Friday, December 31, 2010

The First Fifteen Minutes of a Second Date

Unlike the extensive pre-planning that goes into a first date, less is needed for a second date. But there’s a lot more at stake, so a bit of forethought will help you and your date relax. You want to solve any potential problems involving the first 15 minutes of your second date before you get underway. The immediate decisions to be made are these:

Question: Do you kiss your date on the cheek when you first meet? On the lips?
Answer: Cheek, okay. Lips, no way.

Question: Do you take your date’s hand? Put your arm around his or her shoulder?
Answer: No hand, no arm, no proprietary touching just yet. Handshakes are okay if you opt for no kiss.

Question: Do you talk about your last date together? Or stick to the present moment?
Answer: Continuing a previous conversation or asking about the status of something you already talked about is great. It’s a real intimacybuilder and lets your date know you were listening.

Question: Do you go to someplace different from the first date?
Answer: Yes. Especially if date number one was a date-ette. The location reflects a lot about you and how you feel about your companion. You don’t have to spend a bundle, but if your goal is getting to know what makes your date tick emotionally and spiritually, a loud concert may not be the best way to go.

Question: Does money matter?
Answer: Money always matters to some degree. But don’t let a lack of the green stuff freak you out or keep you from asking someone out. A walk in the park can be a better second date than dinner at the Ritz. What’s most important is picking a place that lets you feel free to be you and lets your date feel free to get to know you. Just don’t look cheap —make sure you have enough to cover any expected expenses, plus $20 tucked in a secret compartment.

Old patterns, new people

Behavior patterns — acting in a characteristic way — begin to take hold on the second date. If you tend to be a relationship sprinter rather than a longdistance runner, you’ll continue to quickly fall in and out of love with each new person unless you do something to change it. If you typically scare the dickens out of your dates by confessing true love on the way to the car, you’ll probably act it out again unless you do something to change the pattern. Or if you’re so scared of intimacy that it takes you ten years to trust someone, you probably won’t change unless you make a conscious effort to do so. If you don’t already know your dating patterns (everybody has patterns of behavior), I want you to pay attention on the second date so you can uncover your tendencies and know what to watch for in yourself. If you’re already aware of patterns and like what you see in yourself, don’t change a thing. But if you’ve noticed a destructive dating style in the past and want to change it, follow these steps:

1. Identify the behavior.
As soon as you experience one of those there-I-go-again moments, pretend you’re a school kid at a crosswalk: Stop, look, and listen to yourself.

2. Define the behavior.
Mentally describe your behavior in a specific sentence like, “Whenever I’m nervous, I tend to be sarcastic” or “As soon as it seems like someone really likes me, I get turned off.”

3. Place it in the moment.
Try to pinpoint what set you off this time. Was it her arm brushing up against yours? Was it something he said?

4. Put it on hold.
Patterns don’t change overnight. They especially don’t change smack in the middle of a date. What you want to do, once you’ve nailed down a behavior pattern, is to relax, file it away in your brain, and look at it later on when you’re alone.

Mind over what’s-the-matter

Getting all stressed-out is easy if your second date doesn’t measure up to the notion you had of the way things should go or if you put so much pressure on yourself that nothing you do or say is going to be good enough. Don’t go there. You won’t have any fun. Your date won’t have any fun. Everybody loses. Instead, if you start to feel tense, take a breather (literally) and do a quick reality check. Ask yourself the following:
  • What’s really bothering me here? Am I blaming my date for my expectations? Am I bringing up past history? Have I jammed a couple of unrelated memories and fears together to make a stress sandwich? If so, pull yourself back into the moment and deal with the here and now.
  • Am I trying to make sure my date doesn’t get too close? Intimacy is a scary thing, particularly in a second date where, presumably, you two are revealing more about yourselves. If you find yourself mentally running for the dugout before the seventh-inning stretch, get back in the game and see how it ends up.
  • Is this just old news? If you notice that you seem to be falling back on tired old patterns to make yourself feel comfortable, knock it off. Tell yourself you’re safe, that it’s okay to feel a little afraid, and not to worry —you’ll hold your hand every step of the way.