I remember well the first date jitters I had when I started seriously dating about 8 years ago.
In my late 50’s, I was looking for a serious long-term relationship
I can still feel how scared I was then.
My head was filled with crazy notions about the men I might be dating. I assumed that the vast majority of the men on dating sites were losers of some kind . . . scammers, ghosters, fleecers and otherwise nefarious and dangerous people.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I didn’t learn that for several months.
In the beginning, first dates were agony.
My expectations were high and unrealistic. The pressure was pretty intense.
Over time, my thinking leveled out, and I came to enjoy most of those first dates . . . and, believe me, there were plenty of them.
Let’s get into some ways that helped me calm my first date jitters.
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9 Ways To Calm Your First Date Jitters
To Minimize First Date Jitters, Know What To Expect
If you haven’t had a first date in a long time, or if you’ve been dating but struggling with them, reminding yourself what to expect can help.
Dating expert Ken Solin laid out 8 things you can expect to feel on first dates:
Expect to be on edge
Being nervous comes with the territory. You’re probably going into every first date hoping this is “the one”, so naturally you’re anxious and want to come off well.
“Ask questions about the issues that matter most to you. And listen — carefully — to the answers.”
Expect to feel 13 again
No matter that you’re over 60, a first date can propel you right back to 7th grade, when you may have had your first date ever.
“If similar symptoms beset you on a first date, don’t panic — take them as a positive sign!”
Expect to trust first impressions
You can pick up quite a bit on someone from just one date . . . if you’re paying attention.
“Trust your instincts; they’ll tell you, on the spot, whether the other person lights you up or not.”
On the other hand, expect you may need to be patient
One way we’re different as daters now, than when we were in 7th grade: we’re less impulsive. We have years of life experience to draw from.
“We understand what works for us and what doesn’t. We believe that it’s still possible to find a fulfilling relationship — as long as we’re willing to wait for the right person to come along.”
Expect the truth
No matter how much you may feel she or he is “the one”, stick with your dating game plan and deal breakers.
“Maintain eye contact — and make it clear that you expect the truth, not a sanitized version of it.”
If your date patronizes or disrespects you in any way, thank them for the date and scram.
“A lack of respect is unacceptable under any circumstances. But it’s especially intolerable on a first encounter, because it’s unlikely to improve with time.”
Expect a close fit
“Opposites attract” is a risky notion to embrace when you’re dating. Instead, look for someone who shares many of your interests and values. Don’t worry that someone with similar qualities will also have the same faults you do.
“Au contraire: Someone who mirrors your personality, tastes and temperament is likelier to be your soul mate than your evil twin.”
Expect to go out of your mind
Rely on your brain to assess whether someone is right for you. But at some point, let your heart kick in to take you on the right path.
“Trust what that second organ is telling you; your feelings are your ultimate truth.”
9 Ways To Calm Your First Date Jitters
Here are some of the things I learned that can help you diminish the negativity:
1. Make all first dates daytime coffee dates.
Sometimes you’ll connect with someone who seems so right that you want the first date to be a romantic dinner. Resist that urge.
I fell prey to this kind of thinking, and was sometimes pressured by the man to agree to a dinner date. Every time I had a first date that included a meal (either lunch or dinner), I regretted it.
For one thing, finances are probably an issue. Having lots of first dates means spending a fair amount of dough that you may not be able to afford, assuming you split things. Even if the man pays, it’s not fair that they’re burdened with a sizeable tab so frequently.
For another thing, with a coffee date you’re not compelled to stay any amount of time (if it’s not going well). . . or you can stay for several hours (if things are humming).
As you’ll see below, daytime coffee dates are inherently safer.
2. Get worries about your safety out of the picture.
If you’re worried about your safety, you’ll almost certainly have first date jitters. Here are some things to do to alleviate your concerns.
Remember, this person is a stranger to you.
Women shouldn’t get into a man’s car or go to his house on the first date.
As noted above, agree on a place to meet for coffee. The woman should choose the place to meet. She should be familiar with the place, know where the exits are, and make sure parking (or ride) is close by and safe.
If you meet for an evening date, you may find yourself walking to your car or ride in the dark, in a lonely area. You don’t want to rely on this man you’ve just met to escort you in the dark.
Let a friend or friends know about the date. Call one of them after the date to let them know you’re okay.
No matter how great things are going, and how attracted you are to your date, don’t have sex on the first date. You’ll never go wrong waiting. But you can easily go wrong jumping into the sack too soon.
3. Tell yourself, “This is just an hour or so of my time. No big deal”.
Keep this in your head: First dates are an opportunity to get to know another human being a little better.
Have zero expectations. Just sit back, relax and try to enjoy it.
