Tired of your lack of luck in the college dating pool? Your first-date behaviors may be to blame. Whether you’re going the traditional date route by hitting up the fanciest restaurant in town or taking a casual walk through a nearby park, you’ll want to put your best foot forward (and avoid any disastrous deal-breakers in the process). Find out what might be holding you back from earning that second date invitation and how to fix it!
1. Talking nonstop
There’s almost nothing more nerve-wracking than a first date; dealing with those jitters, trying to show your best self and trying to get to know your date all at once is a daunting thing, and we can’t help but let the anxiety get the best of us. Sometimes that means we revert to our nonstop talking state—you know, the one where you find yourself inexplicably detailing everything you had for breakfast this week and explaining why blue is the absolute best color ever. Occasionally, we even say some of the 50 things we should never say on a first date… oops?
The problem? Sharing this much means your date won’t be able to get a word in edgewise, which can cause your connection to crash and burn.
Brian*, a sophomore at Skidmore College, says that taking a chatterbox out on a first date would frustrate him. “I would be turned off if the girl I was going out on a date with was talking so much that I couldn’t get a word in, because if I can’t get a word in, I can’t have a conversation with her,” he says. “It’s a one-way thing. Conversation should go both ways.”
Charlie*, a senior at Franklin & Marshall College, agrees with Brian. When asked what would make him avoid a second date, he responded, “If she was talking in some kind of absurd way—nonstop talking.”
Jodi R. R. Smith, president and owner of the etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith, says that the easiest way to prevent “word vomit” (for lack of a better phrase) is to slow things down. “Employ the pause,” she advises. “If he nods or asks a question, keep going. If he takes the opportunity to change the subject, follow his lead to keep the conversation flowing.”
Smith also suggests thinking of conversation as a game of catch: you say something, then you toss the conversation ball to the other person and it’s his turn to respond. “It is best not to hold the ball for too long,” she says. “Or worse, to put the ball in your pocket and never let the other person talk at all.”
It’s awesome that you’re willing to share your thoughts with your potential partner, but make sure you take the time to hear his or hers, too!
2. Sharing heavy feelings
We’re all for Romeo-and-Juliet-style outpourings of emotion—but in the right place and at the right time. A little witty banter never hurt anyone, but talking about heavy personal baggage right off the bat can definitely hurt your first-date game.
“There is a major difference between therapy and dating,” Smith reminds us. “If you are not sure about the differences, you had best engage in the former before embarking on the latter. Be a woman of mystery…at least for the first few dates.”
While you want to find someone who can handle hearing and helping with your feelings and problems, you don’t want to scare someone away by unloading all your issues on him or her at once—especially not when you’re first getting to know each other. You don’t preface an essay with a note to your professor about all of the stress you’re under and all of the struggles you had while writing it, right? So you wouldn’t want to make those negative or difficult parts of your life the focus when you’re opening yourself up to a potential relationship. Share feelings that seem relevant, but don’t delve into an in-depth sob story before giving your date a chance to catch up and feel comfortable with sharing his or her own story.
3. Checking your phone incessantly
We get it: cutting the technological cord might as well be like cutting off one of your limbs. Your phone is always at your fingertips, and you wouldn’t part with it for the world. What’s the harm in checking Instagram or answering a casual text every now and then, anyway?
Well, even sending a quick message during a coffee date can make or break your bond, so you might want to consider pocketing your phone before it’s too late.
Smith says that using your phone frequently during date number one is an absolute no-no. “Using your phone like a security blanket is a surefire way to ensure there is no second date,” she says. “Only deploy this blocking tactic if you can think of no other way to end the date early.” Which, of course, would mean that you aren’t interested in your date, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
If that isn’t the case and you actually are into him or her, Smith suggests turning your phone off and only checking it if you happen to be in the bathroom. That way, you won’t send the message that you’re uninterested in the conversation and would rather play around on Snapchat.
