People often come to me dazed and confused because they are beginning to realize what the person they are in a relationship with is really like. “How did I miss it?” they ask. “How did I not see it before?” Have you ever asked the same thing? Well the answer to you and their questions is, “You weren’t looking because if you were you would have seen it there from the beginning.” People reveal themselves very quickly, and it’s the smart woman who is watchful from the get go.
In the age of online dating, that first date (or whatever you care to call it in order to not scare yourself out of going) is the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax, and watch as your date quickly and unknowingly reveals who he is. Some things to notice immediately are lateness and courtesy. Being late is just plain inconsiderate. Your time is just as important and your life is just as busy as your date’s. Is he polite to the waiter or coffee girl (or hot dog vendor)? If he is rude to the waiter, just know that you’ll be on the receiving end of that short temper or sense of superiority one day. Does he have good manners? Manners aren’t some old-fashioned idea from a bygone era. The underlying premise of manners is to be considerate of the other person and make them feel comfortable. If being considerate isn’t a trait that you’d like your future partner to have, then you’re in for a world of pain.
In fact, a lot of the things that you need to watch for fall under the umbrella of consideration. For example, you two are at a coffee shop and he talks so loudly that everyone around you can hear. His lack of a sense of where his space ends and other people’s begins is chock full of being inconsiderate and self-centered because he thinks that what he has to say is so important that he’s allowed to intrude on other people’s space. Let me tell you that in NYC, where space is at a premium due to overcrowded subways and chopped up apartment spaces, people quickly learn what are appropriate boundaries regarding public space, and if your date hasn’t learned them it’s because he doesn’t want to.
Does he ask about you or does he just talk about himself? A date is a two-way street and you’re both there to quickly get to know the other person and let them know a bit about you too. If he’s preoccupied with only his own interests and expects to be the only one heard in this conversation, well it’s not going to change in the future. Plus, if he’s talking about himself incessantly it’s both a sign of being inconsiderate and having low self esteem. The person who knows he is a catch doesn’t tell everything about himself all at once, he’s finding out about the other person to see if she’ll add anything special to an already great life. The insecure man will go on and on about himself, sort of talking himself up because in reality he doesn’t think he’s so impressive.
As for you, try to be open and watchful. Don’t stay quiet the whole time because you’re watching to see you he is, but don’t go to the other extreme of constantly talking or revealing intimate details of your life right away. Go in with the attitude that you have a life you enjoy already and you’re there to see if he’d be a nice addition to it, i.e., you’re not there out of desperation, but out of an openness to meeting someone new who could become someone special. And listen to what he is saying both with his words and his actions.
So my advice on that first date is to be watchful. Don’t try to be a psychoanalyst, meaning that you don’t have to make a lot of meaning regarding someone’s parents or upbringing here, and don’t be a secret service agent, meaning that you don’t have to stay silent as you watch. It’s actually very simple. Just take note of how he behaves throughout the date toward you and others, and know that that behavior is going to be repeated, and exaggerated, in a romantic relationship. Why? Because he already comes ready made and you’re just trying him on for size to see if he fits. There’s one important lesson you need to learn in life in you haven’t already (and I mean you ladies!) and it’s that you can’t change someone else. Can people change? Absolutely. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be in this line of work. But people only change because they want to, not because you want them to. So be watchful from the beginning and save yourself the lament of, “How did I not see that before?”
Did you ever see something on a first date that you took as a warning to “run don’t walk away from this man?” Did you ever notice something small on a first date that revealed how great he was?