First date mistakes you need to stop making

We set up a lot of first dates. And we get feedback after every one – which means we hear the good, the bad, and (very occasionally) the ugly stories of human behaviour in romantic contexts. We've analysed our members' biggest pet peeves and hates, and turned it into some advice for your next evening out.

Stop being late

The train was delayed, a meeting overran, you went to the wrong place by mistake – we know. Stuff happens! We'll always understand, and the vast majority of Swan members are exceptionally accommodating too. But still, leaving your date waiting is never a good first impression.

As a rough guideline, 5 minutes is neither here nor there. 10 minutes and they're likely to get anxious (is s/he coming? Have I got something wrong? What's happening?)

15 minutes or longer and your date is probably texting us to see if you've been eaten by wolves.

You can't mess up by being 10 minutes early. Take a book, listen to a podcast, or (best option) get your date a drink.

Never cancel on the day

Your goldfish has died, you're hungover and feel like death, you've got a work crisis, etc. Sometimes life really does get in the way. But cancelling without a decent amount of notice is likely to leave your date feeling put out at best, especially if they've sacrified a Friday or Saturday night to see you. Rescheduling relies on their goodwill, which might be in short supply if they can't rescue their evening after a last-minute change.

Are you asking enough questions?

It must be said that we very rarely get this feedback from men. Women are generally used to carrying the conversational load, and on dates unfortunately that can show.

We find it almost implausible that women still have to put up with dates on which they are not asked a single question – not a single one – but every so often, it does happen.

Everyone could benefit from being more curious about each other, but men: this one goes out to you in particular. If you thought the date went really well then are surprised to find she's not interested in seeing you again, do a little introspection.

Don't split hairs

As a general rule, you should assume that you and your date will be splitting the bill 50/50. If you're not comfortable with that, make sure your date knows your position from the start to avoid awkwardness or embarrassment when it's time to pay. We also recommend not disputing small costs if you can avoid it: being good with money is attractive to lots of people, but quibbling usually isn't.

Offering to cover everything is a lovely gesture and will doubtless make a great impression. It doesn't entitle you to anything, but we can testify that you'll be highly praised after the fact.

Don't make assumptions

Things your date might not share with you: politics, religion, food preferences, alcohol or smoking habits, hobbies and interests... etc. Of course, it's very likely that they will share several of those (we match you up for a reason), but you probably won't know in advance which things they are.

This means that it's typically a bad idea to order for your date, to make polemical statements about current affairs, or to trash-talk anyone's leisure pursuits. We tend to get most defensive and most talkative about issues that make us passionate, and that doesn't always provide good first-date conversation. Wait until you've established a baseline of mutual understanding before you explain how you'd fix the Middle East.

Good luck!

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