How to Avoid a First-Date Disaster? We Asked The Experts

As a resident of trend-obsessed Southern California, Dr. Tina B. Tessina knows all about “Hollywood Dating Syndrome” – and she’s not happy about it.

The tidal wave of reality TV shows – “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Average Joe” and the like – is messing with our heads, not to mention our concepts of dating, relationships and romance.

“If ‘Average Joe’ is reality, then I’m Princess Di,” says Dr. Tessina, a practicing psychotherapist in the Los Angeles area and author of 11 books, including “How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free” and “The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again.”

“People are in too much of a rush to find Prince/Princess Charming, and television shows like these make the process seem way too fast.”

The Starbucks Strategy

For a first date, think Vanilla Bean Frappuccino , advises Michelle Zelig Pourau, a master relationship coach based in Victoria, Australia . “Do not commit to a first date that is more than just a coffee. Keep it short. That way, you are not stuck if there is no chemistry.” Pourau discourages going to the movies on a first date, as you won’t have an opportunity to talk. “Coffee is relaxing, not stressful and can go for as short or as long as you wish,” she says.

Frank Thompson, host of the hit TV show “Blind Date,” has been watching couples make it – or break it – on televised dates since 1999, when his show first debuted. He has since authored “The ‘Blind Date’ Guide to Dating,” and he has a few tips that can help thwart first-date disasters:

  • Remember to smile.
  • It never hurts for a man to bring flowers or candy.
  • If you choose to go out for dinner, sharing an appetizer is romantic – but don’t order anything incredibly messy. There’s nothing worse than melted cheese dribbling down your chin. (And does he really need to remind you not to lick your fingers?)
  • Whether you choose a coffeehouse, a cozy little café or a five-star restaurant, your date really isn’t about the food. Concentrate on the interaction between you and your date.

Dr. Tessina, on the other hand, is a strong supporter of double-dating or group events.

“Instead of doing the ‘Hollywood Dating’ thing – where you go out for dinner or a movie, he spends a lot of money, and you are very uncomfortable – try doing something more fun,” she says. “Get together with a group of friends and go to the beach, a movie, a picnic or a sporting event. If you go with friends, you’ll both be more relaxed, you’ll get to know each other a little, and there will be less pressure. Set up your first date to do something that won’t force the two of you to be alone together when you don’t even know each other.”

Hopes, Dreams…and a Blast of Reality

The fear of getting rejected is universal when it comes to first dates. Keep your expectations realistic, and you won’t turn into a frazzled zombie on the Big Night.

“Don’t put undue stress on yourself by thinking, ‘This has to be the one!’ ” Pourau says. “Focus on enjoying the experience, and all nerves should go. Think about really hearing what the person is saying, as opposed to thinking of your next response and/or question.”

If making small talk proves challenging, remind yourself to relax.

“Make it easy for your date to talk to you,” Dr. Tessina adds. “When he talks to you, be interested in what he’s saying. Ask questions to keep the conversation going. But work toward creating a combination of both fun and quiet moments so your date can see two different sides of you.”

Above all, learn to trust yourself so that you give a first date an opportunity to blossom into something more.

“ When we come from a place of being confident and self-loving, we are able to give, receive and be in a positive, loving relationship,” explains Hazel Palache, a relationship coach based in Sherman Oaks, California . “I teach clients to drop pretences and insecurities and learn to come from an authentic place so that a positive relationship can be created with care, honesty, loyalty and open, healthy communication, if these things are in place, it creates a safe haven for each person to be able to give and receive in the most positive, loving way. Love is not ‘just a feeling.’ It’s much, much more.”

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