Ask Joey: No rules, no drama
I had a four-hour dinner conversation with a guy but haven’t heard from him since. I have been worrying that I overshared. But seriously, I felt so comfortable with him that, at the time, it felt really normal to talk about personal stuff. I told one of my best friends the details of my date conversation. She thinks I definitely scared my date off. So how much is too much to share on a first date?
It depends on your date’s capacity for emotional intimacy, and that varies according to his mood, his willingness to be in a relationship and his interest in you, among other factors. Oh, I know it would be easier if I gave you rules that guaranteed results. But that would make me a dating fundamentalist, and I’m not willing to swing that far to the right. I can offer general guidelines, if you promise to break them when your intuition inspires you to do so. Until then, consider the following:
1. Don’t dump your drama. When a first date becomes a therapy session, the romantic connection takes a backseat. You feel great unloading problems as your date listens, nods and mutters a few consoling words. You feel so much better, and you don’t notice how much he has pulled away emotionally. Well, of course he has. You just met, and now the connection is lopsided. Hey, save your troubles for a paid session with a counselor. Or pour them into a journal before the date. First-date conversation should flow back and forth with ease. If you’re preoccupied with problems, it’s difficult to determine if you have potential as a couple.
2. Wear your passion on your sleeve. Most of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to wear on a date to highlight our best features and downplay our least favorite. Don’t be attire-centric; rather, spotlight your enthusiasm, joy and can’t-live-without-it interests. Passion is sexy, a magnet that fascinates and attracts others. Show your date what you are so into (French films, poetry by Hafiz, wakeboarding, being a 12-step sponsor or whatever!) through your enthusiasm, stories and lessons learned.
3. Leave your ex on the porch at home. Yeah, that means don’t talk about your previous relationship and why it’s over, unless your date asks. If the topic pops up, keep your answer short, clear and direct. Don’t be secretive. If you have healed from the past, talking about it is easy. But if talking about your ex-partner moves you to anger, tears or getting stupid-drunk, stop dating. See a psychotherapist. Fast.
4. Don’t forget—it’s only date No. 1. Stop yourself from announcing how many children you want or that you wish you were already partnered like all of your friends. Instead, share those dreams with someone who knows you well enough to invest in your dreams. If you give your date a chance, you can discover whether he or she will become that person.
5. If you’re a bag of nerves, say so. Being transparent about how nerve-wracking it can be to meet a new person is charming. Honesty about who you are is still the best way to navigate life.
It’s helpful to remind yourself that dating is a path of self-knowledge. Observe yourself on outings. Notice your interior life, the thoughts and emotions that show up inside as you experience being with another person. The gift of living this way is that you get to know yourself better. Plus, awareness of your true self and of what you really need in a partner becomes crystal clear. In the meantime, enjoy the journey!