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Your Brain on a Date

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”

Thoughts are filters that color experience and bend perception to fit our preconceived view of things, positive or negative. That’s because we tend to see only what we expect to see, and pursue only what conforms to that vision. Taking charge of your mind is a powerful way to create the life—even the love life—you want.

Furthermore, the brain is a computer. It is possible to have too many applications (thoughts) running at once, particularly in a stressful situation like dating. The result is that your main objective—to relax and enjoy getting to know someone new—gets bogged down in other thoughts jostling for attention.

If your dating life is disappointing, you are not a victim of anything but your own thinking. Here are four examples of how your thoughts can hamper successful dating:

1. Thinking predominately about sex. You might as well admit it: On a date, thoughts about sex enteryour mind. A part of your brain is imagining scenarios, inventing strategies, and indulging fantasies. Within reason, of course, there is nothing wrong with that. It is a natural part of being male—and you couldn’t turn it off if you tried. But like anything, too much is, well, too much. For one thing, a woman’s thought process will likely lead her to think: “Is sex all he is interested in?” If you let your thoughts about sex upstage everything else, you run the risk of giving her that idea, whether it is true or not. In addition, if you are still on your first few dates with her, too much thinking about sex is probably premature. It’s like driving across country and focusing on turns that are still a hundred miles away. Do that and you are likely to miss the ones right in front of you.

2. Thinking about keeping your romantic options open. The best dates occur when your thoughts are focused completely on the one woman you’re with; the worst dates often happen when your thoughts roam BEYOND the woman you’re with. In short, you’re flirting with disaster if you’re flirting with other women. On a date, a woman wants to feel she has your undivided attention. No matter how discreet you think you are, when you “check out” other women in the room, she will notice. It sends a clear signal you are not interested primarily in her, but are keeping your options open. To avoid this mistake, make sure your eyes focused on your date and mind stays focused on what she says.

3. Thinking about the image you project. When it comes to mate selection, modern men are closer to males of other species—posturing and chest beating—than to Elizabethan poets reciting sonnets. The point is, on a date, a lot of a man’s mental energy goes into putting on a good show, projecting attractive “maleness.” That’s not a bad thing. But what sets you apart from our wild kingdom cousins is your ability to temper instincts and control thoughts. Posturing might get you the date, but what she’s really interested in now is what lies beneath it. Calm your mind and let her see who you really are.

4. Wondering if she is fitting you for a tuxedo. While women need to guard against plugging their date into a mental supercomputer and calculating the probability that he’s Mr. Right, men must watch out for the opposite: being ready to run for the exit at the first hint of captivity. Particularly in the early stages of a new relationship, you like to feel that all your options remain open and are sensitive to the possibility that doors to your future are being closed without your consent. Your brain appoints itself as watchman and is hyper alert for breaches in the perimeter. How exhausting, distracting—and unnecessary!

The truth is, no one is in charge of your life and choices but you. Affirming that for yourself allows you to relax and appreciate the moment for what it is: the chance to enjoy the company of someone new. Your brain on a date can be friend or foe. You get to decide which.

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