Dating: What You Should and Shouldn't Do

Lee Livingston, Laura Taylor, and Jeffrey Kreutzer, The National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury, Virginia Commonwealth Model Systems of Care
Dating: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

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 or call Mary Beth King at 804.828.9055 or toll-free at 1.866.296.6904 to request a catalog.

Posted on BrainLine June 19, 2009.

From the National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury, Virginia Commonwealth Model Systems of Care. Reprinted with permission.

Comments (10)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

this advice is a bit of unrealistic BS it does not portray the dating world as it is today. It says nothing about setting boundaries or what things to watch out for. Bad dates happen as much as good ones and pretending this doesn't happen is what this article writer is saying. It's not true dating for us is a minefield of unknowns and being a person with brain injury dating someone who isn't is hard and the younger you are or your date is the harder it gets. Some people don't know the meaning of NO even when we say it as they know we are vulnerable spend 5 minutes with us the gig is up. This article says nothing about that and it does happen. When you have brain injury it's harder to read other people because you just aren't able to. We don't get taken seriously and ppl think because we have brain injury it's ok to overstep the dating rules. Whether you are a man or a woman dating one or the other at our point it's so hard because we too want to be cared for or loved does not mean we should accept abuse to be in a relationship. Not saying everyone does but some do and people with brain injury need to be aware it will and does happen sometimes and to be aware to protect yourself if it does. So where is the article on this then? this site needs to acknowledge this and stop pretending and setting us up. Not everyone has a date through any of the above is not always suitable for everyone. Dating can be fun but sometimes it isn't and we all need to be aware of that. Brain Injury can make us self doubt and make us vulnerable to people who like to control or abuse ppl they feel are less able to defend themselves. I looked for a book on this topic and there aren't any why is that or ppl pretending this doesn't exist. Even in normal dating world it can be very hard to know how to deal with this and most ppl have their own way. I would like to know what rules should we follow as they are very different and I don't see that here at all.

Agreed…Got jumped in Gainesville right in front of frat row tailgating for UFvTENN with moderate TBI… never found out who it was. Now half broken and basically on my second or extra life you might say lmao. I’m 31 now and I was 19 then… I haven’t had a solid date or real girlfriend in a decade. Boy, whoever it was that attacked me, I hope the slowest and most excruciating pain on that person and that he rots in hell. You wanna talk about dating? Women these days don’t have the patience for TBI victims. One day tho… you gotta be a wicked Soldier every darn day for the rest of your life! I’m skipping the dating process for now… People have no idea the type and amount of pain your own body can actually feel. So many strategies to learn and places to prevent from attending. Find your own way… don’t listen to anyone. They WILL disappoint you! Now all I want to do is just help future TBI victims, like me, get to know himself/herself in a more understanding from experience type of therapy. God bless TBI survivors and don’t ever give up! Dating/relationships shouldn’t be first on the bucket list. Your number 1 focus must be you from now on! And believe me… we all want to have little boys and girls of our own someday. And that brings me to my greatest fear… letting my future family down. Especially if I ever have children. Work on yourselves and the pretty ladies or handsome gentlemen WILL eventually come naturally. Cheers

You took the words right out of my mouth! This is Daily, every thing you referenced is a daily reality. I've been so discouraged from Friends to medical to disability. I don't know who, what, when or where. No physician will even discuss it with me .. I'm so very discouraged in every realm of my life .. or there lack of.
I definitely agree .. you need to write the book!
Thank you,
Could use a friend

Courageous! It is good to see a tapping in of reality, presenting larger scope. You, perhaps, will be the one to write such a book?

As a survivor of shaken baby symptom, leaving me with a severe TBI, I have had a hard time socially. I know all of this on the list. I need help with how to approach people (women) and ask them if they would like to go out. I need to know a strategy to use to keep my anxiety down and keep what I want to say there, right now this holds me back. I'm afraid of being turned down.

My name is Kevin Sullivan founder of
I started this dating/community,I'm not saying you'll find someone right away but over time hopefully over time you will. Spread the word about us & they'll be more members. 

TBInlove is social dating community concentrating specifically on people with TBIs and other disabilities. 
People with disabilities find it difficult for others without a disability to accept them for who they are. Most people cannot see beyond the persons disability and do not give us a chance. We are so much more then our disability.  

Regular dating sites tend to focus on more of the superficial aspects of a person. TBInlove is a on line social dating community where you can chat, meet new friend, and many even meet that special some one. A place where you will always be accepted. 

Love knows no disabilities

Our survivor of almost three years fell into a very bad relationship! It now is setting him backwards! She's trying to turn him on his family and its working! His anger shows and his thinking is definitely off after seeing her so be careful who u trust!!

I got my diagnosis just an year ago, until then I thought something was wrong with me that I did not want to socialize with people and was scared of dating. Now that I know what is wrong with me I do not know how and where to meet decent people/men when I don't drink, smoke or watch sports. Each day is challenging and more so frightening about a lonely future.
As a mTBI survivor living in the Washington, DC area, I have learned through trial and error to be vague about my current recovery status and to put off the actual divulging my current situation for another date than the first one if I can help it. Over and over again I learned that once I told my date about my post concussive syndrome communications became strained. Today I am convinced that allowing the woman to get to know me as a person is much better at first.
me and my boy friend have been together for 2years and i have ptsd im always scared hes cheating or he dont love me and or im being used for sex!! i know alot of how i feel is not his falt only mine because things i have gone throught. i hate blaming him for how i feel i know its not his falt but i cant help myself to keep taking things out on him. i realy love him and i wish i knew how to save my relashion because im really scared im pushing my love of life away