I often found that even if I determined quickly that this guy was all wrong for me, we could usually find things to talk about, and make it an enjoyable hour or so.
Beware of dates who seem to be smitten with you, and pressure you to go to another location . . . especially a place you’re not familiar with . . . or to get into their car.
Also, beware of the “charmer”. He/she may be an extreme narcissist who will bring you nothing but trouble.
4. Bring questions to ask and topics to discuss . . . but keep it light.
One of the things that causes many people to have first date jitters is anxiety about what you’ll talk about.
I had one very interesting date with a man who was obviously nervous. At this point, I had gone on a lot of first dates, and was comfortable with them.
He had prepared some questions to ask me.
That’s fine. In fact, that was smart.
But he had typed up his long list of questions, brought them with him, and kept the sheet with questions on the table as we spoke.
To top it off, we were having a perfectly lovely, easygoing conversation, but he pulled out his sheet anyway. This wasn’t a smart approach. Suddenly everything felt formal, especially since his questions were ones typically used in a job interview, like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “What’s your biggest weakness?”
The better way to do this, is to just jot down at home a handful of questions and topics that will spark conversation. Bring them with you to review just before you go into the date, but don’t take your list out during the date.
And keep things light. A first date is not the time to tackle serious topics like whether you ultimately want to get married, or what religion you are.
Maybe above all else, don’t get into a conversation about your exes, and how badly they treated you.
Instead, ask things like this on a first date:
- What’s your favorite movie, or favorite kind of movie?
- What was the first movie you remember seeing?
- What kind of music do you like?
- What was the first record you ever bought?
- What was your favorite vacation?
- When you have a free day, what do you most like doing?
You can learn a lot about people by what their interests are. You can also read personality cues about them.
5. Give yourself a pep talk before the date.
Tell yourself that you’re going to have a pleasant conversation with this person and then do your best to make that happen. You can’t control what your date does, but you can usually make the best of any first date.
A Refinery29 article suggest that you “shake it out”:
“If you have pre-date jitters, the best way to get rid of them is to move your body. There’s no better ritual before a date than movement, whether it’s an intense workout class to relieve your anxiety, or dancing in your apartment to your favorite music to remember that you actually kind of like yourself and your life — any kind of movement will help.”
The article advises that you do a bit of yoga, which combines the benefits of movement and meditation with deep breathing and whole-body stretches.
Remember that your date is probably nervous too. Having empathy for them may help distract you from your own nervousness.
6. If things don’t go well on a first date, it’s okay.
More often than not, you’ll have many first-and-only dates. Accept that likely fact. Try not to be discouraged if you have a string of them.
A first date that does not go well is NOT a failed date.
Every first date adds to the experience you gain, and helps you become a better picker for ensuing dates. Dating gets better with experience, if you’ll learn as you go along.
If you find yourself wanting to run because your date is a jerk or a creep, it’s okay to end it early. Have a pat, polite phrase at-the-ready that you’re comfortable with, like “I don’t think this is going well, so I’m going to leave now.”
Echoing what I said in #1 above, this is another big reason to just meet for coffee, and not a longer date with a meal. You can easily cut things short, if need be.
7. Don’t drink before or during a first date.
I suppose this is a controversial stance. Maybe you can’t face first dates without bolstering yourself with some alcohol.
But, by it’s very nature, alcohol impairs thinking. A first date is about assessment and moving forward (perhaps), but with caution.
Even having one drink can impair judgement, and cause you to say and do things you’ll regret.
Play it safe and wait until the date is over to have a drink.
Meeting at a coffee shop – or somewhere that doesn’t serve alcohol, like Panera – should preclude having alcohol during the date.
8. Put a genuine, engaging smile on your face.
As you’re about to enter the space and meet your date for the first time, take a deep, slow breath and smile broadly.
I can’t tell you how often my first dates did NOT do this and it set a negative tone for the entire date.
I always practiced this strategy on first dates and I could see how much it uplifted my date. They’re often nervous and anxious about these things too.
Having a smile on your face has a way of lifting you up too. And for those of us worried about having an aging face, a smile gives you an instant, natural facelift.
9. Make your first dates video dates.
Having a virtual date with someone while you’re alone, in the comfort of your own home can make first dates a breeze.
These days, many people our age are using video dating apps like eharmony, our readers’ favorite online dating site. They became popular when Covid set in, but they can be extremely useful any time.
Have one or two dates with them first via video and, if things go well, follow up with an in-person coffee date, as I mentioned in #1 above.
If you found your date through a dating app, you can use their video chat feature, which provides built-in security that you may not have if you use an off-site video chat platform.
Read all about video dating in Cosmo’s article, Video Dating – How to Get Started.