10 Things Not to Do On a First Date (and Why They Turn Us Off)

We go into the first date experience full of fear and excitement. Excited that maybe this person we’re about to meet is the “one,” or at least one who we’ll want to spend our free time with. And afraid that we’ll do or say something that’ll scare the other person away. I came up with this list of the top 10 things you shouldn’t do on a first date to help you out the next time a potential someone special comes along.

There is no doubt that sometimes a person’s behavior rubs us the wrong way. Our instinctual reaction is often the result of thousands of years of evolution. Our unconscious mind is protecting us from people who aren’t good fits. So how do you make sure you’re not accidentally doing something that’s rubbing your date the wrong way?

  1. Don’t assume your date is paying

If the bill comes and you don’t reach for your wallet, it sends up red flags. Even if your date planned on, and is happy to, pay the whole tab, he or she doesn’t want to feel taken advantage of. Not offering to at least pay your half of the bill is a sign of selfishness.

  1. Don’t stiff the waiter

Here is the moment to show how generous you are. Giving a healthy-sized tip shows your date just how much you appreciate the hard work of others. Tipping is also a great opportunity to help with the cost of the date even if your date picked up the bill. Offer to pay the tip!

  1. Don’t be rude to the waitress

In my work as a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, one of my specialties is anger management. The way someone treats a waiter or waitress reveals a lot about his or her issues with anger. If you’re rude to the waitress, your date will assume that someday you might be rude to his or her family or friends.

  1. Don’t shovel food into your mouth

Even if you usually enjoy microwaved burritos in front of your TV at dinnertime, now is the time to sit up straight, put your napkin on your lap, use your knife and fork, and chew with your mouth closed. You want your date to see you as someone polite and sanitary. Not someone who should be sniffing out truffles in the woods.

  1. Don’t forget to listen

Many of us talk a lot when we’re nervous. We can spend an hour or two with someone and come away not knowing anything new about the person. A first date isn’t just an opportunity for you to impress someone; it’s an opportunity for you to decide whether you want two, three, or twenty more dates. You won’t discover that unless you listen.

  1. Don’t get ahead of yourself

Yes, you may have a running dialogue in your head like, “but is he looking to get married?” or “but does she want kids?” Please, resist the urge to ask your date what he or she sees five to ten years down the road. It’s fine to ask these things early in a relationship, especially if you’ve got a clear idea of what you see in your future. But asking on a first date is a sign of desperation. All you have to decide on the first date is whether you want a second date.

  1. Don’t complain about your life

No matter how much you hate your job or your current neighbors or your sister’s new boyfriend, don’t spend your first date complaining about it. Negativity and bitterness are huge turn-offs.

  1. Don’t brag about your life

This is the flipside to number 7. If you go on about how amazing your life is, your date will assume that you’re either: A) lying — because no one’s life is perfect forever, or B) shallow and privileged — and lacking the resilience you’ll need to deal with life’s ups and downs.

  1. Don’t try to get to first base

Some people get physical right away, but lunging at someone who’s just not that into you is a surefire way to get your phone number blocked or your face slapped. Try to read your date’s body language. If your date stands close to you with his or her body squared to yours, looks up or down at you and makes eye contact, lean in a little and see if your date leans in, too. If not, say goodnight the old-fashioned way: with a handshake, or a brief hug.

  1.  Don’t misread the signals and don’t play games

If you try to make plans for a second dinner or a movie night and suddenly your date’s calendar is full, it’s a sign that he or she just isn’t into you. When you like someone, you make time. If your date asks you the same question, don’t play games. If you’re interested, make plans. If you’re not, explain that you’re just not feeling the match and wish them luck.

Remember, a first date is all about testing the other person out and discovering shared interests. So while you don’t want to do one of the 10 things above, you do want to be yourself. Don’t be a fake version of you because you won’t be able to keep up the ruse for long. You want someone to get to know, and fall in love with, the real you.