What do you expect from a first date? Probably dinner and a movie, maybe drinks or coffee.
You arrive, wait nervously for your date to get there, and then start small-talking once he sits down. You ask questions about work, your day, or if you’ve done anything fun lately. It can start to feel like you’re just checking off a list while hoping you’ll have enough to talk about. As the conversation continues, you order. You pray that you don’t have any food stuck in your teeth and that there are no awkward silences.
Does this sound familiar? You might start wondering why you feel so bored on every first date or why you don’t feel immediate chemistry: Is it me? Is it the guys?
As it turns out, it might be neither. At least in my case, I realized that the problem was the routine. And to really make a connection with someone, you’ll need to get creative to break out of it.
That’s something one really great guy helped show me last year. When he asked me out, I figured we’d do the typical dinner and dessert. But instead he showed up at my door and immediately asked me: “Are you ready to go on an adventure?” I was kind of surprised but really curious and excited.
It turned out he had downloaded a geo-caching app and planned for us to do it together.
If you’re unfamiliar with geo-caching, it’s basically using coordinates or an app that will lead you to a hidden “treasure” somewhere outdoors. Once you arrive at the approximate location, you have to solve a clue to discover exactly where the item is hidden. The “treasure” usually includes a log to sign once you find it. Then you put it back where it was and go hunting for the next treasure of your choice.
Our search led us up deserted roads, along hiking trails, and even into a dog park. We looked inside pipes, behind fences, and in trees and bushes. Sometimes we scouted together, other times we separated and shouted clues back and forth to each other.
Not only was it a blast, but I quickly got to know him for who he was in a way I couldn’t have if we had just met up for drinks.
I got to see him deal with unexpected and out of the ordinary situations. I learned how he felt getting his hands dirty, how he handled confusion or failure (some treasures we could not find), and I watched how he interacted with many people we didn’t know.
Plus, it was way less nerve racking than the typical first date. The pressures to make a good impression or watch what I was saying were not as heavy, because we were actually occupied doing something other than just looking at each other while we ate. When we finished our afternoon of geo-caching we went for dinner, and we already had that shared experience to discuss.
By the end of it, I was really impressed by him. I know my date did a lot of brainstorming to come up with this idea beforehand. He had also already scouted out the geo-cache locations with a friend to make sure they were safe.
Was it the easiest thing for him to do? Of course not. But it broke the ice quickly and effectively. We felt more comfortable with each other sooner than we would have if we had simply sat at a table and talked for a few hours.
That experience taught me not to be afraid to suggest skipping that dinner/movie combo—even to a first date—and to substitute something new and fresh in its place. Ultimately, the extra thought put into unique dates benefits everyone involved. Not only is it a fun experience for you, but it presents a chance to get to know your date on a deeper level.
I know now that first dates do not have to feel routine or anxiety-inducing. He helped me realize dating can be, and is, a lot better than I thought.
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