Remember dating pre-lockdown? When you actually went out to places – perhaps for dinner and drinks? And there was actual physical contact? Hey, maybe even a kiss?
Well, those days are long gone, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t still proper etiquette on how to date.
When dating goes back to normal, Lara Asprey, CEO and founder of The Love Company, says it will be best to avoid restaurants on first dates as they are a minefield for things that can go wrong.
“I would go so far as to say don't have a long and arduous dinner on a first date,” she advises. “Keep it to drinks and coffee so you can escape if things aren't going well.
“If you do end up eating a meal on a first date, be mindful about what you order. There's nothing more difficult to eat gracefully than spaghetti!”
Girls No Filter podcast host Kelly Hills recently revealed she ditched a guy just for ordering the same thing as her in a restaurant! She gave the example during her interview on White Wine Question Time alongside fellow host and bestie, TOWIE’s Jess Wright.
“I ordered duck at dinner,” she said, “and he ordered the same as me. [...] Secondly, he had water out of his wine glass. Looking back, it sounds so harsh. It wasn’t even my worst date – it was probably his worst date!”
That’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dating etiquette, as these simple rules from Asprey, one of the UK's leading dating and relationship experts, show.
Don't be too fashionably late
Yes, this even applies to virtual dates – there’s nothing worse than hanging around on Zoom like a Billy No-Mates waiting for your date to turn up.
Asprey says: “Many women especially think that if they treat him mean they will keep him keen. It doesn't really work like that these days. If you're late, it just tells your date that you value your time over theirs and won't put you in the best light.”
Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself
Asprey believes Brits are particularly bad at talking about ourselves on dates as we don’t like to be seen as too self-involved, however, she says it’s important to give and take in conversation.
She suggests: “When someone asks 'How are you?' Instead of saying 'I'm fine thanks, you?' tell them how you feel and add a topic of conversation.
“Say 'I'm pretty good today, I'm loving this sunshine!'. Don't be afraid to talk about yourself a bit so as to keep the conversation going.”
Vulnerability is your friend
When you go on a date, while it’s nice to be confident and bubbly, Asprey says it’s also important to show your weaknesses.
“Many people think it's really attractive to be confident, assertive and direct,” states Asprey.
“Just be mindful that showing your date some vulnerability is also a really important component of creating chemistry. Let them see the real you and your fears and worries.”
Get your head around the new normal of dating
Asprey hopes that virtual dating sticks around once we’re back to normal – whatever that will be – as she says it removes the pressure of that first physical face-to-face meeting.
“You can relax in the comfort of your own home, and chat without expectation,” she explains.
“I'm actually hopeful it will continue well after lockdown and perhaps people might see a benefit in chatting and getting to know one another before they meet up in person, bringing back some old-fashioned dating values.
Be aware of your onscreen look
Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself on a Zoom call? Then you’ll know it’s not the most flattering of images. Asprey says it’s important to firstly ensure you’ve got the right lighting – too dark and they won’t see you!
She says: “You want to give your date the best chance of success and so letting them clearly see you and your facial expressions is really important.”
Asprey also suggests making sure your video is nice and stable, and that your face is the centre of the screen – as opposed to your chest!
“You don't want to be lying on the sofa holding your phone over your head where it's moving around all over the place making your date feel seasick,” she says. “Set up a stable camera position.”
Don’t speak over the other person
While this rule still applies when dating face-to-face, it’s even more important if you’re dating via Zoom. Asprey’s major piece of advice is to let the other person finish speaking before you reply.
She says: “This might feel a bit more unnatural but it's often difficult to hear what the other person is saying if you're both speaking over each other – which in turn, can make the conversation a little more stilted.
“It's not like it is when you're in the same physical proximity – you have to account for a certain time lag.”
Make some effort
Obviously when we’re back to dating in the real world, you’ll put some effort in – wearing something nice and combing your hair. But the same applies to virtual dates – there’s no excuse for not putting some effort in!
“You don't have to get fully dolled up but consider wearing something that shows you made a little effort,” says Asprey.
“If it makes you feel sexy put some make-up on, put on that cute top, fluff up your hair. It's not ideal to show your date your pyjamas right away!”
Keep it between the two of you
One of the problems with virtual dates may be that they have to happen in a rather busy household – however, it’s advisable to keep it to just you and your date if possible.
“Don't think it would be funny to introduce your date to other members of your lockdown gang, your mum and dad, your roommates,” says Asprey. “It might make your date feel a little awkward if you don't know each other that well yet.”
Give your virtual date a chance
Virtual or socially distanced dates may feel really unnatural, which is why it’s more important to keep an open mind when it comes to these kinds of dates.
“It might not seem ideal to you right now, but you might just form a stronger connection if you take physical contact off the table,” says Asprey.
If it’s bad, leave – but explain why
Whether in person or virtually, it’s OK to leave a first date if it’s not going well – but it’s important to give your reason.
“It's not OK to say you are popping to the loo never to return again and to leave your date hanging, wondering what is going on,” says Asprey.
She continues: “Decency and manners get you much further in dating than behaving badly as I firmly believe you attract what you put out, so if you're thinking it's OK to treat someone else like that, it's likely you too will only meet people who treat you that way.”
Hear Jess Wright and Kelly Hills talk more dodgy dates, plus how why their female friends are their true soulmates, in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.