Nerves aside, getting to know someone in person for the first time can come with mixed signals, a roller coaster of thoughts and a flurry of emotions. So how can you tell things are going well? Look for these 5 telltale signs that may indicate that you and your date are well on your way to a mutually desired second date.
1. Positive anticipation. As thoughts turn to what could be, where to go and what to wear, you should feel a positive level of excitement and curiosity toward getting to know this new person. Especially with online dating, finally meeting someone you’ve been messaging with and talking to on the phone for weeks or months is an exhilarating experience. A first date transforms thoughts, feelings and pieced-together information into reality, and the big question on both you and your date’s mind is, “I like this person, but will there be enough chemistry?”
That’s where the first-date nerves come in. While is perfectly normal to feel some level of nervousness before a first date—you want to keep it in check. If you tend to be more of an anxious type, try reminding yourself that a first date is a casual getting-to-know-you session. There are no commitment clauses, only an opportunity for great conversation and company. When you put your interest in another person and what he or she is all about first above your insecure thoughts about yourself, the nervousness melts away and you can truly “be yourself.”
Red flags…On the other hand, less than positive anticipation toward a date can indicate that your feelings for the person that you’re meeting are not that strong. You may even have low expectations about what the outcome will be. In other cases, you may not be emotionally ready to date, especially if you’re still healing from a recent breakup. Let your conscience be your guide, and make sure that irrational fear is not making your decisions for you. No one likes rejection, but if you don’t put one foot out there to test the terrain, you’ll never be able to cover any ground to get you closer to the relationship you’d like to share with someone.
2. Relative Ease The first few minutes of a first date are usually marked by nervous smiles and ice-breaking conversation. During this small talk, you and your date are looking for commonalities that you share, such as a similar sense of humor and viewpoints on a variety of issues. You may both speak about shared references from e-mails or phone calls. As you both become more comfortable with one another you and your date should begin to feel more relaxed, and the conversation more open to share who you both are and to simply enjoy the experience you’re sharing, whether it’s a cup of coffee, a nice meal or a walk along the boardwalk or park. So once the initial nerves of the first date have passed, look for an easy conversational style between you.
Red flags…If your conversations seem anything but easy, and you begin to catalog major idiosyncrasies about your date that irritate you while he or she is speaking, take note. One or two qualities that are new to you that you’re not sure about may not be a problem (and can even become cute to you over time as your feelings deepen), but if there are several can’t-stands emerging like exit signposts on the imagination superhighway in your mind, take heed. Also feeling as though your partner is grilling you with one complex question after another, as if you were in a job interview or audition is a sign that conversational ease is lacking.
3. Mutual curiosity When there is mutual attraction, both partners will want to engage the other to learn as much about the other person as possible; there is a natural curiosity level present. Each new fact uncovered will form opinions and assumptions about whether the two of you would be a dynamic duo or should stay solo. First dates are about exchanging lots of different types of information: Does he make you laugh? Does she have a nice smile? Is he respectful toward other people around you, and valets and restaurant wait staff? What kind of stories does she tell, and what do they say about her?
Red flags…If your date seems disinterested in what you have to say and is scanning the room, you can assume that he or she is just not that into you, and has decided at some point during your date that it’s just not going to work out. Likewise, if you find yourself disinterested, you have your answer. That being said, give everyone a fair share of attention, or you could be missing out on someone perfect for you. Brush up on your knowledge of body language cues and put it into action. Beware also the conversation hog who has no problem sharing who he or she is and seems to use any questions posed in your direction as a springboard to talk more about themselves. Even though that behavior is usually rooted in insecurity and a need to “sell” oneself, it can indicate a huge character flaw, so proceed with caution.
4. Great Endings How a first date ends will provide a great deal of information about how well you’re hitting it off. Does your date seem relaxed and maybe even a bit reluctant to say goodnight because you’re both having a wonderful time? Is a medium to high level of mutual sexual tension present at the time a goodnight peck or hug is in order? You should feel the same level of attraction and interest, if not more, than when you first met a few hours before.
Red flags…Check the pacing. Do you feel as though your date is speeding things up and using excuses like, “Woo! I’m so tired! I don’t know what happened; I think I should call it an early night,” or “Gee, I hope I’m not coming down with something; I’d really hate to get you sick”? Or maybe it’s you that is uttering those words–If you don’t feel enough attraction and interest toward your date, don’t fake it. Being disappointed now is a small price to pay than convincing yourself you could make it work, only to be hurt many weeks, months, or years down the road. Also, beware of body language that contradicts what is being spoken. A cold-fish handshake or quick half-hug-n-back-pat while uttering that he or she “had a great time” before running away from your door or speeding off as soon as you shut the car door is a bad sign.
5. Even Greater Follow-Up First-date follow-up is crucial to a developing relationship’s early success. At least one partner should call or send an e-mail to his date to thank her for the nice time within 2-3 days, and if there’s interest, an invitation for a second date will soon follow, or at least mention of going out again. There should also be a more personal and friendly tone to the messages.
Red flags…Silence for too long is a death knell of a potential relationship. While there are work and other life commitments, a phone call, e-mail, quick text message or IM should not be a hardship for someone. If too much time lags between the first date and the follow-up message, take note. Also, even if a follow-up message is sent in a relatively fast time frame, take note of any overly impersonal follow-up messages; sometimes what isn’t said is exactly what’s missing. Likewise, too much follow-up communication of the wrong kind should be heeded. E-mails and voicemails left for you that seem overly invested in a relationship beyond your own feelings toward the other person should be noted and taken seriously. While it’s not impossible to forge the beginnings of a long-term relationship after only one date, assuming an instant long-term relationship on only one date is irrational for most people.