I was never very good at first dates. I tended to treat them like they were job interviews, but with more alcohol. I was so focused on making a good impression, on generally doing as little to embarrass myself as possible (failed on that pretty regularly), and on making sure my date was having a good time that my feelings usually ended up getting totally lost in the shuffle of my performance. It wasn't until much later that I stopped to consider the most important question to ask yourself after a first date: How do I feel about them? I was too busy making sure I impressed my date and got so caught up in wanting to be wanted that I forgot to make sure they were someone I actually wanted to be wanted by.
Does that sound familiar? What are the things that go through your mind after a first date? Do your thoughts tend toward wondering what's on your date's mind? Are you trying to pick up on nuances of body language? Obsessing over awkward silences? Girl, I feel you — the first date struggle is real. But here's the thing: If you want to be a lot more likely to find a partner who truly makes you happy and fulfills your needs, the first person whose feelings you need to be hyper-aware of is you. Not only will it help you relax a bit on dates, but it will also help you become better at dating by weeding out the people who are just not quite right for you.
So, how do we break out of this cycle? The first step, according to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter, is to stop fixating on "wanting to be wanted," and instead, identify what we want. Because otherwise, "our focus is skewed. From that position, we're not able to tune into our own feelings and know if this partner is good for us," says Winter.
Anita A. Chlipala, dating and relationship expert and licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Elite Daily that there are other reasons why you should prioritize focusing on if your date is a good fit for you. For one thing, "you might make yourself more anxious, or change yourself into the person they want versus staying who you are," she says. This has long-term implications for the relationship because, if you pretend to be someone you aren't in an effort to impress your date, "you may have decreased confidence or be afraid to speak up for your needs or share your opinions because you’re worried [they're] going to dump you" down the road. So, making sure you are comfortable being yourself around the person you're dating is a really important factor in assessing how you feel about them after that first date.
When you take the time to ask yourself how you feel about your date, it's important you don't rush through the process. "I tell my clients to slow things down and pace ... it’s easy to get caught up in feelings," says Chlipala. Additionally, rushing ahead "can be dangerous as romantic love is blind and the parts of the brain responsible for critical thinking shut down and that’s why you can miss red flags,” she adds. Part of knowing how you feel about someone is recognizing if they are someone who will respect your boundaries and be the kind of person you really want to be with. If they aren’t, then how they feel about you is pretty irrelevant, right?
Another way to think about how you actually feel about your date is to consider if they will make a "positive contribution" to your life. "Often times, we choose a partner with our eyes and not with our soul. Choosing an inherently good human being eliminates 90 percent of our 'relationship issues,'" says Winter. "Partner selection should be an active choice that enhances our long-term wellbeing." We all should seek partners who lift us up. While you may not automatically know that by the time the check arrives, if there is any indication to the contrary, well, clearly you don't feel for this person they way you should feel about someone you'd want to pursue a relationship with.
If all this sounds too amorphous, relationship expert and matchmaker Meredith Golden suggests rating how you feel about the date on a scale, with "one being horrid and 10 being amazing." "The rating scale is an effective tool. If above a six, give it a second date. If you laughed and were able to be yourself, always worth exploring," Golden continues. "The caveat to remember though is if you’re repulsed by the date, there’s nothing to consider — no second date!”
It's also important to understand that, usually, you can't fully understand how you feel about someone after just one date. "It takes a few weeks for patterns to develop, so you need the time to let your date show [their] true self," says Chlipala. She adds that it’s important to pause and think, whether it’s the first or the 10th date, "'Can this person meet my needs?' Because if [they] can’t, you won’t be satisfied in your relationship."
At the end of the day, assessing how you feel about your date should always be your top priority. If you ask yourself whether or not this person is someone you can "invest [your] time and energy" in, and you decide that's a no, then ultimately, that’s all that really matters. And by knowing the difference, you just leveled up your dating game.
Check out the entire Gen Why series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.