First dates aren't a favourite of many people. They can be awkward, uncomfortable and even painful at times, as one or both participants sit there wondering what they're doing with this other person.
I've noticed that sometimes, people on a date are miserable but feel compelled to stay until the logical conclusion of the activity, whether it's coffee, a meal or drinks. They don't realize that they're free to end the date at any point if they're not feeling it or if they're not having a good time.
It's common for people to err on the side of being polite, letting the date run its course rather than telling the other person that they'd like to wind things up early.
Often, it's just a matter of not feeling like they have a good enough reason to call it quits. People like to give each other the benefit of the doubt. On a date, they tend to want to see the best in each other, even while they're having a not-so-good time.
Having clarity about a situation is always empowering, and knowing the signs of a bad first date can help you to decide if the date you're on is one that you need to end early. Here are 10 signs that you're on a bad first date:
1. Your date spends more time looking at their phone than talking to you.
This is rude, and shows a lack of emotional intelligence. Don't expect things to improve, moving forward.
2. Your date is being flirtatious with the wait staff.
Imagine how they'll be if you start a relationship.
3. Your date is being nasty or condescending with the wait staff.
It's only a matter of time until they start acting this way with you.
4. Your date has invited you out but then makes a point of complaining about the prices at the bar or restaurant.
Being cheap with money indicates that they lack a generosity of spirit as well.
5. Your date spends most of the time going on about their ex.
They haven't let go of the past, so they aren't ready to start something new.
6. Your date makes it clear to you that their job, kid or hobby is their number one priority.
They're letting you know now that spending time with you is way down on their list.
7. Your date talks and talks about themselves but asks you practically nothing about yourself.
This is someone who's so self-involved that you're unlikely to have your needs met if you take up with them.
8. Your date starts peppering you with personal questions that feel like an interrogation.
This person has no idea of how to gradually create a meaningful connection.
9. Your date brags, name drops or acts like a boor.
They're more interested in impressing you, or eliciting some type of reaction from you, than getting to know you.
10. Your date is creepily over-familiar with you, even though it's the first time you've met.
This person has terrible boundaries, so expect them to disregard yours if you continue to see them.
If you're experiencing any of these things on a first date, and especially if you're experiencing many of them, it's probably best to cut the date short and move on to your next first date.
For more tips on making the most of dating, check out my new book: Back on the Market: The Grown-up Woman's Guide to Great First Dates... and Beyond.
And sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. February is all about love! Take our quiz and find out if your relationship is the real thing.
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"When you show up on time, you send a clear message that you’re responsible and respectful of your date’s time," says etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. For example, if you're planning to meet your date at a restaurant or other venue you're not familiar with, give yourself time to find the location. And remember, go to the bathroom before you get to your date!
Before the big date, a little preparation will help you appear calm, confident and composed, no matter how anxious you actually are. Think of interesting discussion topics, brush up on current events or have general questions in mind about your date's hobbies and interests. "Stay away from controversial topics including politics and religion, until you get to know each other better," she says.
It takes work to make a romantic evening appear incredibly effortless. If you want to guarantee a great first impression, research the location or venue first, Whitmore says. For example, if you plan to take your date to a restaurant, go online and familiarize yourself with the menu and read reviews.
The person who does the inviting is responsible for paying unless you both agree ahead of time to split the check, Whitmore says. If you're at a restaurant, take care of the check away from the table if you want to appear savvy and sophisticated ... or if you want to use a coupon. Plan to give your credit card and any coupons to your server before your date arrives, or excuse yourself during the dessert course to pay.
"You’re more likely to make a great first impression if you appear well-dressed and put together," Whitmore says. When you're choosing an outfit, make sure it's appropriate for the date — if you're going to the park or rock climbing, you should probably avoid heels or dress shoes.
A firm handshake or even a hug is the most appropriate way to greet your date when you first meet, Whitmore says. "Your greeting should be warm, friendly and sincere. Remember to make eye contact and smile." She also adds a handshake that is too firm or too weak may give off a negative impression. Also, if you’re seated when your date arrives, stand up and say, 'hello.' "Standing shows respect for your date and for yourself."
"A good conversation is like a tennis match. It only works when you hit the ball in the other person’s court," Whitmore says. Try to focus more on your date and less on yourself —you’ll impress your date if you show you’re fully engaged, listen, and ask pertinent questions, she adds. This type of attentive listening builds trust and almost always guarantees a second date.
You may be going through a rough patch at work or with your personal life, but your date doesn't need to be burdened by your troubles. "Instead of focusing on your money problems, illnesses, disgusting co-workers or irritating family members (or ex-family members), keep the conversation light and upbeat," Whitmore says.
Distractions, distractions, distractions! Give your date your undivided attention and don’t look around the room at other people or those you think might be more interesting or .. attractive. "Good eye contact conveys that you’re listening and that the other person is important to you," she adds.
No one likes to date a barbarian or someone who chews with their mouth open. "Stay away from messy foods including barbecue ribs, chicken wings, double-decker sandwiches, or foods smothered with sauces," she says. Choose foods that are easy to eat and try to slow down if you tend to eat too quickly.
Remember, this is a first date, don't overdo it. "As the old saying goes, 'loose lips sink ships.' If you drink too much alcohol you could come on too strong or worse, say something you might regret saying the next day," Whitmore adds.
The first date is never a good time to bring up your ex. "It’s best not to talk about the 'one that got away' or those people you chose to let go." Appreciate your date’s uniqueness and don’t compare him or her to other dates.
Put away your phone — talking or texting during the date is a clear indication your mind is somewhere else (unless, of course, you're dealing with an emergency). If you can, keep your phone out of sight, on silent mode, and give your date your undivided attention.
Always ask before taking your date’s photo or even a selfie with them. If your date doesn't mind, remember not to share the photos on social media pages without his or her permission.
If you wind up talking about yourself too much, drinking too much, or saying the wrong thing, rectify the situation and apologize the next day, Whitmore says. "Your date may or may not forgive you, but at least you can feel good knowing that you tried to make amends."
If the date sucks, make sure you have an exit strategy. Sometimes people can get nervous, and other times, your date may not be the person you expected. "Ask a friend to call you at a certain time to see how things are going. Excuse yourself and go to the restroom to take the call. Tell your date that you’ve just received a phone call from a friend who needs your help and you’re going to have to call it a night." Don't ever leave abruptly.
Whether you decide to kiss, hug, shake hands or invite your date to spend the night, it’s best to leave your date with a good impression. Be on your best behaviour and treat the other person the way you would like to be treated — who knows, you may just get a second date.
If you’ve had a good time, thank your date verbally or send them a thank you note or text the next day. "If you have no interest in going on a second date, don’t hint that a second date is a possibility," Whitmore adds.
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marciasirota