Jilt the jitters: 10 ways to beat first date nerves
‘How will I ever get together with someone, HopefulGirl?’ wailed my friend. ‘Last time I accepted a date, I was so nervous, I cancelled at the last minute!’
Many of us struggle with first date nerves, especially if we haven’t been on one for some time. When I joined the Christian singles scene after the end of a long-term engagement, I hadn’t been on a first date for nearly a decade. I couldn’t even remember how the whole dating thing worked, and I was pretty sure the rules had changed since I was last single.
So I was a bundle of nerves as I trudged off for my first meeting with a man from a dating website. It turned out the poor chap was even more anxious than me. He spent most of the date avoiding catching my eye and staring grimly at the table. Let me tell you, after an hour of grinning at someone who doesn’t smile back, you start to feel like an idiot.
However, as first meetings became a regular thing, I became pretty blasé about them – although, of course, there was always that spark of hope that I might hit the jackpot this time.
The classic advice for dealing with nerves in a social situation is to imagine the other person naked. In the case of two Christians on a date, I’d be hard pushed to think of worse advice! Fortunately, there are lots of other ways to ease the edginess without knocking back the Valium. Here are my top ten tips for jilting the jitters…
1. Go on as many dates as possible. Whether you encounter each other online, at a singles party or at church, it’s a good policy to suggest – and agree to – meeting up with anyone who has the slightest potential. Many people have discovered a hidden gem this way and, as a bonus, the more dates you go on, the less scary they become. This is partly because you just get used to them, and partly because you invest less hope and expectation in each one. Meeting up quickly also helps.
2. Keep first meetings short and sweet. I usually arranged to meet someone for an hour. That way, if it was horribly awkward, I knew I only had to suffer through 60 minutes before escaping – something I was sometimes grateful for! Have a clear itinerary and, if possible, choose a venue you’re familiar with – knowing what to expect will give you confidence.
3. Wear something you know makes you feel comfortable, attractive and confident. A first date is not the time to discover your gorgeous new top rides up embarrassingly or those fresh-out-of-the-box shoes give you blisters.
4. Stay safe. If you feel at all vulnerable, you won’t be able to relax, so follow all the usual safety rules. You can read my advice for dating without danger here.
5. Pray! Ask God to help you relax enough to enjoy the experience and assess your companion clearly. Desperate mid-date prayers in the loo are quite normal (at least, I hope they are).
6. Ask lots of questions to keep the conversation flowing. If you’re worried about awkward silences, take a list of conversation starters to refer to. Do it subtly, though – you don’t want them to feel like they’ve been cornered by a market researcher (unless, of course, you are a market researcher).
7. Fake it until you make it. Research shows that feelings follow actions, not the other way around. So if you smile more and ‘act’ confident, you’ll start to feel it.
8. Realise your date may be nervous too. If you focus on putting them at their ease, you’ll find your own anxiety naturally starts to evaporate.
9. Don’t resort to Dutch courage. Knock back one drink too many and, at best, you may say something you’ll regret; at worst, you’ll make yourself vulnerable to danger. One tipple may help to relax you, but after that, stick to soft drinks and keep a clear head.
10. Be honest. If you’re unsure of the etiquette of the situation, say so. If you come out with something daft, laugh at yourself. It takes the pressure off and will only make you more endearing to your date.
Do you struggle with first date nerves? Share your top tips for easing the tension in the comments section below.