4 First Date Conversation Rules

When it comes to getting personal on a first date, politics, religion, and sex used to be off the table. But have the rules changed?

Do you tell all, from your sexual past to your political affiliation, on the first date? Or do you keep things under wraps before you get to know someone? The rules have changed, and we're no longer learning from the same dating etiquette book our parents used. So we asked members of Marie Claire Ask & Answer — Marie Claire's online Q&A community for dating, sex, and relationship advice — for their new rules of first date conversation. Here's what they said:

DO talk about religion and politics.

"I don't mind taking about religion or politics, I think it's interesting and a good way to learn about someone," says Answerology member w0nd3rw0man. "If it turns into an argument or you really disagree with each other, no biggie, you can move on. I think most rational adults should be able to have a casual conversation on these topics without getting too heated."

Don't sidestep potentially touchy subjects — a chat about the day's biggest headlines can lead to a passionate discussion or a fired-up debate, both of which can make sparks fly. And what better way to show off your smarts? If you feel like you're getting into dangerous territory, propose that you agree to disagree...and continue the discussion on date #2.

DON'T talk about your ex.

"Talking about your ex-boyfriends...will kill any chances of a second date," said bjd555.

Answerology members almost unanimously agreed: As far as a first date is concerned, your ex and the complimentary baggage do not exist. A quick mention is okay if you're telling a fascinating story that happens to include an ex-flame, but resist the urge to launch into a discussion best reserved for your friends and therapist. Airing your dirty laundry will only make you seem insecure at best...petty and a little crazy at worst.

DO keep it present-tense.

"Just talk about what you're doing now, what you're looking forward to, and what your goals are for the future," advises skateny.

Don't dwell on the past! Talk about what excites you about the future, whether it's next weekend's movie release or your long-term career plans. Everyone has a past, but focusing on the future makes you seem like a positive, happy person — an instant draw when you're chatting up someone you're interested in.

DON'T just talk — listen.

Express interest and curiosity in what the other person has to say. Treat him/her as though he/she is someone with whom you'd like to be a good friend," says skateny. The bonus? "This gives you a great deal of information. If you expend a great deal of time, effort, and attention getting to know this person, and it does little or nothing for you, then it probably won't do a whole lot for you down the line."

Remember, the point of the date is to get to know the person you're out with — so remember to let them talk too! Ask questions and really listen to their answers instead of thinking about how nervous you are. Truly concentrating on the conversation at hand will calm your first date nerves and give you a better idea of how compatible you are with your date.