It's easy to fall into a dating routine of dinner and the latest movie. With just a bit of effort, though, you can break free of the dating tedium and do something that is as unique as you are.
On a first date, you'll want to learn as much about your companion as you can, without having to pepper your date with direct questions. Try to put yourself in situations where your companion's character will emerge with his or her actions.
Doing physically demanding tasks, spending a day helping others, playing character-revealing games, getting out of your comfort zone and letting your adrenalin flow will all help reveal who the real person is behind your companion's polite first-date facade.
The better you get to know your date right off the bat, the more time you will save in the long run.
No. 5: Physically demanding volunteer project
If you were to choose a background song for our first first-date idea, it would have to be "Let's Get Physical."
For this unique date, you volunteer to work on a physically demanding project. You might choose to join a group, such as Habitat for Humanity, that is helping to build or repair someone's house, or you could join a project clearing weeds or trash from a city park or helping to build hiking trails in a wilderness park.
Even if you and your date don't click, you won't have wasted your time. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing you contributed to your community, and you'll also have gotten some fresh air and a good workout.
And if you do like your date, even better. You'll have a chance to see what your date looks like in a sweaty, clingy T-shirt.
No. 4: Play a game of Monopoly
For this date, bring out the old Monopoly set and play a game. What makes this date unique is that the game is only an excuse to closely observe your date's behavior.
Is your date excessively eager to buy up all the railroads? Does he pout if you buy a property that he wanted? Does she look a little too happy when you land on one of her expensive properties?
There are so many things you can learn about people by watching them play. Does he insist on lining up all the money into perfectly parallel stacks?
Worst of all, does your date cheat? If so, better to find out now before you've gone any further.
Don't use any shortcuts. Play the full version of the game. If, four hours into the game, you're still talking to each other, that's a good sign that you might be very compatible.
No. 3: Go silent
Pretend that a scientist in a white lab coat has directed you to go on a special kind of date.
On this date, you and your companion may not speak to each other or touch each other. All communication must be nonverbal, either through gestures or through your eyes.
By the end of the date, two things may happen. You may have gotten used to the lack of direct communication. If it feels like it's normal -- if it makes you feel like you're an old married couple -- than you better run. The first date is way too soon in the relationship to be falling into that kind of rut.
If, on the other hand, the moment you are allowed to talk and touch, you fall into each other's arms and start babbling away, you'll know that your date may be a keeper.
No. 2: Horror movie marathon
For an unusual first date, try a horror movie marathon. You may be able to find one in a nearby theater -- of course, that's a lot easier around Halloween than other times of the year -- or create your own at home with a stack of rental films.
There's nothing like being scared together to see if you are really compatible. Is one person a screamer and the other a comforter? That would work. If you're both screamers, though, you will just egg each other on. If you're both calm comforters, you'll be frustrated that there is no one to soothe.
Also pay attention to your date's popcorn-eating behavior. Try making just one bowl and see what happens. Does your date hog the bowl, making it hard for you to reach? Does your date drop kernels on the floor? If your date passes the bowl each time he or she takes a handful, you'll know you've got a winner.
No. 1: Try something new
For a unique date -- and a unique life experience -- do something that neither of you has ever done before.
It could be going to the opera, riding a hot-air balloon, having lunch in a nearby town you've never seen or anything else that is new for you.
The trick is to pick something that is way outside the norm for both of you, not only something you've never done before, but something you've never even thought of doing.
If your companion is a dud, at least you will have an adventure and a break from the routine, and you might even discover a whole new interest. If your companion seems promising, observe how he or she handles the unfamiliar situation.
Life has a way of throwing us curve balls, and someone who can take novelty in stride may be a good bet for the long term.