Since the rise of on-line dating, many first dates happen between people who’ve never met in person. There are so many possible partners out there that you ought to be efficient about how much time you invest on any one first date, right? Since you can pretty much tell in the first few minutes whether there’s chemistry, why commit yourself to an entire dinner? It’s probably better to just have a drink or a cup of coffee and move on if the person isn’t what you’re looking for.
Alexandra Solomon, clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and assistant professor at NWU, thinks the drinks-only approach is a mistake. The “I’ll be efficient” view ignores the fact that chemistry isn’t always obvious in the first five minutes. There’s more to attraction that the physical; you may find yourself drawn to someone’s humor, intellect, kindness, or something else that takes a while to be revealed. “You might not know until dessert that you want to see the person again—or not until the next day.”
Also, she points out that any first date could be the beginning of something important. What if this person turns out to be the one you’ll spend the rest of your life with? It’s potentially momentous.
She encourages daters to treat each first date as a time of possibility. Don’t just stop on the way from work; take some time to shift gears. “What helps you be emotionally and physically ready to show up for a date?” Maybe that’s a shower and putting on clothes that make you feel special. Maybe that’s taking a moment to take some calming breaths, to pray, or to open your heart. Who knows where the evening may lead? Start off from a place of “curiosity, openness, possibility, and mystery.”
On-line dating may feel like shopping—choosing from a seemingly endless list of faces. But really, it’s much more than that, Solomon notes. “This could be the beginning of a love story.”