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Man and woman sitting on couch on first date looking nervous and scared


Six singles share what scares them about IRL dating ... and why they do it anyway

Penelope James   |   Fri, 27 Oct 2023

Let’s face it: first dates can be scary. From “run of the mill” nerves to real concerns about one’s safety, there’s a spectrum of first-date fears you may need to confront before meeting someone face-to-face.

The good news? You’re far from alone. In fact, first-date fears are so common that providing comfort and safety while dating was one of the many inspirations behind the founding of Couple: not only does the platform (and its DATE-A-BOT counterpart) offer a great opportunity to build your dating confidence, but it also provides a safe place to have your first meetup with matches.

But what about when it’s time to take your dating life offline and into the real world?

The Vibe recently spoke with six singles who shared what specifically gives them pause as they anticipate meeting a dating-app match IRL for the first time ... and why they do it anyway. The conversations were enlightening, and they serve as a heartwarming reminder that the pursuit of human connection and love can transcend even our most profound fears.

Emily (24): I worry I won’t make a good impression due to social anxiety

For me, the scariest part of first dates is the fear of not making a good first impression and worrying about how the other person will perceive me. I have major social anxiety, so going out to meet anyone (let alone a date!) is already a bit of a challenge on its own. It’s hard for me to “be myself” when I’m way too aware that “myself” is being watched and judged. I have to coach myself through the entire experience, which then causes me to worry that I’m being strange and detached. I also worry about whether I'll be interesting enough, if I’m meeting expectations, and if we'll have enough to talk about.

Does that ever stop me from going for it? Yeah, I admit that sometimes I’ll cancel on a date if the anxiety overwhelms me. But ultimately I know that love and companionship are worth overcoming my fear of being judged, and I try really hard to put myself out there again.

Man sitting on park bench with flowers next to him, looking scared about upcoming first date

Jason (22): I’m intimidated to carry the conversation or make the first move

The scariest part of first dates is the pressure to be confident, to carry the conversation and keep it engaging, and to make the first move. Sometimes I feel like I’m headlining a one-person show and that it’s solely my responsibility to make sure we both have a great time. Awkward silences or moments of miscommunication make me cringe. I also fear that the person might not like my interests or sense of humor, or that my advances might be unwelcome or rejected.

I always push through the nervousness, but there are times the fear of flopping gets pretty intense for me. When that happens, I remind myself that first dates aren’t, in fact, a one-person show but rather a two-way dialogue, and that the success of the date doesn't determine my worth.

Maria (29): I’m afraid that my appearance will be judged harshly

The scariest part of first dates is worrying about my appearance and that my date won’t be attracted to me. I tend to overthink every little detail, from my outfit to my weight to my complexion to my hair. I feel like I’m a pretty confident person in my daily life – I think I’m smart and funny and caring, and I’m super body-positive in general – but for some reason I get really insecure on first dates. Physical attraction is the first thing a person evaluates when dating you, right? So it’s hard not to fear being rejected for not measuring up to their expectations.

My strategy for pushing through the fear is to remember that ultimately, this person’s perception of me is an opinion, not a fact. Everyone has their own preferences, and if I don’t match theirs, that doesn’t diminish me in any way. I just have to wait for the person who loves what I’m offering and vice versa.

Man sitting on his bed holding his old wedding ring, looking worried about how his divorce and emotional baggage will affect dating

Sam (36): I fear the repercussions of my emotional baggage

As I've gotten older, the scariest part of first dates has shifted to the fear of how my own emotional baggage will affect the dynamic. You carry your own life experiences and past relationships with you, and you never know how someone will react when they hear about your history. Will this person be turned off because I was married once? Do I even mention it on a first date? It’s a huge part of who I am and why I’m where I am, but I worry that it will scare someone away if it comes up during “small talk.”

My go-to strategy is to mention it briefly in passing, and then only get into it if there are follow-up questions. Having a plan in advance helps reduce some of the anxiety surrounding my so-called baggage, and so far it’s been successful in helping me navigate my dates with less stress and fear.

Tanya (27): I sometimes fear for my safety on first dates

I guess the scariest part of first dates is worrying about my physical safety, especially when I’m meeting someone I’ve never even seen in person before. While I’ve been lucky enough to date decent people so far in my life, you hear way too many stories about people being victimized in some way, so that’s always in the back of my mind as a worst-case scenario whenever I’m meeting someone new in person.

Does that stop me from dating in general? No, definitely not. I just ensure we meet in a public place, share my location with a friend, guard my drinks, and cancel or bail if I sense even the slightest bit of aggression. Being risk-averse is totally worth it for romance, even if it is kind of annoying and isn’t 100% fool-proof.

Jordan (32): I worry about gender roles and I fear bigots

As someone who identifies as non-binary and queer, I have two main first-date fears. The first is the societal expectations around gender roles. There's often this unspoken pressure to conform to traditional dating norms, which can be uncomfortable. I fear that I'll be judged by my date for not fitting into a typical “'male” or “female” dating role, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the experience. And, if it hasn’t been established beforehand, it's challenging to decide when and how to disclose my identity and preferences.

The second has to do not with my date but with the public. Depending on where we are and how we're perceived, it's not always safe to be outwardly dating as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. So yeah, first dates come with some real emotional and physical risk for me. But what is the alternative? Let fear and the people propagating that fear deny me love and intimacy? No way. I deserve to date and experience affection just as much as anyone else.


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