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Woman holding an X in front of her mouth to signify avoiding talking about certain things on a first date


Seven subjects you should NEVER discuss during your first hang

Andy Phillips   |   Fri, 24 Feb 2023

Love them or hate them, one thing is certain: first dates can fan the flames of a new relationship or declare it dead on arrival. In the best scenarios, they’ll be fun, flirty, and just revealing enough to demonstrate compatibility with your partner. In the worst, well … we don’t have to tell you that. We’ve all had a first date that’s imploded, right? Whether it’s due to an overall lack of chemistry or something more specific, it’s frustrating when a date ends in disaster.

So how do you keep a first date from going off the rails? While there’s no way to guarantee that you and your date are going to live happily ever after, there is one strategy for making your initial meet-up more enjoyable: avoiding toxic conversation topics.

What qualifies as “toxic” is certainly subjective, but in our minds, there are seven sticky subjects that everyone should be wary of when meeting for the first time. Give them a read and then let us know what you think: What – if anything – should be off the first-date dinner table?

Don’t talk about your exes or (s)exploits

There’s nothing that kills the first-date mood faster than a partner who won’t stop talking about their exes and sexual exploits. While recapping your romantic history could eventually help give your date greater insight into who you are and where you’re coming from, there is zero need to provide that context during your initial hang. It puts your date in a super awkward position (do you really expect them to offer commentary on your prior relationships and hookups?), and it unintentionally centers your past instead of your present. Not a great way to kick things off.

Do yourself a favor and stay mostly mum about your former flames on a first date. It will become obvious if and when your partner’s ready to take a peek into your past.

Don’t overshare or dig for too much personal info

Old relationships aren’t the only topics around which you’ll want to tread lightly. Even though the whole idea of dating is to get to know each other better, oversharing about your deepest, most personal experiences – or pushing your date to overshare about their own – isn’t always appropriate during a first meeting. Some people take longer than others to reach various intimacy benchmarks, and you never know what might be an emotional trigger for someone.

That’s not to say that you can’t discuss your upbringing, family, beliefs, etc. – or that you should feel ashamed about or feel compelled to stay silent about anything simply for the comfort of others. But in terms of best dating practices, we recommend keeping the convos high-level at first. If you hit it off, there’s plenty of time to take a deeper dive together.

Two women arguing on a first date

Don’t get belligerent about conflicting beliefs (within reason)

Most dating advice you read will tell you that you should never discuss politics, religion, or other “hot button” issues on a first date. We disagree ... to a point.

While we do feel it’s fruitless to get into a combative back-and-forth on a first date, if any of your beliefs or values are critical to understanding who you are as a person and partner, it doesn’t do anyone any good for you to keep that under wraps for an arbitrary amount of time.

As long as you’re not spewing bigoted BS, feel free to share the truth about yourself. The key is to do so respectfully and without trying to convince your partner that your beliefs should be their truth, as well. Simple statements (you say “I’m XXX” and they respond “I’m YYY”) will make it pretty clear if your beliefs are aligned. You can decide how to proceed from there. If it seems like a respectful and thoughtful dialogue is possible, go for it! If it looks like you aren’t going to see eye-to-eye on some key issues (or worse), it’s probably best not to push the topic further. You can end your evening immediately or make it clear later that a second date is not in the cards.

Don’t discuss how your date compares to your ideal partner

A common icebreaker while dating is to ask someone what they’re looking for in a partner. It’s a fair and relevant question, and you should totally feel free to answer honestly ... albeit succinctly.

What we mean is – for the love of Cupid – do not answer that question with an exhaustive list of everything you’re looking for (and/or not looking for). More importantly, do not discuss how your date measures up to those expectations. Regardless of your assessment, it is bad form to critique a veritable stranger to their face. Too much praise might make them feel uneasy; too little will be unnecessarily hurtful. Stick with your overarching hopes and evaluate the particulars on your own time.

Man bragging about self on a first date with woman looking bored

Don’t brag too much OR divulge your deepest insecurities

There’s no question that you want to put your best foot forward and exude confidence on a first date, but that doesn’t mean you should spend the whole night boasting about yourself. Big egos give off bad vibes, and too much self-aggrandizing is the swiftest way to sell yourself short. If you’re a catch, that’s going to become clear whether you crow about it or not. Trust us.

Just as you don’t want to be an egomaniac, you also shouldn’t be overly self-deprecating. Highlighting all of your self-perceived faults is like waving a big red flag. As dating coach Lisa Hawkins told us last week, meaningful relationships are built from a foundation of self-love, and negative self-talk is a sign that you have some work to do on yours before you’re ready for a relationship.

Don’t talk timelines or push the natural pace of your relationship

Is there anything more stressful than a date who starts the timer on your relationship the minute you meet? Statements like “I want to be married within a year and have a child six months later” isn’t ideal first-date fodder … most people would balk at dating on a deadline like that.

That’s NOT to say that there’s anything wrong with being upfront about what you’re looking for on a first date. If long-term commitment, kids, etc. are what you’re seeking, it’s fair to divulge those basic desires. (Better to find out right away if your date isn’t looking for the same kind of relationship, right?) But putting a specific timeline on the course of your fledgling relationship, or sharing your list of baby names, or pushing the pace on intimacy of any kind could be off-putting.

A relationship under pressure can’t evolve naturally, so allow yourself to get to know your partner organically before you start discussing the timing of milestones you hope to reach.

Don’t speak about salaries or serious money issues

And finally, the first date is not the time to discuss your financial portfolios.

Money can definitely complicate matters in a relationship, and that’s possible whether there’s too little, too much, or perhaps both thanks to financial disparity between partners. But beyond deciding who’s getting the check, the first date is not the best time to talk tax brackets. Obviously it will become important to discuss values, salaries, debt, money management styles, and lifestyle expectations as your relationship progresses, but discussing who makes what on day one might feel a bit too prying for many people.

If money is such a priority for you that a second date depends on your partner’s financials, you could certainly pay attention to context clues to get a sense of where they stand (what they do, where they live, how they dress, what their hobbies are, etc.), but take any assumptions with a grain of salt. And if you decide to risk it and ask them outright, understand that your first date might be your last.


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