According to our recent BustedHalo survey, respondents said they went on their first date, on average, at age 16. But what if you’re in your college years and beyond and haven’t had a meaningful relationship experience? You’re worried that you don’t know the “rules” or that you’ll make a rookie mistake.
Often it’s the simple things that trip us up in the world of love and dating, especially for young adults who get into the dating game a bit later. Here are some basics – and no matter how old you are, or how many dates you’ve had, it never hurts to remember where things begin:
What Counts As A Date?
This seems like a simple question, but it’s one that trips up even the most experience Lothario. BustedHalo readers sounded off on this question: 65% of respondents said that if someone of the opposite sex specifically asks you to do something one on one, it’s a date. Most of us have opposite-sex friends that we hang out with…so what then?
58% of respondents said that if you go out to dinner just the two of you, that counts as a date. This seems reasonable, but I’ve been in some murky waters myself over semi-platonic dinners.
Some 53% of respondents said going out to lunch with someone as a date, and 47.5% said a spontaneous drink or coffee after work counts. Only 12.5% of folks said going out with a group of friends, including the person you are interested in, counts as a date.
The way I see it, if you both are interested in pursuing something more than a friendship, and you make plans to do something together – a walk in the park, a movie, a meal or bowling, whatever – it’s a date. Two adults should be able to have friendly lunches, coffees, dinners and drinks with members of the opposite sex as just friends so it’s important to be clear about your intentions. (And if you are in a committed relationship, it’s best to discuss and set individual rules with your significant other, so that you don’t inadvertently spark jealousy.)
If you’ve been hanging out with someone for weeks or months and it’s feeling like a dating situation, but there has been no clarification, it’s certainly OK to bring up the topic and ask: Most of us have been in an ambiguous relationship at one point or another. Best not to drag it on too long. Make a joke of it if you must, but tell the person how you feel and clarify your status.
Can a woman ask a man out on a date? Most certainly. 77% of BustedHalo respondents approve of a woman asking a man out for the first time. While men repeatedly ask a woman out for subsequent dates, my advice is for a woman to ask the first time, but then wait for the guy to ask her out the next time. If he doesn’t, he’s probably not that interested.
The Third Date
There’s a lot of talk about the pressure of the third date. I always found it a great date: The first was all potential and wonderful excitement, the second was usually a let down (he was rarely as fantastic as I’d built him up to be after date #1) and the third date was the one where I could really get to know the guy. But there was always a bit of pressure looming over us as the evening drew to a close. What kind of physical signs of affection are appropriate after three dates?
Among BustedHalo readers, 85% say holding hands is great and 63% say snuggling on the couch is just fine. More than half report that kissing passionately is part of their third dates and 23% say some sort of sexual activity, not including sex, is appropriate. Only 10% say they’d be comfortable having sex on the third date.
So let out a sigh of relief: Among young adults Catholics, the third date is not a time for major hanky panky. Enjoy that date, get to know each other and postpone the physical for later in the relationship.
It’s called the “dreaded” DTR conversation by many men. In chatrooms on websites nationwide, women ask, “Have you had the DTR chat?”
DTR: Define the relationship.
Among BustedHalo readers, 50% say after two months of dating, it’s acceptable to suggest that you’d like the relationship to be exclusive, meaning neither of you would date anyone else. One third of respondents would bring that topic up after three dates, and 15% said they’d never bring it up: These folks want the other person to clarify their intentions and feelings first.
DTR conversations are awkward, and often they arise when one person is feeling insecure about the feelings of the other. Tread carefully with these chats, because they can lead to a breakup if not handled well.
Be light and carefree about it – bring it up in passing “…I mean, I’m not dating anyone else, are you?” or in a funny way. You might also say you read this column recently about how 50% of respondents said they’d wait two months into the relationship before talking about exclusivity-and what does your boyfriend/girlfriend think about that?
Two months seems about right, if you are seeing each other once or twice a week. If it’s a college campus setting or you’re together more often, that speeds things up. It also depends on your community: You may be assumed to be exclusive from the first date. Get a sense for the norms of the circle of friends you both share, but when in doubt, communicate with each other!
Best Date Ideas
If there’s a special someone you want to ask out on a date, here are some “best first date” ideas from readers that might inspire you into action:
- A walk in the park: It’s often easier to talk while you are doing something other than just sitting at a table.
- A movie, play or other event – and then dinner. Make the event part come first, so you two have something to talk about over dinner.
- Bowling. It’s silly and fun.
- Ice skating. You have to hold hands!
- Flying kites
- Going to the carnival
- A black-tie affair or fancy party-certainly memorable!
For Dan, 30, his best first dates have been ones where “we’ve gone to the theater, or a museum, or somewhere which provided lots of things to talk about, and preferably a few laughs.” And Jeff, 19, really knows how to turn up the romance: He remembers a first date at a drive-in move-theater which was “just so cute.” There are only 400 or so left in the United States, few and far between, so well done, Jeff.
Elizabeth, 27, says on her first date with a guy she’d had a crush on for a while, he made them dinner at his place and surprised her with tickets to a play he knew she would love. “The theater was within walking distance and it was raining. We had to huddle under a raincoat together. After the show we went back to his apartment and talked for a long time,” she remembers. “It was simple, lots of time for talking and a good combination of spontaneous and planned.”
Rainy Date Women
Spontaneity and rainy nights seem to be running themes in the best-date stories from BustedHalo readers: “The best date I’ve ever been on involved picking up donuts at an all-night donut shop, bringing them to a garden, and eating them under the stars,” writes Shelly, 24. “Shortly after we finished eating, it started to rain. Rather than running inside, we danced in the rain and then played in the fountain on campus. It was fun, spontaneous, and we had great conversation. Plus, the kissing in the rain didn’t hurt, either!”
Whether you are 16 or 36, those first couple dates can be daunting. But don’t let inexperience hold you back: No one is an expert when it comes to thrill, pressures and anticipation of a first date. Enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to have fun!