Real talk: Dating is sometimes harder than it should be. After countless dinners and drinks, it can be tempting to throw in the towel and resign to nights of forever watching Netflix alone in your bed. But when dating is done right, it can be amazing, and those great dates often lead to great relationships. So consider this your dating playbook, with all the information you need to survive the first date and make sure there’s a second one.
GO BEYOND THE BAR SCENE
Sure, you might meet the love of your life while sipping gin and tonics, but wouldn’t it be so much cooler to say you met at a mud run? You never know where you’re going to meet the next person you date, so if you’re only looking in one spot (like that bar where you’re a regular) then you’re missing out on tons of possible partners. We know plenty of couples who have met while standing in line at the grocery store, a Target parking lot, even a naked reality show. The takeaway? Love can crop up anywhere, so get out there and keep your eyes open.
LET YOUR FRIENDS SET YOU UP
No one loves you quite like your friends do, so let them set you up with someone that they can vouch for. “It’s better for single people to meet through friends because there’s a familiarity and comfort that goes with that,” says behavioral scientist Christie Hartman, Ph.D. “A friend setting you up means the guy is ‘vetted’ to some extent.” So let them play matchmaker—but first, lay down some rules. Make it clear ahead of time that the way the date goes is totally not a reflection on your friend, or you, or the guy. Hey, sometimes chemistry is there, and sometimes it isn’t. So unless your friend is Patti Stanger, remind her that it’s no one’s fault if this goes horribly wrong. (But if it goes totally right, you should probably buy her a drink).
CONSIDER DATING YOUR FRIENDS
The term “friend zone” should totally be banished—in part, because your friends can sometimes make the best dates. Think about it: Someone you’re already friends with is likely to have similar values, to know your background and your family, and to make you feel ultra comfortable with them. Plus, friendship is the foundation for any relationship, so having that bond established can be key, says relationship expert Jane Greer, Ph.D., author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.
FOCUS ON FIRST IMPRESSIONS
First dates can be overwhelming, so streamline your focus into making the first few moments count. It takes only 12 minutes for you to decide if you’re interested in the other person (and for them to decide if they dig you) so bring your A-game the second you arrive. To make a stellar first impression, make eye contact, smile, and focus on what he’s saying, according to Susan RoAne, author of How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Connections—In Person and Online. And don’t forget to check in with yourself, too! You might be so focused on making a flawless first impression that you forget to ask yourself if you’re even into the other person.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED? TRY, TRY AGAIN
We heard about a woman who committed to going on 100 dates this summer as a way of learning more about herself, and what she wants in a partner. While we don’t think you necessarily need to do a dating marathon, it’s often important to just get out there—especially if you feel like you’re in a rut. So when your date goes awry, or that relationship turns out to be a dud, don’t give up. Your next amazing date might be right around the corner.
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