When it comes to dating, everyone is so different. Thankfully, most people find dating a relatively stress-free experience and find the person they want to marry without any major hassle. However, plenty of people run into difficulties – hence this website. A great deal of the focus of the articles here are on later stages in the dating process. This is not surprising, as this is when things turn serious, the process becomes emotionally intense, and the daters are required to take some very important decisions. However, there are a number of people who struggle with the very first dates. They tend to be those who are less adept at social interaction and find the early process of getting to know someone rather difficult. But this would be an oversimplification.
Where the problem is most challenging is for people who are not the most articulate or strong communicators. During the early stages, there is less of a relationship, and the importance of sharing information is at a premium. People who struggle with this artform may find the first couple of dates difficult. Given that most people find this the comparatively easy part, many do not understand why the first dates may be such a struggle. This article will explain the difficulty by setting out what actually happens on the first two dates and explain what these two first dates aim to achieve.
The objective of the first date.
Date one is there to answer one very simple question: Am I interested? Would I want to see this person again? The daters are not thinking about whether this could be a marriage partner, or even whether they find the other person compatible. At this earliest point, there is only one consideration: “Was this suggestion a mistake, or can I see some potential here?” Put a little differently, both parties are trying to work out whether they feel comfortable; whether the initial encounter was a pleasant experience. If the date was highly stressful or discomfiting, this will put major doubts into the mind about whether this is something to take further. If one party does or says something off-putting or controversial, this may be enough reason for the other party to back away. If there are no major hiccups and the whole thing passed without incident, it is likely that a second date will occur.
The objective of the second date.
Now to the second date – it too has just one simple aim: Am I compatible with this person? Do I have enough in common? The focus is on sharing specific information on the usual range of topics to see if there is sufficient agreement and synergy. If the information shared exposes significant religious, cultural, personal, or even familial differences, the parties are likely to consider it a bad match. Each is most probably going to go away and reflect on those differences and determine whether they are sufficiently significant to discontinue. Subsequent dates may dig a little deeper into some of the points, but typically the die is set at the second date in this regard. Most couples will tell you that they had largely figured out whether there was compatibility based on the second date. Since this is only the second encounter, clearly this is not about marriage, but it is important in terms of checking whether the basics line up.
Communication needed on these dates.
With this in mind, it is not hard to see why a particular kind of communication is critical during these two dates. People who find it hard to give clear answers to questions, who stumble with their words, and who prevaricate endlessly will not do well at this stage of dating. Ironically, they do fabulously well in the later stage. The thing is that some people do find it hard to explain themselves. They struggle to give a cogent answer to such common questions as, “What is your relationship like with your parents?” or “How were things for you in yeshiva?” They clam up when asked, “What are your career plans for the future?” or “How do you like to spend your spare time?” These are all questions that the person being asked is the leading expert on the whole planet. There is quite literally no one alive who knows more on the topic. One would imagine that these were very straightforward questions. Yet, some people are not great at tackling them.
Let us look at date one. All the other person wants to have is a positive experience. Yet, he or she asks a basic question, and the whole experience feels forced. They feel compelled to rephrase the question, only to get the same disappointing result. Now they are getting somewhat awkward. They try asking different questions in the hope that they prove easier, but here too the answers are tortured and only mildly coherent. The person asking the questions is becoming acutely aware that they are putting their date in an uncomfortable position, and really confused as to whether they should continue asking questions or just sit there silently. This experience leaves the other person frustrated and dissatisfied. However, sympathetic a person they are not going to rate this a good date and are going to question the point of continuing.
Now to the second date. As we discussed, the individuals taking part are looking to determine compatibility. This requires lots of rapid-fire questions, with lots of detailed information in reply. Many of the questions will be quite specific and others more general, but usually down-to-earth. There are likely to ask questions such as, “Would you consider living in Brooklyn?”, “Do you wear a hat in the street?”, “What is your view about shaitels?” and so on. Not every second date is the same (of course), but the vast majority will be broadly in this vein. They are both saying: “I need to get to know you, and the only way to accomplish that is with lots of information.” So here too, people who struggle to formulate clear answers will not make things easy. Two problems arise. One, the date feels like a lot of hard work and will be exhausting. Two, the other person may go home feeling they have not got the answer to their main question of the night.
When such communication is difficult for you.
If you are such a person, you need to come to dating prepared. You need to have the ability to practice answering these key questions in a clear and substantive manner. This is not so difficult, but failure to do so causes really big problems. I am not sure that many people would not benefit from this type of preparedness. For people who do not find that providing good answers to questions to be their thing, this is essential. I would advise that you write down answers and then work with a coach or someone suitable to practice until the answers are solid and cogent, and are delivered with at least minimal fluency.
I cannot emphasize enough that this no major obstacle, as people can learn and practice. It is only a major issue if not addressed. Without improving one’s ability to communicate, the first two dates could be very disappointing. Sadly, this greatly increases the failure rate. The good news is that people with this challenge who get through the first two dates are prime candidates for a successful outcome for the rest of the dating experience. They tend to be low maintenance and have a relaxed demeanor. Once they have transitioned from the early dates, they tend to find it easy to see it through to the end.
Body language matters a lot.
There is one more major reason why the first couple of dates prove challenging, and that can be loosely defined as “body language.” Poor eye contact or posture, annoying mannerisms such as shaking one’s leg or twiddling one’s fingers are going to affect the quality of the date. People with the kind of communication struggles described above are also more likely to exhibit poor body language. This is something to also bear in mind. We shall leave the issue of body language for its own article.