BY DANIELA USLAN
There’s nothing like the stress of a first date. You have to get all done up, make sure you don’t have any wardrobe mishaps, and then do your best to have a good time with a complete stranger. Second dates, on the other hand, can be way more fun. Especially when you only go on them with the right people.
Your time is too valuable to keep dating the wrong people. But how do you know if your first date is worthy of a second date? I went to the experts to find out.
You enjoy yourself
One of the first signs that you should go on a second date is that you really enjoy the first one. Don’t focus on whether your date is good “on paper” — instead, pay attention to how you feel when you’re with them. If you enjoy yourself, it’s a good sign that you’ll enjoy the second date, as well.
One way to tell if you’re having a good time is if you find yourself smiling a lot. Dating and relationship expert Megan Weks told me, “One sign that you should definitely go out with the person again is that you find yourself smiling a lot. I have a client who didn’t know if she liked the man she was dating but she noticed that he had her smiling from ear to ear. She recalled that her ‘face hurt from smiling,’ however she couldn’t tell if she liked him or not! Her body was subconsciously was aware of something before it hit her brain. They are married now!”
Another indication that you’re enjoying yourself is if you get to the end of the date and wonder where the time went. Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, Founder of the Relationup online community told me that when you’re with the right person, “Time seems to fly. You didn’t even notice that time had passed as the short coffee date turned into hours of enjoyment. This comfort with one another is likely a sign that you two are very compatible.”
Your conversation flows well
In long term relationships, communication can mean the difference between staying together or breaking up. If you’re paying attention, you can see the signs of a good communicator on your first date. David Bennett, a speaker, certified counselor, and relationship expert told me, “Check and see how he communicates. Is he assertive? Is he open? Is he shy? Does he put others down? Look for clues about how he communicates, because it will indicate how he will do so later. If he is open, assertive, listens well, and is relaxed, get a second date!”
Milrad shared another good indicator that your date is adept at communication. “He is able to to take cues from your body language or emotional responses,” she said. “He can read that you are uncomfortable or hesitant and behaves in a respectful, considerate manner. He gives you space to acknowledge this or set a boundary. This sensitivity shows that he will likely be an attuned partner who is sensitive to what is going on with you.”
Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer of the PeopleLooker online background check platform agreed. He said you should consider a second date if “your conversation was easy and familiar, like you have known each other forever. You connected on multiple levels, attraction, interests, values, and perspectives. You forgot about all of the other people in the room, it was just you and your date!”
You feel chemistry
Another clear sign you should go on a second date is if you have chemistry. Bennett put it this way, “Does he get you excited? Were you laughing and flirting? Chemistry is a great sign you really like him. It also means your emotional brain — the most powerful part of your brain — is on board.”
I’ve had friends who tried to make it work with partners that they weren’t attracted to. It’s never worked out because it’s so important to feel a sexual attraction to your partner. Milrad told me it’s a good sign if you feel sexual chemistry.
“Feeling sexually attracted to your partner is an important element of a budding relationship and you know right away whether the sexual chemistry is there or not,” she said. “Although your love can grow deeper over time, if the chemistry is not there, it is unlikely to grow. This innate attraction demonstrates that you have the foundation to have good sexual passion.”
You feel comfortable when you’re with them
Even though it’s important to be attracted to your date, you also want to feel comfortable and able to be yourself around them. Weks told me in our interview, “A sign that you should go out on another date is that you feel comfy, cozy. If you feel like you’ve known your date forever, it’s a sign you should agree to turn that pencil into pen on your calendar.”
In case you’re worried that feeling comfortable means the chemistry isn’t there, Weks wanted you to know that feeling comfortable on a date is not a sign that you are settling. “Maybe your body is not feeling tingles or butterflies but be aware that sometimes too much initial chemistry can be a trap. Feeling comfortable with your date is a sign that you two have commonalities that you should stick around to find out more about!”
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist and founder of Christian Crush, told me, “Safety is a feeling most of us desire in intimate relationships, which is feeling like we can become completely vulnerable with this person emotionally and share our innermost areas of shame or insecurities. This is the path to true emotional intimacy and it often begins with feeling really comfortable with a date, like we have chemistry, like we have a lot in common, and them having attributes we admire.” Chemistry and comfort can exist together, and they are a potent mix.
They’re different from the other guys or girls you’ve dated
Feeling comfortable with your date is usually a positive thing, but sometimes, it’s because they’re similar to people you’ve dated in the past. Relationship expert Julienne Derichs told me, “I was working with a woman who seemed to pick the same type of guys over and over again. Part of how she chose to go out on a second date was by how comfortable she felt on the first date. She ended up with addicted, critical men, who broke it off with her abruptly.”
Derichs and her client worked to “reset her ‘picker'” for dating. Derichs told me, “We began to unpack what ‘comfortable’ meant to her and what we came to was that ‘comfortable’ felt familiar and familiar wasn’t healthy. So she had to change the way she was acting in those first few dates.” If you find yourself unsuccessfully dating the same type of people over and over again, it’s probably time to make a shift.
Stef Safran, “Chicago’s Introductionista” and owner of Stef and the City, agreed. She told me, “One of my recent engagements came from a client who called me after the first two dates and said, ‘Well he’s not what I dated in the past.’ I told her that the guys from the past didn’t work and by dating this guy it didn’t mean she had to marry him, however after giving him a chance, she is!”
