How to Be a Better Dater


When people know you write about dating/relationships, you get asked about bad dates a lot. How many have you been on? What happened? They want the gory details. I usually disappoint these people by telling them the truth: I only went on one really bad date, and in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t even completely awful. He drank too much and talked about his shady past. I didn’t know how to exit once it was clear I wasn’t interested. Yet I’ve heard PLENTY of horror stories that are much worse.

If anything, I end up going on mediocre dates more than bad ones. The other person is pleasant enough, we have a decent time, but after dinner/coffee/a drink or two, I’m definitely ready to go home. In a way, mediocre dates are the worst of them all. They’re not so bad that you can keep your friends laughing for hours as you give the play-by-play of what happened, yet they weren’t good enough to get you excited about future possibilities. Mediocre dates are purgatory.

On the other side of the spectrum are the excellent dates, the four-leaf clover of the dating world. I went on an excellent date recently, which got me thinking about the anatomy of a great date and how we can all try to save each other from dating mediocrity. A few ideas include:

  • Be decisive: Dating is awkward because you don’t know each other well yet and you don’t want to do anything to offend the other person. But sometimes you fall into a trap where neither person wants to say, ” I want to go to this restaurant” or “Let’s meet at this bar.” Instead, you go back and forth for hours trying to get the other person to suggest a plan so you don’t have to. During my great date, the guy I went out with had a restaurant he wanted to try. He asked if it sounded good to me. It did. He suggested a time and asked if that worked for me. It did. He made a reservation. Done. That decisiveness was refreshing. If you’ve got a place in mind, suggest it. The worst that can happen is the other person vetoes.
  • Make life easier on your date: I once had a date ask me to meet him at a bar in the middle of downtown Charlotte (we actually call it uptown) on a weekend, which required me Ubering there alone and trying to find him in a tidal wave of drunk people. I’m a big girl and this is no issue, but I always appreciate when my date thinks about the logistics from my perspective. The date I went on recently picked me up and dropped me back off at my door. Not necessary, but definitely sweet. Also, this one’s for the gentlemen: I know you don’t have to worry about this and therefore it probably doesn’t even cross your mind, but it can be scary to be a woman wandering through a city or parking lot at night. We’re tough and independent, but the reality is that we also watch a lot of CSI. Walk us to our cars! We don’t NEED it, but it’s a nice gesture. Just thought I’d point that out!
  • The details count: I almost fell on the ground when my date showed up with flowers. FLOWERS. I mean, right? I’m not saying everyone should bring flowers to every date, but that was definitely impressive. My friend’s a big beer enthusiast and she went on a date recently where the guy showed up with a bottle of beer he knew she’d been wanting to try. These little gestures get things off to a great start.

And finally, dating involves a lot of game playing and analysis, like it or not, and can be pretty stressful. If you want to be a better dater, make it a point to put the person you’re sitting across from at ease. A compliment can make a big difference when it comes to setting the tone of the evening. Know that your date is probably nervous too, so some nice words about their choice of restaurant/sense of humor/outfit/anything can help to keep them relaxed and make it more fun for everyone.


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