I honestly don’t want to scare or pester you, but there is some pre-advice I need to give you, before we jump into the actual first date advice. Skip it at your own risk, it is possibly the most essential part of this article. And in short, it is to heal first.
Make sure you acknowledge your pain and heal it, before jumping back into dating. You know how they say ‘single and ready to mingle’?
Well, you might not immediately be ready for dating and that is perfectly normal. Whether it was a short but sweet fling or a relationship that lasted years, breakups are emotional trauma that can affect so many aspects of your life apart from dating.
In fact, most researchers in the field of neuroscience and psychology agree that emotional distress leads to both physiological and psychological response. Without getting too science-y, what happens in your body after a traumatic event is the sympathetic nervous system takes over, meaning that you are in a sort of survival mode. Sometimes, your body might have trouble switching back to the rest-and-digest state that the parasympathetic nervous system provides. Since both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nerves are a part of your autonomic nervous system, you do not really have any direct control over them. However, the physical symptoms can be very real due to the increased level of stress hormones. High blood pressure, high blood sugar and even digestive problems.
What is more, purely emotional symptoms such as behaviours of avoidance, aggression, depression, feelings of helplessness etc. can influence your day-to-day life just as much. The trouble is, we rarely give ourselves permission to acknowledge and work on those issues. Breakups are quite common. You might find yourself thinking ‘It’s not like I went to war, how bad can I be hurt?’. Truth of the matter is, emotional suffering of any sort is valid and you deserve to first feel good about yourself. If you are looking for strategies on that I can recommend our article on how to treat yourself post-separation.
If you are looking for further insight on the topic of the symptoms that might arise after emotional distress, check out Rhonda Freeman’s article on the Neurobiology of Breakups over at Psychology Today and Jacquelyn Cafasso’s overview of psychological trauma responses at Healthline.
Ok, so you feel sufficiently ready to jump back into dating and plus, that hottie just asked you out. Now what? Needless to say, first dates are usually uncomfortable and somewhat awkward, but they can be even more so post-breakup. So what you need to do is protect yourself – your heart and your dignity before even thinking about what to wear.
Which brings me to tip 2:
Yes, I understand how you might dream of a knight in shining armour sweeping you off your feet and into a life that finally feels like a Katherine Heigl movie. Hold your horses, Cinderella! Have those expectations ever lead to anything good for you? I mean, wake up, in the real world you would have to be your own prince charming. It’s the tiny print of that independent woman ideal that so many generations fought for.
And I am not saying romance is bad, I’m saying having unrealistic ideas of what a perfect relationship is is doing nobody any favours and without exception leads to disappointment. Because, let’s face it, if you were a true damsel in distress you would have died from a broken heart (it is a real thing, read up here).
But you did survive, and you need no over-the-top romantic gestures to have a good time and a healthy new beginning in dating. So at all costs avoid fantasizing, over-analyzing and just generally expecting more than is realistically possible. One surprising benefit of that is if he does do something incredibly sweet, you will enjoy it much more.
Now that we have that clear, feel free to spend some time picking an outfit and doing your hair and makeup. However…
One thing that people tell you to generally mind when preparing for a first date is not to spend too much time on it. The reason, of course, is that investing these hours from the very very beginning can get you a little too excited and possibly disappointed if the date turns out to be crap. It’s not bad advice per-say, but in post-breakup dating it might do you more good to do exactly the opposite, as long as you keep minding and managing your expectations successfully.
You can use the primping and preening as a pamper ritual and that will reap you the benefits of spending time on yourself (for yourself) as well as get you looking smoking hot for that rendezvous. So, if you are someone who enjoys makeup, fashion and impossibly cute hairdos, go ahead and spend as much time as you want on preparation. Just and FYI though, I’m putting impossibly cute as a synonym of pretty and certainly not to suggest the actual cuteness of pigtails or pink bows that will get you looking like either a 4-year old or a porn star (and most likely the second one, especially with makeup).
OK now, fancy lady, time for your fun time with the hottie. Here is some advice on actually keeping it fun and not ending up in a scene where he wipes your tears over your ex, while swearing that he will never take you out again (which is fairly clichéd and adorable in romantic comedies, but truly uncomfortable in real life).
As Celeste Headlee wisely noted in her awesome TED-talk you don’t need to follow any advice on how to prove your interest, if you are actually interested (by the way, it is a cool talk, check it out sometime).
Therefore, do try to make the conversation about the other, but do not go over the top with questions and topics you do not really care about, because that will bore you and your boredom will show. You want to go to that date to spend some fun time with a cool person while getting to know them in the process. Truly, this is all that a first date is about. No expectations, no obligations, nothing like that.
Which means that in initiating conversation fun and getting to know him should go hand in hand (have you not understood how important those key words are by the fact that I repeated them trice in this paragraph?). In front of you, is an awesome human being with a lot of fascinating stuff to tell. But, if you don’t care about his job as a ghostwriter for a star comedian, even though it is a topic with a lot of potential, don’t ask about it. Ask about his opinion on the current political climate, if that is more your jazz. And that leads me to tip number 5:
Just a little TMI here, I asked my current boyfriend about his religious views on a first date, and I like to think that it worked out pretty great.
Or at least, there was no damage done. So go ahead, talk about politics, religion, money, sex and whatever other taboo topic you can think of. Simply try to handle it with grace. Which is a fancy way to say, be considerate and casual, and keep it light. You do not need to censure yourselves if you want to speak of something that is supposedly ‘a topic not suited for polite society’ or any other phrase your grandma might use.
What you do need to be aware of , however, is once again your expectations. Don’t make it about investigating if there are any deal-breakers. In fact, forget about the concept of deal-breaker as a whole. You can deeply disagree with somebody on a certain thing (whether it is pizza or capitalism) and still have a wonderful, satisfying relationship with them. A word of warning though, talking about your past lover is not a no-no, but consider avoiding it, since you probably still can’t handle it without showing resentment, over sharing or anything else that might scare your date off.
And now, our last, but most definitely not least piece of advice:
Yes, I know you will break this one as soon as your date arrives at your door. It’s only natural that you do. After all, you were with that ex of yours for a while, you did get used to what he was like and projecting how your saw him onto your new potential boo is inevitable. But please, be aware and wary of that.
If he is nothing like your ex (that you though would be the man you would marry and had all the qualities you look for) it is fine. If he seems a little too much like him – also perfectly ok. Because, even though it might not feel like it, the whole comparison thing is just in your head. That new person you are going out with is a separate individual, a person worth knowing, with his own strengths, quirks and flaws that deserve to be explored. Give him and yourself a chance to do just that, to explore, not in context of older experiences, but with the joy and curiosity a new one brings about.
Good luck and have fun getting back out there after a breakup!
PS: Maybe this article has made you realize none of the dating after a breakup appeals to you, and you want him back. If so, you need to know the secrets on how to do it.
9 Ways How to Get Revenge on Your Ex