If you’ve ever used the Internet, you’ll have no doubt come across at least one of the many dating advice do’s-and-don’ts “listicles” polluting outlets such as Salon, Buzzfeed, or Thought Catalog. Especially popular among these sites are articles centered on the first date and the kinds of conversation topics you should probably avoid. Inevitably, each will offer a litany of low-brow, heard-it-all-before advice on how you ought to present yourself to your prospective lovers in order to achieve success with them. Unfortunately, what exactly is meant by the word “success” is never very clear. Let me be very clear about what I mean by “success” (and I grant that this definition might not be exactly what you or what others consider success when it comes to dating): finding a partner that shares your goals and ambitions (what those goals are, exactly, is not all that important). Achieving such success is contingent upon how honest you are from the beginning. With that in mind, here are the top five worst pieces of first date advice you’ll often hear on the Internet, and why you should absolutely not listen to them. Note: While I’ve written this primarily from the perspective of straight men, the same principles apply regardless of gender or sexual preference.
“Don’t talk about your exes.”
Imagine going up to a woman and asking her to potentially start a business with you. She agrees, so you ask her about her previous business partners, and she refuses to tell you, citing that she doesn’t really care to talk about her previous experiences in the business world. Would you feel optimistic about this partnership? Neither would I. The same rule applies in the dating world. Anybody who isn’t willing to talk about their past relationships is probably hiding something from you. Odds are good she’s had a slew of bad relationships with abusive assholes, and she knows what that says about her judgment of character. If she’s learned from these terrible relationships, she’ll be proud to tell you about it. If, however, she’s had nothing but great relationships, ask why they ended. Conversely, if she doesn’t want to hear about your exes, I suggest you cut things short. The biggest reason your date doesn’t want to hear about your past relationships is insecurity; she doesn’t want to think of you with someone else — and this is just the first date! How do you think this is going to pan out when you start to really get intimate with her? If she’s mature, she’ll accept that you didn’t just materialize into existence right before you two met, and she’ll appreciate the fact that you both have histories, and histories tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of a person. All worth knowing going forward.
“Don’t ask them what they’re looking for.”
It’s hard to imagine a question more integral to a first date than this one. If, for instance, you’re just looking for a casual “no-big-deal” relationship and have no interest in ever having children, while she’s looking to get married within the next two years and pop out a couple kids, the courteous (and honest) thing to do would be to cut the date short. Don’t bank on “changing them”; we all know people who’ve ended up in lousy marriages because of this expectation.
“Don’t talk about things you hate.”
Again, the common advice tells you to hide your opinions: don’t rock the boat, don’t be yourself “too much.” Well, I say f**k that noise – rock that boat long and hard, baby! Let’s say your date waxes poetic about her immense love of rock climbing, camping, and mountain getaways — yet your idea of the perfect vacation is a lazy, booze-soaked weekend on the beaches of Thailand. Don’t brown-nose your way into her heart, especially if the idea of sleeping on the ground and eating beans out of can sounds nauseating to you.
“Don’t tell them how nervous you are.”
Conventional wisdom tells you to avoid making your nerves known there’s nothing your date can do about it. Won’t it just make the date awkward? Yeah, because no one except you — not even your partner — has ever felt nervous… If the idea of your feeling nervous makes your date uncomfortable, you might ask yourself how in touch she is with her humanity. We aren’t robots; we’re people. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving to be unsure around people we don’t know. My bet is she’s nervous too. I’ve found that making this known can be a great icebreaker. Accept your emotions and wear your heart on your sleeve. The key to this one is delivery – the more matter-of-fact you can be about how you feel, the better.
“Don’t talk about sex.”
Hopefully by the time you start seriously dating, you’re older than 12. So I shudder to point out the obvious, but if you’re a handcuffs-and-leather type of guy, but she feels hesitant to try anything beyond the missionary position, my bet is that you two won’t be down with how each of you “get down.” I’m not suggesting sex be the first topic of conversation, but if the conversation is headed there, don’t fight it. That would be awkward. Remember that most conventional “wisdom,” if you want to call it that, around modern dating is designed to have you hide, lie, or self-erase, and usually for some vague notion of being polite or not “coming on too strong.” However, the key to the dating game is polarization: you have to make ’em love you or hate you. As they say, the surest way to please no one is to try to please everyone.
You can find more of Colin’s relationship advice by heading over to his blog at Honestliars.net. They even have a podcast! For more in-depth coverage of this topic, you can check out The Honest Liars Podcast Episode 32.