Teaspoon of Happy First Date Sarah May Bates

Image via middlezonemusings.com

Etiquette for the Newly Single:

Times have changed and so have the politics of love and relationships. What hasn’t changed all that much is the etiquette of (an adult) first date.  After becoming single for the first time in a very long time, I realized I was very out of the loop on what was socially accepted or expected on a first date. I couldn’t get a straight answer from anywhere on the internet or in any magazine, so what I did was ask the most happily committed and emotionally healthy friends I have. This is what they told me and it has helped me immensely. I hope it helps you, too!

The number one rule and the most important one of all is never have sex on the first date. Many would not agree with this based on sexual equality and modern medicine, but the reason for this rule is sex is powerful. It brings in a lot of emotions and relationship power politics and it makes something new and uncharted much more high-stakes. It’s also much better when you know, like and trust a person because it comes from a much more loving place. Yes, everyone is different and if some feel this rule is not right for them there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re not sure, then err on the side of caution. There’s something valuable that you give away when you decide to have sex. It’s a part of you that should be coveted and protected. Don’t treat it lightly.

Rule number two: Always wear your “Assessment Hat”, a term coined by my friend, Sharon. The assessment hat is an imaginary red hat that reminds you that you are deciding whether or not you like someone  taking in information objectively and not trying to interpret it. Meeting a new person will tell you a lot in the first date as long as you are paying attention and taking mental notes about whether or not you want to waste your time with this person. The assessment hat is great because as long as you have it on, you will not abandon what is rational. It will keep you in the facts instead of in an obsessive, emotional place based on the other person’s thoughts or actions.

While you wear your assessment hat, tally two lists. One with good qualities and one with things that worry you. The good list might have things like, “Good listener” or “Generous”.  The negative list might include things like, “Inconsistent” or “Doesn’t call when they say they will”. Keep that list to the facts and observations – no interpretations.  These lists will help you to figure out the way you feel about the other person and not get caught up in whether or not this person likes you. If they are not a good match, you will be able to connect to the right instincts and act on them. I think a lot of us get almost addicted to someone to the point where we will tolerate things that make us feel terrible. Just remember you are wearing your hat! Your decision will become clear over time.

Rule number three:  Watch for and listen to any red flags. There are some very clear warnings that will present themselves. The most important thing to do is pay attention and don’t diminish them. Things to ask yourself while on your date: Is the other person courteous? Do they ask you questions or do they dominate the conversation? Are they scoping out other people in the restaurant? Are they kind? Respectful? Any future problems will make themselves apparent, you just have to be sure and watch with a discerning and objective eye.

Rule number four: This is a bit of advice from my strategist friends who research things for a living. The average amount of dates that a person goes on before having sex is five, which they said was perhaps an exaggeration due to the sample taken, but that is still a good amount of time spent before taking that step. Another fact they called out is that the longer a person has to wait for something, the more they value it. In this case, that thing is you. Value yourself highly, make a person wait the appropriate amount of time and you will give something potentially great the best chance possible. (My friends recco’d a month or 6 dates, whichever comes first. I think that’s a good range but it will vary per each individual.) Your body should be a gift given only to the most worthy recipient. Don’t give it away to just anyone.

I hope this helps you figure out a first date policy that is right for you. I was very lost and wanted to hear some solid numbers so I thought others might too. As always, would love to hear any other thoughts and ideas on the subject! xox Sarah

*This is a collection of advice that I received from some of my most emotionally healthy friends. However, this is intended to be advice for grownups – if you are younger than 18 you should be talking with your parents and friends about when and if you are ready to become sexually active.

Special thanks to Sharon, Jay, Megan, Reagan and Zooey for your super awesome advice.

Featured image from middlezonemusings.com, The Lady And The Tramp, 1955 © Walt Disney Pictures. 

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  1. Other than looking out for red flags, I don’t agree with any of this. Creating rules about when to have sex and basing your value of yourself on your ability to wait? Making tallies in your head about good qualities and bad qualities? These things are going to do nothing but make your first date experience overwhelmingly stressful. Just relax, do what feels right for you, and remember that every person you date doesn’t have to be the person you marry, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.

  2. I should have read this last week! Thank you so much this advice is truly helpful :)

  3. Super helpful!!!!! Thank-you :) xxx

    Anonymous | 10/11/2011 03:10 am
  4. Thanks :) Always feel SO awkward when the check comes.

  5. Good one. So true.

  6. what about paying the check? who should do it and in what situations? i hate figuring out paying for dinner or drinks on dates.

    • Lol – my friends told me that despite these modern times the guy
      Should pay on the first date, then after that it’s up to you both. I personally think switching off is nicer than splitting – as it makes it into more of a gesture. :)

  7. Love this! Such useful advice!! Advice I’ve been needing to hear for a really long time. Thanks! xx

  8. Wow. This is exactly what I needed. After I put myself on a dating ‘hiatus’ I am finally getting ready to get back into the game. I started talking to a guy and I am hoping he’ll ask me on a date soon or vice versa. I will remember to wear my little red assessment hat regardless. :)

  9. ‘How long before sex’ seems important enough to have made itself into 2 rules. I think you should always be wearing the assessment hat. Just as important or more so when deciding to end a relationship. What is a recovering vegetarian ?

    • So true- it’s a big one no one gives enough weight these days. Hmm recovering vegetarian is my joke about loving eating meat again (after a 14 year break) though it’s a slow process of adding in a little bit at a time. :)

  10. Good gracious, I could have read this before my first date with a boy on Wednesday too! No worries, though, because I followed all these rules really well. Had myself a second date with the boy on Friday. I’m smitten and he’s head over heels. Lucky me. :)

  11. I could have really used this prior to Wednesday, haha! I went on a first date with this guy I just met. Who am I kidding? This advice is pretty much the exact same advice I give anyone who asks! I love the “assessment hat”, that’s cute. So true too. Absolutely one hundred percent agree with your/your friends advice on sex. It is probably the most powerful expression of love and should not be taken lightly. It has the potential to create life for goodness’ sake!

    As always, your posts are a fave part of my Sunday mornings…right along with coffee on the patio. :-)

    -Kimberly

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