel more grounded and at ease. Practice some self-care by getting enough sleep, which can significantly impact your well-being. Engage in relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or meditation.
Hopefully, this self-care practice is part of your overall daily habit. The only thing you have control over when you’re going on a first date is what you are bringing to the event. You are responsible for your state of mind, thoughts, actions, and reactions. If you have a self-care routine that fosters self-love and self-confidence, showing up with an open heart and mind is easier.
Taking the time to show yourself care and respect also trains you to reject mistreatment from others. If you wouldn’t speak to yourself unkindly, why should someone else be permitted to? This is also beneficial as we notice things we like when we are in a positive space; confirmation bias can be a tricky thing. If you go into a date feeling like you aren’t worthy of special care and consideration, you may interpret things your dates might say as having a negative context because you are in a negative headspace. Anyone can love you no matter whether or not you love yourself, but the more highly you regard yourself, the more accepting you are of good behavior and the less tolerance you have for thoughtlessness and neglect.
Consider how you will show yourself care before your date and afterward as well. If you have a regular routine that helps you to feel good, stick to it. Go for a walk in the morning if that is your usual. Eat enough food and drink enough water before your date! If you have a daily practice like learning a new language, reading a book, creating some art, or some other mental stimulation, fit it in beforehand, or plan to leave room to do it afterward. A first date is a special event, but it is also one part of one day of your life. Structuring the day so you feel like your most authentic self will do far more for you than stopping everything beforehand out of nerves and waiting as the hours’ crawl by.
Self-care is a self-love practice that never ends. The way we invest in all relationships, be they friendships, family relationships, or romantic ones, should also be reflected in an ongoing exploration of our relationship with ourselves. There are times when this is more difficult to achieve; tough seasons, bad days, and life-altering events. But the point is to show ourselves consistent effort, to take self-supporting action that is indicative of holding ourselves in high regard. If you’re still figuring out the best way to foster self-love, that’s okay! It will change and evolve as you do throughout your lifetime. Your priorities may change depending on where you are on your journey. The key is to be looking for ways to give to yourself first. This is how you best support your health, as well as being able to give to those you love and care about.
No matter what ends up happening after your date, it is important for you to know that you will be okay. You may end up together, and both be willing to do the work, such as committing to investing in each other and your partnership and utilizing resources like relationship therapy. You may see one another for a period of time, only to discover that one or both of you doesn’t wish to go any further. You might have a few more dates, then part ways. Or this might be your only date with this person. The common denominator in all of these scenarios is you. Being honest with yourself about what you are looking for, what you want, what you need, and what doesn’t work for you allows you to be curious about the other person. Do yourself the service of seeking someone who adds to your life, and continue to provide yourself with life and self-love that sets that bar high. When you do so, the worst-case scenario is that you continue living a rich and happy life, and this person you met isn’t a part of it. The best-case scenario is that they share in your happy life with you.
Here at Embracing You Therapy Group, we know that relationship counseling has many phases. Whether you are just starting to date or have been married for many decades, there is something you can take away from couples therapy. So don’t be shy or think about couple’s counseling as a last resort and give us a call today so we can match you with one of our skilled couple’s counselors to learn all the relationship skills you need for a thriving, healthy, and joyous love.Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.
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