Dating can be so awkward.
Does anyone really enjoy the dating process? I suppose some folks may enjoy the thrill of the chase, over and over again, but most of the Christian singles I know would rather meet their person, make a commitment and settle down…like, tomorrow. Unfortunately, relationships don’t work that way. Dating is a necessary step on the journey toward marriage.
So, unless you want to stare at each other for four minutes and, poof!, fall in love (yes, this is truly a method, and yes, I would try it!), we’ve got to be willing to put ourselves out there and get to know people who exhibit marriage potential.
The Bible doesn’t give any specific guidelines about dating since the concept didn’t exist at the time. However, from what I gather, there are only three biblical requirements in choosing a marriage partner. You future husband or wife must be:
- a member of the opposite sex
- available (as in single, not married to someone else)
- equally yoked (a fellow follower of Jesus)
That sounds so easy in theory, but it is much more difficult when things like compatibility, attraction, interests, background, or other preferences are thrown into the mix. Although technically unnecessary, there are factors that simply make some a better “fit” than others, and that’s OK — even good. So, let’s toss to the curb the unbiblical belief in “the one,” once and for all, and put time and energy into dating to find a good match.
That said, what makes for a successful first date?
In my mid-twenties, I remember being told that, generally-speaking, men prefer spending time together by engaging in side-by-side activities and women prefer connecting face-to-face.
This makes sense. But when it comes to guy-girl first dates, which is best? I’ve had good dating experiences of each type. But unless both people are social extroverts, side-by-side dates tend to produce easier, more comfortable conversation…particularly on first dates.
Pick an activity that the two of you enjoy or want to try, and go for it. Whether it’s a hike, exploring a museum exhibit or attending a craft industry tour, it’s fun to do an activity together. If you happen to have a great first date, you can always schedule a face-to-face date, such as coffee or breakfast (so romantic!) for date number two.
A positive attitude
We all have times when we need to unload our mental junk, but keep those conversations reserved for your therapist, best friend or mom. A first date is probably not the time to talk about your ex, your frustrations at work, your health issues or finances.
Commit to bringing (and maintaining) a positive attitude and good manners to all first dates, even if, especially if, you figure out right away that the two of you have little in common and no romantic interest. After all, distant or negative body language, constantly checking your phone and/or avoiding eye contact is just plain rude.
Remember, you made plans to spend time with this person and they deserve your respect. I can guarantee that there is something interesting or positive to unearth if you’ll seek to find it. When the date is over, you don’t have to offer or accept a second date, but it’s nice to leave a favorable impression.
Ask good questions
On first dates, keep your conversations low-key. My go-to question is, “If you had a full day off, how would you spend it?” It’s a great way to find out what your date enjoys and values. I also typically ask about their job, family, and where they grew up. If you receive short answers without any details, you can try to extend the conversation by saying, “Tell me more.”
I also like this list of unique, fun questions from professional dating coach Alexis Meads, including:
- What’s your favorite book of all time?
- If you had to name one thing that really makes your day, what would it be?
- What’s something that you’ve always wanted to try?
- If you could travel to any country tomorrow, which would it be?
The importance of listening
Have you been on a first date where the other person talked only about themselves the entire time? Sure, it can be a sign of self-absorption, but sometimes that’s not the case at all. Your dating partner may simply be out of practice, a little socially awkward or just plain nervous. Some people take more time to warm up to new people.
Put the onus on yourself to be a good listener. Listening skills are important to develop, not only for dating, but for life in general. Whether in work relationships, church life or the neighborhood, when we give someone our undivided attention and genuinely try to understand what they’re communicating, we honor their intrinsic value.
It makes an impact. It’s noticed. Ultimately, it’s an opportunity to treat others as we want to be treated. So, take the opportunity to extend patience by listening well.
Remember, someday a first date will become your final first date. Hang in there! Push through the awkward moments and hone some dating skills that will make you a great first date for someone else…until you meet (and marry) your match.
What is your idea of a great first date? Do you have any first date tips to share?