It goes without saying that when you meet someone for the first time, especially in online dating, a glass of liquid courage can go a long way in helping the conversation to flow. The problem with liquid courage is that it can easily become an inescapable crutch in your first date routine.

I can attest to this. When I got back on the dating horse in my early 50s, I initially focused on coffee dates. They’re simple to set up, as it’s easy to find a Starbucks or similar establishment in most cities. However, caffeine can inadvertently rachet up the pace of the conversation. Once I switched to meeting up for a brew or a mixed drink, the pace of the conversation flowed much more smoothly.

I used the “meet for drinks” formula for a few years, and it worked pretty well. It even became its own test. The person I met for the date could disqualify themselves by exceeding the common sense two-drink limit, which happened on several occasions. On one particular date, I arrived at the agreed-upon location ten minutes early only to find that my date had already finished her first drink and was working on her second. Needless to say, I kept the meeting short and didn’t contact her again.

In the Psychology Today blog article “The Value of Sober Dating,” the author discusses a survey that stated 36.4% of singles drink before going out. On top of that, 50% drink an average of two to three drinks during the date. Yikes! How can you make a reasonable decision about someone’s dating potential under those circumstances?

It makes sense to keep it to one drink on an acquaintanceship meeting—just enough for a little courage but not enough for you to start getting stupid. This first date should be kept to an hour in length, ninety minutes max. In the past, I’ve had many first date conversations where I’ve consumed a couple of drinks over three hours. When a first meeting goes that long, it’s easy to put your foot in your mouth and disqualify yourself from getting a second date.

As you work your way back into the dating pool, you’ll go through different phases, and you’ll learn what works best for you. I started with the coffee dates. This exposed the fact that I needed to work on my conversational skills. Having a drink or two covered that up. However, I missed out on meeting several quality women who didn’t drink. As my conversational skills progressed, having a drink became optional. Things came full circle as coffee dates became the norm again.

One of the most significant advantages to coffee dates is that you can stack them and meet a couple of gals in one afternoon or evening. You can’t stack first dates when alcohol is involved. Additionally, after a coffee date, the evening’s still open to learn a new song or get some reading or writing in. That’s difficult to do when you’re tired from drinking.

Alcohol or no alcohol, most of us could use help with our conversational skills. The easiest way to learn is by setting up regular, weekly dates. If you really want to supercharge the process, a few speed dating events can really improve your confidence.

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