They are the same person you “met” online
Since you most likely met your date online, one of the best ways to tell if they’re going to be honest with you is if their online profile is an accurate reflection of who they are. Relationship coach and author Lisa Hayes told me, “Let’s face it, a dating profile is a sales tool. People are going to put their best face forward. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. However, if that best face isn’t an honest representation of who they are in the real world, that’s a sign of dishonesty or insecurity.”
Don’t get so excited about who you want your date to be that you fail to see the signs of who they really are. Hayes continued, “It can be easy to get caught up in the moment, or your own nerves, and miss clear signs that someone isn’t showing up as advertised.”
Safran agreed. She told me, “Trust is important. A first impression is good if what you thought you were going to get is what shows up.”
They appreciate you
Let’s face it — it feels good to be noticed and appreciated, especially by a potential partner. If your date takes time to notice what they like about you, it’s a great sign that they could be good to go out with again.
Derichs mentioned the importance of compliments, and especially unexpected ones. “He gives you a sincere but unexpected compliment, like, ‘Your taste in music is great… You smell lovely…You are so easy to talk to and I like your take on things.’ Expected compliments feel good” she said. “Unexpected compliments make a huge, and lasting, impact and are a strong signal that you should go in a second date.”
They focus on you
With so many distractions around, it’s all too easy to get stuck with a date who doesn’t give you the attention you deserve. That’s why if they do focus on you, it’s a very good sign. Derichs shared some important indicators that your date is paying attention to you, like, “He shows you that you are interesting by acting interested. He makes eye contact and smiles, is curious about what you are talking about, laughs at your jokes even if you’re not that funny.”
Unfortunately, you will often be stuck with a date who only talks about themselves. But if you find a date who seems genuinely interested in you, they are second date material. Milrad shared that it’s a good sign if “Your date not only tells you about himself, but wants to get to know you. He takes the time to ask detailed follow up questions that show that he is attentive and interested in knowing more about what you are sharing. This attunement shows that he will likely be a collaborative partner who is interested in your thoughts and feelings and hearing what you have to say.”
They are respectful to you
Your date can show they respect you in so many ways — by being on time to your date, making sure you get home safely, and treating you with respect when you’re on the date.
New York based therapist Kimberly Hershenson told me, “Saying you’ll be at a place at a certain time and constantly running late is annoying and a huge sign your guy is a dud. If your date arrived on time it shows that meeting you was a priority to him.” When your date respects your time on your first date, that’s a great sign that they’ll be considerate and think about your needs later on.
Hershenson told me if “he texted or called to make sure you got home okay — this shows he cares about your well-being which is a good indicator he will be there for you in times of need.” She shared a story to illustrate her point. “One client was heartbroken after a breakup and afraid to put herself out there again,” she told me. “When she finally started dating again she had a lot of fear. Her date sent a simple text asking if she got home okay and her mind was completely at ease because she felt cared for, unlike with her ex. She is now in a committed relationship with this man.”
They treat other people well
Of course it’s important that your date treats you with respect, but you can learn a lot from how they treat other people, as well. Hayes told me, “Often on a first date, people are very focused on impressing you. However, their true nature is quite likely to shine when they interact with other people along the way. If someone isn’t kind to the person who delivers your drinks, that’s a pretty good indicator you’re not going to be impressed with how they treat you eventually.”
Bennett agreed. He said, “If you see him interact with others (like a waiter, etc.), does he treat them right? Is he generous, cool, and a good communicator? If so, that’s a sign of how he likely interacts with others. If he’s rude or super shy, that’s a good sign he is that way with others. How he treats others is a good sign of how he’ll treat you and your friends on a long-term basis.”
Hershenson told me that a client of hers stopped dating someone because he didn’t treat the waitstaff with respect. “One client in particular stopped dating a man after he yelled at a waitress for getting his order wrong. She saw it is a sign he had a temper and would one day blow up at her.”
They show that they’re interested in seeing you again
You may be interested in seeing your date again, but it’s very important to know if they feel the same way. Derichs said you’ll know they’re a good second date candidate if “he is straightforward and says, ‘It has been really nice meeting you. Would you like to go out again?’ and he has a specific suggestion in mind: go to the movies, hear some music, try a new brewery, or go for a walk and get coffee.”
She said it’s also good to know if he isn’t interested. “If he doesn’t want a second date that is good to know upfront. You’ll know not to spend your time wanting someone who is not interested.”
Safran also pointed out that it’s important for them to follow up to show you that they are responsible. She said it’s a good thing if “he asked if you would go out again and then followed up within less than three days to make actual plans.”
You feel good about yourself afterward
Instead of just focusing on how you feel about the person you just went out with, ask yourself how you feel about yourself after a date. If they made you feel good, that’s a great sign.
Hayes told me, “Some people are very good at making you feel insecure. If you walk away from a first date feeling edgy and wondering if you’re good enough, chances are high the second date will be the same. However, if you walk away from the first date feeling grounded and good about yourself, that is a good indication you might be a good match.”
Lavelle agreed. He added, “If someone brings out the best in you, that is a sure sign you should consider spending more time with him or her.” Dating should make you feel good about who you are. Only go on second dates with people who give you that “I’m a rockstar” feeling.
The bottom line is to trust yourself. If you pay attention to how you feel about yourself and your date, and you’re honest with yourself about your wants and needs, you will make good dating decisions. Only you know what’s right for you, so make your decisions based on that. You will enjoy dating a lot more, and your second dates will all be better than your first ones!