There’s a lot to think about when you’re heading out the door for your first date. Use these little reminders and rock that first meeting.
If you’re no stranger to the dating game, odds are you’re already familiar with the pithy one-liners about the necessity of kissing frogs and enduring a bevy of dreadful matches before meeting that special person. And after experiencing a slew of false starts and disappointments for your efforts, rallying your spirits each time you meet a new match can feel more like waging a losing battle than embarking on a life-affirming journey toward authentic partnership.
But what if it didn’t have to be?
What if each new meeting felt less like a shot in the dark and more like an invitation to live intentionally, no matter how well or poorly your dates panned out? What if first dates left you feeling more hopeful, engaged and present?
This list of tips and practices was assembled with the purpose of easing first-date anxiety, and I’ve discovered it works just as well when applied to daily life. First dates ask us to present our best selves in the hopes of establishing trust and lasting connections around shared interests and life goals. Aside from the romantic aspects of partnership, there are plenty of reasons to extend these practices to other areas of our lives, too.
Have a great time on your date, sure, but this point is about enjoying you first. What’s worse than dating someone with little to no tolerance for joy? I went on a date with a man whose selfless love of animals was at first inspiring, but midway through the evening he’d begun to blame his pets, his ex and his demanding day job for his inability to connect with women and, besides, he added, “why would anyone want to be with me?” While I couldn’t answer that question for him, it served as a great reminder to me to prioritize my own happiness; it’s an extremely attractive quality.
More than merely arriving on time, showing up means being available to the experience of meeting someone new, regardless of any fireworks, chemistry or kismet. Have you ever been part of a couple occupying the same table, even though you felt more like strangers? Not fun. Being present to the moment means we give our full attention to the person we’re with—and to the gift of connecting with them. Being unplugged from your gadgets and unguarded in the moment says to the other person that you’re interested and available to the possibilities. The spiritual teacher Thích Nhat Hanh once wrote, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
Honor Time. Honor Dates.
What’s even more important is to honor the fact that first dates can be nerve-wracking. Just as you may experience jitters, awkwardness or discomfort at the prospect of meeting someone new, it also stands to reason that the other person is too. Acknowledging the fact that opening ourselves to strangers makes us vulnerable—and sometimes insecure—goes a long way toward building compassion for the other person’s experience. Realizing that we’ve all come through our various levels of resistance to dip our toes back into the dating pool helps ease our expectations and opens us up to greater connection. After all, every moment is only comes around once. Honoring that fact alone can enhance every encounter we’ll ever have.
Stories of great athletes, successful business people and thought leaders alike share this trait: they rehearse. A key component in the art of manifestation, the practice of seeing yourself accomplish a goal makes it that much easier to realize in ‘real life.’ For the sake of an anxiety-free first date, walk yourself through the experience in your mind’s eye, paying close attention to your level of comfort, engagement and openness to the experience. Do this ‘practice run’ as many times as you need to until any remnants of tension subside. Mind you, this practice isn’t about trying to control any aspect of your first date; it’s about dissolving any resistance to its natural flow.
Just last week I was talking with friends about the miracle that is the human heart and its desire to love. ‘No matter how much it’s been broken and bruised, I said, ‘our hearts still seek after love.’ Its drive within us is greater that we can fathom. Despite any attempts to squelch it, beat it back or conquer its desire to give and receive love, this life force—or love force—is innately with us and will often ask us to be bold for our own sake. That being said, the next time you head out for a first date, give yourself permission to speak your mind, to embrace your pauses and imperfections, to ditch your judgments, to look your date in the eyes—and in the heart—and let yourself step confidently into a new experience.
Love, in and of itself, has no conditions. It simply is. This is perhaps the greatest practice in preparation for a first date or for anything, really: being love. Have you ever been in a relationship and wondered, When is the right time to express my love? The answer: Now. Love expresses itself in myriad ways, and spiritual practice serves as an invitation to infuse everything we do with this powerful healing force. So, it stands to reason that the expression of love on a first date goes without saying. Speaking of, there’s no need to proclaim undying love for the stranger across the table from you. Instead, embodying love can be as simple as offering your focused attention, an open heart, kindness, non-judgment, sincerity and the truth. Sometimes the simple act of listening deeply to another can be the most loving gesture of all.
When presenting ourselves to someone new, we risk our hearts in the hope that the gesture will be reciprocated. Carl Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” When it comes to first dates, there’s always going to be a reaction—whether or not it’s one we’ll feel good about. As for the transformation and embracing the ways we can be enriched for having tried at all, well, that’s entirely up to us.
[image: via kris krüg on flickr]