Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Too much, too soon? How to answer personal questions on a first date

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

We’ve all been on bad first dates. Maybe your date doesn’t look like their photos, maybe your date was rude to the bartender or server, or maybe there just simply wasn’t a connection there. It happens. But perhaps the most awkward scenario is when your date starts asking you questions that are just far too personal — and maybe downright intrusive — for a first meeting. All of a sudden, a casual conversation feels more like a police interrogation (all that’s missing is the spotlight shining in your face).

There are, of course, the subjects we are often taught not to bring up in polite conversation like religion and politics. But in an attempt to try to get to know you, your date might unknowingly cross the line of what you feel comfortable talking about. Maybe they ask about your divorce (when the marriage didn’t end amicably) or your family (when there’s a member you don’t have a good relationship with). Going into in-depth answers about these topics might feel like a way to connect with someone, but in reality, you’ll likely come off as negative — and that’s because the subjects simply are negative.

If your date does ask a question you don’t feel comfortable answering, you can opt to respond by saying something like, “I’m happy to share more about that with you once we get to know each other a little better.” That way, you’re politely avoiding the question without completely shutting your date down.

You can then change the subject by asking something of your own: “What I’d like to know about you is if you’re planning any trips for next year since your profile had so many interesting travel photos.” Of course, you can replace “travel” with anything else you picked up from their profile: cooking, hiking, photography, watching sports or training for a half marathon, perhaps.

Follow up with your own interest in the subject. From a simple and easy question, a conversation is flowing and you’re getting to learn more about each other.


The key to a first date is keeping the conversation light while getting to know about each other’s hobbies and interests … and don’t forget humor. I would actually prefer you leave a first date not knowing any factual information about your date, but instead knowing you laughed the whole time and felt great about yourself.

Meanwhile, avoid heavy topics that can bring up bad feelings such as past relationships, relationship “deal-breakers”… and please don’t be one of the people who asks, “Why are you still single?” Maybe it sounds like a compliment to you, but most people don’t take it that way.

The purpose of a first date is not to map out a life plan with the person, including where you’ll send your 2.5 children to school and what to name your future dog. It’s a chance to see if you both enjoy being with each other and want to see each other again. There’s a time and place for deep conversations about the past and future, but a first date is all about being in the moment and relishing the present.

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