First dates can be a mixed bag. You can go into them thinking you're going to meet the love of your life and walk out reflecting on an evening of insipid small talk, wondering why you spent your only free evening of the week discussing your respective commutes.
It has become even trickier with dating apps, when you risk meeting someone whose witty bio and filtered profile photos don't quite match up with the person sitting across from you.
And even if you do end up liking the person, that in itself conjures up a panoply of anxieties: what if they don't laugh at your jokes? Did you just talk about yourself too much? What happens if they hate the wine you've chosen?
It can all get a little bit overwhelming. Thankfully, dating experts say there are some unilateral first date don'ts that, when applied, should make things easier for everyone involved. Buckle up.
1. Don’t bail after 15 minutes
When conversation runs dry and you realise you haven’t even made it through your glass of cheap red wine, it can be tempting to call it a day or, in other words, do a runner without so much as saying goodbye.
But this tactic is best avoided, says dating and relationships psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree.
“Unless you have a genuine emergency, this is just mean,” she tells The Independent. “I’m always amazed when people think that ghosting is a kind way of saying ‘no thanks’. It’s cowardice and pathetic. Don’t do it.”
If things are going south early on, at least have the decency to stay for one drink.
2. No 'negging'
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, or, more specifically, in Neil Strauss’ controversial pickup artist handbook The Game, which famously encourages men to criticise women in order to seduce them, a hideous tactic Strauss dubbed "negging".
Don’t do this, says Mason, who strongly advises against engaging in any sort of psychological gameplay when you're dating someone – particularly on the first date. “This usually backfires for those looking for long-term romance,” she says.
“I have had clients of both genders who employ behaviours that try and get their date to ‘win them over’. It doesn’t work.”
3. Don’t talk about the future
When you’re on a first date and you're getting on with someone like a house on fire, you might find yourself planning your wedding in your head when you take a toilet break.
But, as fun as fantasising about your future with a total stranger can be, dating coach Jo Hemmings advises against letting your mind run away with you when it comes to making plans, whether it's inviting them to your own wedding or asking them to come to a BBQ next weekend.
“Concentrate on the here and now” she tells The Independent, “rather than suggesting they might join you for an event further down the line. However much you like them initially, it’s just too much too soon.”
4. Don’t start quizzing them on their CV
Ever seen The Ugly Truth? There’s a scene when Katherine Heigl’s character is on a first date with a man she’s just met and within minutes of sitting down, Heigl is asking where he sees himself in 10 years. It's particularly difficult to watch.
“Don’t treat the date like an interview,” says Hemmings.“You might want to know all about them, but some questions (think: “How did you choose to spend your free time during the career gap you had in 2017?” and “What attracted you to me in the first instance?”) are just a bit much to ask on a first date.
“Ask questions by all means, but first dates are about reciprocal disclosure in conversational form,” Hemmings adds.
5. Don't bring a friend
It might sound obvious, but bringing a friend along to a date for moral support is not advised.
While it can be helpful to employ a wingman/wingwoman in the early stages of wooing to help land you a date with someone, bringing this person along on the date itself is not a wise strategy, Mason advises.
"It’s awkward and a major turn off for the person you're meeting," she says. "A client of mine recently did this and, needless to say, the date was cut short and no future ones were planned."
6. Don't ask for favours
Let's say the date isn't going well. But you're an aspiring photographer, and you've realised that all is not lost, because the person you're with runs a successful photography studio. Perhaps they'd make a dull romantic partner, but an exciting business one, you think, in a bid to turn lemons into lemonade.
Tempting as it may be, do not exploit someone you're on a date with for their expertise or skills, says Mason. It's simply not the right time.
"Before I met my husband, I had several first dates who thought they could use that time to tell me about their woes," Mason recalls. "In one case I had to tell the person that I was not working."