What can you tell from your first dates?

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One night is all you need to find out whether your latest love is worth keeping. Ute Junker looks at what makes first dates forever after.

The problem with dating is that it’s so time-consuming. It all starts so innocently. You meet someone who seems nice. Giving up one night a week seems a small price to pay for getting to know them better, and so it begins.

In the beginning, it’s all smiles and sunshine. It isn’t until date three or four that you begin to see the nasty secrets hidden beneath the surface. Mr Perfect reveals he holds the world record for most kills in his favourite computer game, Freeway Free-For-All, thanks to his rigorous four-hours-a-day practice sessions. Ms Wonderful brings along a very special present for you – a pink T-shirt with “Snookums” written on it –
and expects you to don it straight away. All those dates, all those dinners, and you’ve landed a dud.
Who’s got the time to waste? In today’s time-pressured society, four evenings is a lot to invest in something that’s going nowhere.

Fortunately, it turns out that just one date is enough to give you important clues as to whether this relationship stands a chance. A first date can give you insight into at least four make-or-break questions. Of course, this isn’t a definitive verdict. There are still some things you’ll have to find out through trial and error – whether they collect stuffed toys, whether they slurp when they eat spaghetti, whether they think foreplay is something that happens on a golf course. But as a first step, our guide will give you an insight into whether this is worth pursuing, or you’re better off staying home and watching Lost.

question 01
is this a one-man show?
It doesn’t matter where your first date takes place: a restaurant, a cinema,a bowling alley. It doesn’t even matter whether you have fun – not for the purposes of this exercise, anyway. What matters is how much input you were given on the date. If someone’s taken the trouble to arrange a date you’ll both enjoy, you
can assume that they’re going to be considerate of your feelings in a relationship, too. What gets good marks? If they suggest taking in an exhibition you’ve already mentioned that you wanted to see, they’re
listening to what you tell them – always a good sign. If they book a table at a seafood restaurant, without asking whether you like seafood, that’s not so good.

Full marks go to the person who asks your opinion, but isn’t afraid to take charge, says relationships expert Sue Ostler. “It’s great if someone has the confidence to take the lead, but they should also involve you,” says Ostler, author of Relationships That Rock! (Allen and Unwin). “I love a person who says, `What kind of food do you like? Thai? Well, why don’t we try my favourite Thai restaurant? They’ve checked in with you and what you want, but are still using their initiative to choose a place.”

question 02
have they made an effort?
Some people feel comfortable showing up for a first date brandishing a dozen red roses or a bottle of French champagne. Others don’t. That doesn’t mean they’re less into you – they just have a different style.

So instead of focusing on the gift-giving, you should be looking for signs that they’re into you and excited at the thought of spending time with you. You don’t need a bunch of flowers for that. All you need to do
is ask some basic questions.

Do they show up on time?
Are they reasonably dressed?
Did they ask you out a week in advance, or was it a casual call the night before?

If they’re not treating you like a priority this early on, you’re never going to be the centre of their life. Chances are, that spot is already filled, be it a by their job, their ex, or their computer game collection.

“Your date should observe all the common courtesies: ring when they said they would, be punctual, look neat and tidy, and not smell,” said Ostler. “If they don’t manage any of those criteria, they’re a loser, and you don’t need to waste any more time on them.”

question 03
do you have a lot to talk about?
The first 30 minutes of a first date can be the most awkward of all times. However, the ice is bound to break eventually, and that’s when the journey of discovery begins. The first date is often the first time the two of you really have a chance to get to know each other better. If you discover that you both love foreign films, Japanese food and 70s soul music, chances are, this is going to be a very smooth ride.

“All the research shows that, the more similar in outlook and attitudes two people are, the more interests they share, the better the prognosis for the relationship,” says Dr Julie Fitness, senior lecturer in social psychology at Macquarie University, NSW. “Opposites can attract initially, but couples who stay successful over time are usually the ones who have more similarities.”

question 04
are you desperate to rip each other’s clothes off?
Oddly enough, “yes” is not necessarily the best answer to this question. There’s something incredibly exciting abouta date where you can barely keep your hands off each other, but that doesn’t mean it will lead to a lasting relationship.

“There are two kinds of love – passionate love, that intense feeling like you see in the movies, and companionate love, which is not so passionate, but is based on deep liking,” says Dr Bob Montgomery, head of communications for the Australian Psychological Society. “Passionate love can last anywhere between six to 30 months, but companionate love is the one which is important to a long-term relationship.” That doesn’t mean passion is a bad thing – but if you start with a solid foundation of liking, you’re doing well.’;’ type=’text/javascript’>

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