How do you prepare for first dates? A four part homework activity.
Something that often comes up with clients before first dates is: how do I remain positive and hopeful when embarking on a new experience while protecting myself from getting hurt or let down if it doesn’t go the way I want?
I think this is part of dating (and going after anything else we want in life) is really hard! But I also want to argue, I think we’re asking the wrong question.
It’s really difficult to remain hopeful and open while also protecting ourselves. Those are two opposite actions. Yes, as you’re getting to know someone it might take some time to trust each other so there is a give and take of what feels safe to share or not share at any point in time. But, when talking about first date preparedness and expectations, it seems that if you’re protecting yourself you aren’t really staying open, and if you’re totally open you aren’t protecting yourself. While there’s a very fine line to toe here, I think there’s also a simper solution to the hope/disappointment rollercoaster: change what you’re focusing on.
When we change what we’re focusing on before a date, we can allow expectations to fade into the background. Yes, there will always be thrills and disappointment present in dating, but in order for our dating lives to remain sustainable, we want those major peaks and valleys to resemble gently rolling hills instead.
There are eight steps I give to my clients to help shift their focus away from the hope/disappointment dichotomy and onto something else before a first date. Here the four I find to be most crucial:
- List three reasons why you’re a catch.
These could be any ideas of why friends like to be around you or what you know you bring on dates. It could be how you are in bed. It could be the way you love or show up in partnership. It could be your infectious laugh or really niche sense of humor. Anything that makes you say, “Yeah! That’s a great trait I have. People are lucky when they get to experience that part of me.” It’s really important to reacquaint ourselves with our own awesomeness before going out with someone new. It takes the pressure off needing this person to like us, and instead reorients our focus to the fact that we’re cool/awesome/worthy/fun regardless of whether this one person thinks so.
2. Ask yourself, “How do I hope to feel around this person?”
This question is one my favorites to ask before connecting with a new person, followed by, “How am I feeling around this person?” while the date is happening, and, “How did I feel around that person?” once the date is over. This allows us to move our focus away what we want the experience of them to be like and onto what the experience of them is actually like.
3. Pick one personal goal or intention to have with you on the date.
Before you start saying, “To get a second date!” or “For this person to like me!” the caveat is this: the intention needs to be entirely within your control. For example- an intention can be “to elevate the questions I ask”, “to lead with my values”, “to take a bathroom break on the date if I’m feeling overwhelmed”, “to initiate the first move if it seems like the person is interested.” This is how we measure personal growth in dating removed from outcomes. This is how we put our journey into our own hands instead of the hands of others. This is how we can see how dating changes us, not just how individual people themselves do.
4. Lastly, go into the date with an iffirmation.
An iffirmation is basically an affirmation (something nice you say to yourself) with a “what if” added to the beginning of it. If you’re finding yourself worried something will go poorly, try to reverse that potential outcome and turn it into an iffirmation. Ex- “What if it’s a blast?” The key here is to allow room for neutral or positive possibility, instead of negative stories we might consciously or unconsciously tell ourselves.
I don’t want us to feel like we’re getting onto some rickety ride and holding on for dear life when we enter the dating scene. Instead, I hope for us all to have experiences that feel less tumultuous. Changing the focus onto what’s our control, how we’re growing, what’s presently happening, and how we’re learning to support ourselves in the process, are the most powerful ways I’ve seen people do that.
So let’s choose the Ferris wheels instead of the roller coasters next time, yeah?