VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER
FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation Psychology Division Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Pat #22

DEAR PAT: I’ve recently re-entered the dating scene after 4 years of absence. I had a brain injury in 1998 and lost my girlfriend soon after. It really hurt that she didn’t stay with me. I was pretty mad and had a hard time trusting people for a while. I’m completely over her now, but I am afraid of dating someone new. I don’t think anyone would really want me because of my head injury. I get embarrassed easily and can’t think of the right words to say all the time. I don’t want them to think I’m dumb, so I usually avoid being around a lot of people.

After many weeks of pestering me, my older brother finally talked me into going on a date with a family friend. I thought the date went great. We went out to dinner and then to a bar, partying until 2 a.m. I told her all about my ex-girlfriend, how she left me high and dry after the accident, and how long it’s been since I’ve been out on a date. We talked for hours about my brain injury and what I went through getting better. I took her home, but she wouldn’t give me a goodnight kiss. When I tried to call her the next day, she wouldn’t even talk to me. I left messages, but she hasn’t returned my phone calls. What do I do now? Dating Dud

PAT’S RESPONSE: Sounds like you two had quite a night! Without being a fly on the wall (or in your soup), it’s hard for me to guess what went wrong on your dinner date. I do know that you are not the only person to have ever felt confused after a date. Years of reading letters from brain injury survivors about this topic have certainly been educational for me. Dating can be a complicated process for anyone, but it may be especially hard for someone recovering from a brain injury. Let me share with you some ideas from “Pat’s Secrets of Dating after a Brain Injury.”

q Get in shape.

§ Taking up two theatre seats won’t impress her.

q Before you ask for a first date, find out what the other person likes to do.

§ Does he or she like to go on picnics, see movies, or play golf?

§ Have a set plan when you ask someone out if your date doesn’t have a preference. You might say, “Do you want to go to the movies with me on Friday?”

q No matter what your friends say, hygiene is important.

§ Go beyond basic cleanliness (bathing, brushing teeth and hair). Try ironing your clothes, getting a haircut, and trimming your nails.

§ Your date may not tell you if you’ve got poor hygiene, but a second date is not likely.

q Watch your temper.

§ Nothing turns a date off worse than yelling at the waiter.

q Keep your hands to yourself.

§ Don’t assume it’s okay; Ask before you touch.

q Don’t talk too much about yourself.

§ Encourage your date to talk about his or her interests, life experiences, etc.

§ Look for social clues to change the topic (poor eye contact, yawning, waving down the waiter for the check).

q Think before you speak.

§ You won’t impress her by accurately guessing her real weight or age.

§ Don’t tell everyone stories about your underwear.

§ She won’t be impressed by stories about how drunk you got.

§ Don’t talk about sex on the first (and probably the second and third) date.

q Don’t get your date drunk.

§ You’ll probably get drunker.

q Good manners are always appreciated.

§ Don’t make noise when you eat.

§ Say “Please” and “Thank you.”

§ If you invite someone out on a date, you should expect to pay.

Remember, dating can be complex with many “rules” to make things go more smoothly. Next time you ask someone out for a date, choose a person you are truly interested in knowing better. Good luck on all your future dating adventures!

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