A word of warning, though: if you really must check your phone, don’t make frequent, furtive trips to the bathroom to do it. Limit to one time or a maximum of two times if you’re out for a long time together. Why? “A friend of mine recently went on a date where he was convinced she had a bladder infection. She kept going to the restroom to check her phone,” Smith says. “Needless to say, a second date will not occur.”
So keep your text convos to a minimum, be in the moment and give your date your undivided attention!
4. Bringing up an ex
Depending on how recently you got out of your last relationship—or fling, FWB situation or the like—you might still be in the stage where everything feels like it relates to your ex. Oh, The Smiths are playing on the radio? Your ex loved them. They serve biscotti at this café? Your ex’s guilty pleasure. As tempted as you might be to mention these things out loud—or even just to clear the air by explaining previous relationships, so your newest date knows where you’re at emotionally—you should resist the urge as best as you can. Why? Because, “I love imagining my date hooking up with someone else,” said no one ever. That’s why ex talk is on the list of the six things you should never say to your crush.
Brian says you definitely don’t want to plant that image in your date’s head. “You don’t want to hear about their previous stuff right away,” he confirms. “At least give it some time until you both feel comfortable with each other, then he can hear about it. Talking about an ex right away gives the inclination that you’re still thinking about them somewhat, and that’s not good.”
Smith agrees. “No need to discuss your dating resume on the first date,” she says. “This is your chance to learn more about the other person and show him [or her] your best first impression.”
Strapped for conversation? Smith suggests brainstorming talking points before the date: hobbies, interests, vacations, travel, volunteer work, favorite classes, books, movies, TV, music, current events, etc. Needless to say, your ex and your past love life shouldn’t make the conversation cut.
5. Asking for too much
It’s not a secret: you’re a princess, and you should be treated like one. Every collegiette deserves a knight or maiden in shining armor—and can be one for someone special themselves—but that doesn’t mean you should expect your date to roll out the red carpet for you right away. For example, most college guys save dinners at fancy restaurants for birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions, so assuming that you two will start off by hitting these upscale spots before you even begin a relationship is asking a lot (and probably won’t please your date).
“If she wants to go somewhere really fancy or if she’s really bossy, she would seem way too high maintenance,” says Garrett*, a senior at Reed College. In this case, Garrett says a date’s high-maintenance behavior would be a deal-breaker, and he would kiss any plans for their second date goodbye. It’s hard to know what a guy expects of a first date, but you should give your date the chance to choose your date activity.
According to Smith, Dating 101 states that the person who does the asking does the paying, which means you’re probably in the clear when it comes to the bill if you weren’t the one who asked for the outing. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your wallet on hand and still offer, of course, but you can safely assume that he or she is treating you.)
However, Smith says that if your date is doing the asking, he or she should have an idea of the date activity, so you shouldn’t ask to do something crazy expensive or overly formal.
Smith adds, “Back to Gracious Guest 101, when you are the guest and the host asks about your preference, either suggest a moderately priced activity or give three options with a low/medium/high price tag to let him [or her] decide.”
If you demand an evening at a five-star restaurant because that feels romantic to you, you might send him the vibe that you’re trying to use him or her, or that he or she has to meet specific (and pricey) expectations to be with you. Plus, Smith says that since first dates are pressure-filled enough, it’s better to choose an activity (like bowling, a movie or a walk in the park) than a formal meal, where the date can feel more like a job interview. If you do end up on a bona fide dinner date, don’t pick the most expensive item on the menu—you don’t want to pressure your date into covering something he or she might not even be able to afford on his or her college budget, and automatically assuming your date is willing and able to pay for your filet mignon will only make him or her question your character.
We’re all susceptible to first-date jitters; that’s part of the reason why first dates are so fun (and slightly scary, but in a thrilling, I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing kind of way that we can’t help but love)! While that first date should be about you figuring out if your date is relationship material or not, you should also keep in mind that he or she is definitely sizing you up, too. These tips will take away the risk of any pesky deal-breaking behavior, leaving you free to flirt your way to a second date. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, at least you’ll know it wasn’t because of you!
*Names have been changed.