After meeting someone you like, you might want to get to know him or her better. Dating is the next natural step in building close relationships. Many people are scared by the thought of going out with someone new. Dating can be confusing for most anyone, including persons with brain injury. For certain folks, dating is a mystery full of complex rules and strange customs. They may be unsure about what to say or do.
Fear of making a mistake or doing something embarrassing may keep people who would like to date from actually going out on dates. Some people are afraid of meeting strangers out of fear for their safety. To make sure you practice safe dating, meet new people with the potential for being trustworthy. Meeting people who volunteer to help others or members of religious groups, churches, or synagogues may be a good place to start. Until you know the person well, arrange to go on dates in public places or with a group of people. Let other people, like your roommate or a family member, know when they should expect you to be home after a date. If you start feeling uncomfortable about your date’s behavior, you can make up an excuse and end the date early.
The following “unwritten rules” of dating are offered below to help people new to the dating scene, those who have not dated in a while, or people wanting to improve their dating skills.
Tips for going out with women
- When you ask someone out on a date, have a clear plan for what to do. Try to choose an activity you think will be enjoyable for you both. Go someplace or do something familiar and comfortable. A first date is not the best time to try out skydiving or swimming with the sharks.
- No matter what your friends say, hygiene is important. Paying attention to your appearance shows respect for yourself and for others. Dress up like it’s an important occasion (which it is). Take a shower and go light on the cologne.
- Watch your temper. Nothing turns a woman off more than you yelling at the waiter or doorman. Remember that dating is supposed to be fun (like going to the circus, not like watching a boxing match!)
- Keep your hands to yourself. Ask before you touch. Be the type of person she’d be glad to take home to her parents.
- Get in shape and watch what you eat. Taking up two theatre seats, ordering an extra-large buttered popcorn, and eating her Jujubes at the movie won’t impress her. (You won’t impress her by accurately guessing her real weight or age, either.)
- Don’t make noise when you eat. If you have completely lost your manners, take cues from her. Put your napkin on your lap when she does, watch which fork she chooses for each course of a meal, and open the door if your date is just standing there waiting for you to follow through.
- Making a good impression does not mean you should lie or “stretch” the truth. If your first date turns into a long-term relationship, you are sure to be found out.
- Pay attention to the person you are going out with. Don’t check out other people while you’re in the middle of a date.
Tips for going out with men
- Don’t make your date wait while you get ready. Being late is not fashionable.
- Offer to chip in and help pay once in a while. Don’t always expect your date to pay or you may not be going out much longer.
- Think before you speak. Don’t tell your date stories about your underwear, your ex-boyfriend, or your most horrible hospital experience. Ask yourself if what you are about to say will make the best impression of who you are.
- Don’t talk too much about yourself. Going out with someone allows you time to get to know your date as a person. Talk about things which may be of interest to the person you are seeing. What’s his favorite type of movie, sport, animal, or vacation destination?
- Offer advice about the types of places you like to go and things you like to do. It’s better to tell your date before you arrive at the petting zoo that you are allergic to farm animals.
- Treat your date like he’s special. It’s not good to eyeball other men while you’re out on a date.
- Turn off the cell phone, too. Being on a date is not the time to chat with your friends. You can return calls after the date is over.
- Have a sense of humor. No date is perfect. Don’t ruin your time together by complaining about the fly in your soup all through dinner.
- Remember to thank your date. He probably took a lot of time getting ready and looking forward to spending time with you!
Be kind even if your date doesn’t turn out to be “Miss Right” or “Mister Right.” Remember that he or she has the potential to be a good friend.
This column was written by Lee Livingston, PsyD, Jeff Kreutzer, Ph., and Laura Taylor, PhD from the National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury (NRC). The mission of the NRC is to provide relevant, practical information for professionals, persons with brain injury, and family members. For more information about helpful materials published through the NRC including the Recovering Relationships book, please check our website www.neuro.pmr.vcu.edu or call Mary Beth King at 804.828.9055 or toll-free at 1.866.296.6904 to request a catalog.
From the National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury, Virginia Commonwealth Model Systems of Care. Reprinted with permission.