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Curing the First Date Jitters

How to Make the Most Out of Your Dating Life

default article imageShe puts on her shoes and her sweater, and gives her reflection in the mirror a last glance. She stops, looks flustered, and lets out a big sigh. “I look terrible,” she says. She looks perfect to me. Elizabeth Pepe, junior, is going on a first date, and has spent the last two hours getting ready to “make sure everything goes smooth and perfect,” she says.

Her expectations are high, just like her anxiety levels. Her phone beeps. He’s here. She puts one last coating of lip gloss on her lips and walks out of her apartment. It’s showtime.

According to a survey conducted by It’s Just Lunch, an American dating agency for single professionals, 51% of men in the United States had over six first dates in 2010, and 58% of women had four first dates in 2010.

The same survey showed that 68% of men would not waste their time with a second date if there was no chemistry on the first one. Women, on the other hand, will give it a second chance and hope that the chemistry develops.

So why is it that first dates sometimes just don’t work out? And why do so many of us make silly mistakes that we look back on now and laugh, but were really not funny at the time?

Rebecca Sanford, Communication professor, has been focusing her research on relational formation. She believes that the anxiety experienced before first dates is caused by our investment in a positive outcome. “We are performing impression management, meaning to make ourselves present as our best selves. This factor can cause our apprehension levels to be high prior to a first date,” Sanford said.

Dr. Kate Wachs is a psychologist and has been a matchmaker for over 25 years, as well as the founder of the relationship center at, and the author of “Relationships for Dummies” and “Dr. Kate’s Love Secrets.”

She said, “Some people get excited and look forward to the potential of something great coming. Even the excitement is part of the anxiety. It involves increased heart rate, muscle tension, stomach acid, increased blood pressure and shallow breathing. It also has to do with your history in dating and your experience with dating,” Dr. Wachs said.

Dr. Franca Mancini, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, believes there are many factors that can give us anxiety before a first date. “It has a lot to do with acceptance and wondering if one is going to be okay and if there is going to be a judgment process. There are so many factors that go into how nervous you are. How you met one another, if you’ve had a friendship with them prior to the date or if it’s someone that was just introduced to you, having no past experience with the person, what kind of a date is it, is it formal, are we just hanging out or spending time in a group of people,” Mancini said.

Sanford believes the silly mistakes made on first dates are caused by the self-fulfilling prophecy. “When we keep thinking about something, in this case, perhaps about the things that could go wrong, we can create that same outcome we keep thinking about,” Sanford said.

Matt Pagan, senior, urges to stay away from experimenting with food on a first date. Wanting to impress his new flame, Matt picked an Indian restaurant to appear more diverse and sophisticated. As the rumbles in his stomach started soon after he began eating his chicken curry, Matt recalls having to run from his table to the bathroom to prevent an ‘accident’ from happening right at the table. He ran back and forth a few more times, leaving his date by herself at the table during this awkward situation.

“It was a shitty time… literally. So much for looking sophisticated,” Matt laughs. From Matt, we learn that sometimes a simple salad bar will do the trick and that we shouldn’t be trying to “look diverse or sophisticated,” we should just be ourselves.

Sarah Freeman, senior, recalls her date from hell when the guy was just a bit too addicted to his technology.

Sarah wanted to walk out of the movie theater because she couldn’t even focus on the movie due to the constant light from a cell phone to her right. But she decided to stay and see what would happen during dinner.

Not much changed during dinner, but she did receive a text message from her date sitting across from her at the table saying how much he wanted to kiss her. If that didn’t make it awkward enough, he did the same thing in the car, asking her to hold his hand while he drove her home. Upon the conclusion of the date from hell, he told Sarah that he was simply nervous and hid behind his cell phone.

So what can we do to lessen our nerves before first dates after reading about all these unpleasant and awkward first dates?

Dr. Wachs mentions the importance of deep breathing when experiencing that anxiety. The breathing should be slow and even, lasting 20 seconds, eight seconds for inhaling, four for holding the breath, and eight for exhaling. “This will give you a very peaceful feeling, almost as if you’re floating. It’s practical because you can do this relaxation method anywhere,” Dr. Wachs said.

“If you’re thinking ‘what if he doesn’t like me, no one ever likes me’ that leads to that anxiety thinking about the future. Stop! And reverse what you were just thinking. This is the thought stopping technique, it’s so simple. And say something like ‘it’s only a date, I’m going to go out and have fun,’” Dr. Wachs added.

Mancini believes that in order to overcome the anxiety, there must be a level of ease and comfort established within the individual and towards their date.

“We need to get comfortable with who we are as individuals, and get a feel for who you usually have fun with, and know that those will be the best type of people who you can date,” Mancini said.

“Dating is the tip of the iceberg. You’re just starting, it’s nothing yet. If it works out, great! If it doesn’t, that’s okay! Why stress out about it? All you have to do is have some fun!” Dr. Wachs added.

Elizabeth Pepe comes back from her date with a wide smile and eyes that sparkle with excitement and happiness. She walks to her room, looks at the mirror and smiles. She looks satisfied with her reflection and giggles at the beep of her cell phone as she frantically looks for it in her bag. She looks at her phone, and smiles… the smile marks a start of something new and exciting.