They were nervous
Olena-Yakobchuk/ShutterstockFirst dates are hardly ever smooth experiences. At least one or both of you are nervous about putting yourself out there and trying to get to know a new person. There are a whole slew of doubts that can run through your mind, making the dating process anything but easy. When someone is feeling overwhelmed like this, you can end up walking away from your first date with a less than stellar impression. But according to Melissa Divaris Thompson, a New York City-based marriage and family therapist, that's not always a reason to put an 'X' next to that person's name."Sometimes you don't get an accurate first impression because people are nervous," she says. "It's very discombobulating to go on a first date. It can make a lot of people very anxious. I firmly believe it's not a true representation all the time of who that person really is." As the saying goes, first impressions aren't always true. There might be much more to this person than meets the eye; something you can only find out if you go on date number two.
You're unsure for a reason
Syda-Productions/ShutterstockIf you're not quite sure about whether you should go on a second date, that's reason enough to go ahead and book it. If you were absolutely positive that this was not the person for you then you wouldn't be thinking about it anymore. Laurel Steinberg, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University, cites this as her number one reason for going on the next date. "If this person is just really not for you it's not that you're unsure, it's that you are sure, and you're sure that the answer is no." On the flip side, if there is any room for doubt or uncertainty, that means that there is still a chance that this person could be right for you; she just needs the chance to open up and get to feel more comfortable.
He shows signs of respect
FabrikaSimf/ShutterstockYou may be looking for someone with a great sense of humor or with financial security, but you should also be on the lookout for signs of how much this person respects you. So how can you tell on the first date if this person is going to treat you right? It's as easy as showing up on time. "Respecting your time and showing up on time is rudimentary," asserts Thompson. "[It's crucial] to set apart somebody that's respecting you versus perhaps disrespecting you. If he arrives late and he doesn't care to apologize, that's a red flag." Another tip off is how politely he treats the waitstaff—or doesn't. Someone whom is worth your emotional investment is someone that values your time and commitment and is respectful to people in general.
Evaluate your own mindset
nd3000/ShutterstockIt's not just about evaluating the other person during the first date. You have to step back and look at what you're bringing to the table. Are you being overly critical or just critical enough? Are you letting emotional baggage from previous relationships cloud your vision of this new person? It's time to judge your judgment. "It's not fair to project past partners' behavior on to new people and assume they'll be the same way," Dr. Steinberg says. If you enter the date with that kind of mindset, you're practically dooming it to fail before it even gets started. Let the pain of experience provide you with a bit of wisdom, not a sour perspective. In this case, the sign that tells you whether you should go on the next date doesn't come from the other person, it comes from you. Stop and ask yourself if you've really given the person a fair chance. If the answer is no, then date a little bit more.
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The topic of conversation
adriaticfoto/ShutterstockObviously you're looking for someone you can connect with effortlessly and one great way of figuring that out is through conversation. If on the first date you found it extremely hard to make conversation or to be yourself, this might not be the person for you. But if conversation is flowing freely, that's a wonderful sign. But it's not just avoiding awkward silences that matters, it's the topic of conversation. Thompson says you must be wary of a person who has a little bit of an ego, i.e., "somebody that doesn't ask you anything about yourself and talks constantly about herself." If you're on the first date and you feel like the person sitting across from you would much rather be on a date with herself, you should probably end it there. But if she is allowing you time to speak and is genuinely interested in learning more about you, a second date is in order. The manner of conversation is also important. For example, is your date just asking surface level questions or is she willing to talk about something more substantial. "What's the conversation like?" Thompson asks. "Does she ask questions? Is she getting to know you as a person on a deeper level?"
Positive nonverbal communication
Vitaliy-Mateha/ShutterstockWe've all heard somewhere before that a large part of communication is nonverbal. So what nonverbal cues should you be looking for on the first date to see if this one is a potential keeper? According to Thompson, leaning forward and looking into your eyes are great signs that your date is very invested. Any attempts to get closer to you or to establish a nonverbal connection (without being fresh, of course!) is a sign of sincere attraction. Of course, as with everything, there must be a balance here; if you don't feel comfortable with the way this person is petting your hands or touching your knee, for example, then you should tell him.
They're different from people you've dated before
nd3000/ShutterstockPeople can be very charming yet sneaky, making it difficult to tell who's worth your time. However, there's one way of determining if the person you're on a date with now might be a good choice for you, and that is that she is very different from those you've dated in the past. The very fact that the person is different a good sign, Dr. Steinberg says. "Maybe 'different' is exactly what you need." If the person you're going on a date with is totally not your type but she seems like a good person, give it another shot. It might just be something you have to get used to, and you might find that this was the kind of person you should've been going for all along. Avoiding jerks like your exes starts with changing the way you approach dating. If you recently got out of a relationship, here's what not to do to help you move on.
They're not playing games
Dean-Drobot/ShutterstockMy own therapist once told me that if a guy isn't going out of his way to spend time with you or to make you happy, then he doesn't really like you as much as you thought he did. Although it was tough to hear, it sure does make a lot of sense. A person who is into you won't want to keep you hanging or second-guessing. If after the first date they reach out to you to let you know they had a great time and ask when they can see you again, that means he's taking you seriously. "Always asking for the next time that they can see you is a really, really good sign," says Thompson. "If a guy likes you he's not gonna play games. He's not gonna wait a week to call you. He's not gonna make himself unavailable." If your date really likes you and wants to get to know you better, they'll be up front about it and let you know. They won't want to be mysterious. That's the kind of person you should be going out with.
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Your values align
SaMBa/ShutterstockDr. Steinberg insists that a good indication of whether or not dating a particular person may work out well and turn into a successful relationship is if your lifestyles and values match up. Of course, you don't have to be exactly the same, but discovering that you have similar lifestyles, hobbies, and values is a sign that you should pursue this one further. If you and your date seem to have what Dr. Steinberg refers to as "general life philosophies" that fit nicely with one another, that's a great sign for overall compatibility. If you can't see eye to eye on the most important beliefs or issues in your lives, then it most likely won't work out.
You want to know more
ESB-Professional/ShutterstockIf at the end of your first date you still have questions lingering in your mind, that means that you aren't quite finished with this person yet. After all, there is only so much you can learn from a first date; in reality, it is the second or third date that matters more. Dr. Steinberg zooms out and takes a look at what dating is really all about, which is a process, she says. "You're going to run into or date people who are 'good' and 'bad' and 'neutral' and Mr. Right could be the very next date." If everyone stopped chasing a goal after just one attempt then nothing would ever be accomplished. Don't give up after date number one unless the person was an absolute catastrophe. There could still be a lot more to learn. "It's just one more coffee or dinner," Dr. Steinberg adds, "and you would then have 50 percent more information on the person to help you make a more informed decision." It is for this same reason that Thompson pushes her clients to go on that second date nine times out of ten. If you stop at the first date, you might have just missed out on a really great opportunity.