There are good first date ideas and there are bad first date ideas and while you’re an active member of the dating world, you’re likely to encounter a handful of both. Hey, you can’t win ‘em all—but you can certainly try your best to avoid the worst of the worst. A great place to start is having at least some kind of a plan as far as where you’re meeting this person and when. The environment, especially, should be well thought out, and should be a place where you’re both able to hold a conversation and ask questions without any major distractions, not feel too pressured to do something you or your date are uncomfortable with, have a chance to show or express your interests, and ultimately, an idea that will allow both of you to shine, explains Caela Cohen, M.S.Ed, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. These are general guidelines, she explains, which still allow room for creativity in specific ideas.
While some first-date pitfalls simply can’t be foreseen, there are the first date ideas that experts recommend avoiding like the plague if you’d like to enjoy yourself sans embarrassment or dismay.
A family dinner
Although odd, a first date with your family members may seem harmless. “On the surface, family members being present or involved in a first date could signal you to the value your date places on family life and their connections with family members,” explains Cohen. “But, in reality, including family members on a first date may mean that your date is seeking their approval, and looks to family to make decisions for them.” While this is more accepted (and sometimes even required) among certain cultures and religious groups, it’s best avoided unless this is the case. If your family’s inclusion is a must, Cohen recommends holding a first date in a public area where you and your date can have time to get to know each other one-on-one without a family member present for the conversation, while still having them close by where they are able to keep an eye on you.
A last-minute text to come over
Schedules can get packed and it can be hard to find a time that works for both of you. While a last-minute plan is far from the worst-case scenario, a first date idea that’s sure to tank is one that’s sloppy—i.e texting last minute to see if she wants to bring over wine or beer over to your messy place to watch your favorite TV show. “In terms of a negative tell for a greater personality flaw, it may show that you like booty calls or that you could be a lazy dater and planner who expects your partner to do most of the work in a relationship,” warns Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., relationship expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out. “A better option would be to find a type of movie that you’re both into, be it a rom-com or horror film, and to order or better yet make her a special dinner.”
A political rally
Whether or not she’s a fan of Trump, it’s best to avoid political anything at all costs, especially as a first date idea. “It is a negative tell for your handle on what’s appropriate as well as your sensitivity to what your partner likes to do, inquire about and what they are comfortable with,” says Dr. Sherman. “If you both love political documentaries and she wants to see a certain one, taking her to see that at a place like where you can eat dinner together and watch the film and then go out for dessert after or to a jazz bar to discuss it, is a great first date idea however.”
Even if she states on her online dating profile that skydiving is number one on her bucket list, that does not mean she wants to do it with you, a perfect stranger, as a first date idea. “Unless you asked her first, you might be surprised to learn that she’s afraid of heights and has a full-blown panic attacks,” says Dr. Sherman. “If you want to do something new and exciting, take her out for dinner and dancing—you can let the night drive the unpredictable aspects of your date instead of being thousands of feet above ground.”
A hotel room booked for the night
While this might sound romantic for a couple who’s been seeing each other for at least a few dates, it’s a definite don’t for a first date unless you’ve both discussed it and come to an agreement to do so. “Not only is this presumptuous, but it gives her little room to have choices except to stay or to go in a room with a bed! Plus, she may not want to sleep with you or fool around on the first date,” says Dr. Sherman. A better option would be to do something fun and original like scout out a free outdoor movie showing and bringing a blanket and snacks along.