Nothing is more awkward than inviting a girl to your house for the first time, sitting down on the couch and saying, "Well, um, what do you want to talk about?" Turning on romantic music and dimming the lights might seem a bit smoother, but may seem like an obvious set-up. Make your girlfriend feel comfortable by breaking the ice as soon as she arrives, and you'll both be able to breathe easier.
Create an interesting space. Hang art on the walls that might elicit questions such as "Did you paint this?" or "Where was that photo taken?" Put a few framed photos of family and friends around the room -- the one of your uncle standing next to the 10-foot alligator he snared will be an excellent conversation starter. If you play a musical instrument, keep it visible. There's nothing like demonstrating how to play the didgeridoo to break the ice -- permanently.
Play a game. Leave a deck of cards or an interesting chess set on your coffee table. When she arrives, ask her if she'd like something to drink. Then, ask her if she wants to play a lightning game of chess. If she's interested, you automatically have something to do as you have fun playing or teaching her the rules of the game.
Get an outgoing -- but not too obnoxious -- pet. When you answer the door and your Labradoodle is by your side, there won't be an awkward moment as your girlfriend coos over Fido. This provides the perfect opportunity for you to show off your pooch's hand-shaking skills, as well.
Ask her some questions. David Letterman, for example, has to break the ice with guests every night. Good hosts do so by asking questions that come from a genuine sense of curiosity, according to a 2011 article in "Backstage." Ask her how she got the scar on her elbow or whether she thinks she looks like her mom or her dad. Soon, you'll both be engrossed in conversation and any hint of discomfort will be gone. Keep your questions open-ended so the conversation doesn't stall.
Surprise her with a gift. Set a striking bouquet of flowers on your kitchen table, purchase a bottle of her favorite wine or wrap up that sculpture she was crazy about when you visited a local gallery. When she comes over, present her with your gift.
Ask her a favor, advises psychologist Jeremy Nicholson in a December 2011 article in "Psychology Today." Try asking her opinion on whether you should go with blinds or curtains in the living room or if she minds helping you to finish organizing your DVD collection. Not only will the ice melt, but you'll have a chance to bond as you argue about whether or not "The Hunger Games" is a prediction of a coming dystopia or a mere commercial franchise.