In an ideal world, first dates would mirror the very best Hollywood romances. You’d know instantly if you’d met ‘the one’ or at least sign up to have a great night of commitment-free fun.
But, let’s face it, things rarely play out that way IRL. So often, you can come away from a date thinking it was “fine”. Not “amazing”, not “terrible”, just “fine”. So, how can you tell if it’s worth going back for round two?
“There has to be that spark there. If you’re really not feeling anything, listen to your gut reaction,” says Caroline Lovett, a psychosexual and relationship therapist with the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists. “Some people say that spark can grow, but actually, I think your first impressions are really important. Really listen to yourself.”
Still unsure? We asked Lovett to share eight signs it really isn’t worth going beyond the first date.
Your intentions are not aligned
Are you looking for a relationship or a hookup? The best way to avoid wasted time or heartache is to be clear from the start and ask your date the same in return.
“Have an ear open for somebody talking about if they’ve ghosted people before,” advises Lovett. “That would be a warning signal for me that a person might not be interested in a relationship, or communicating with you effectively.”
They don’t apologise for being late
Lateness, while annoying, isn’t necessarily a reason to discount someone on the first date, says Lovett. “Life happens and sometimes we are late for things despite our very best intentions. People get flat tyres, people get caught in traffic accidents, people get stuck behind at work.”
However, a person’s reaction to their lateness does matter. If they’ve contacted you about the hold up, apologised and promised to make it up to you on a second date, Lovett says she’d give them the benefit of the doubt. But if they’re aloof and an apology isn’t forthcoming, it can be a sign that the date was never top of their priority list.
You struggle to find a connection
A few awkward pauses should be forgiven on a first date, as they may be a result of nerves. However, if you really find you have nothing to talk about and no common interests, it probably isn’t worth meeting up again.
“You don’t want to come from a place of thinking ‘I can fix the other person and make them okay,’” says Lovett. “You need to be starting out with feeling like there’s some connection there.”
Flirting is also a good sign on a first date, so be weary if it’s totally absent. “If you’re enjoying a bit of flirting with each other, that’s good. But if you’re not enjoying that process or you’re not enjoying receiving that flirtatious attention – or there’s no bit of you that wants to flirt with this other person – I would consider that a signal as well,” says Lovett.
Your/their attention is wandering
If your date is more interested in their phone than you, this isn’t a great sign, says Lovett. “I would probably extend that to the wider surroundings as well,” she adds. “If they’re more interested in what’s going on around you, who else is there and what other people are doing – and they’re not really showing you interest – I’d watch out for that. When you’re on a first date, you should be the focus of attention for each other.”
Equally, if you find your attention is wandering elsewhere because you’re bored, that’s another sign that this may not be the relationship for you.
They talk about their ex. A lot.
We’ve all go a past and sometimes, previous relationships are mentioned in passing when they’re relevant to the conversation. This, by itself, isn’t a huge red flag, says Lovett. However, if someone speaks about a particular ex a lot, it might be a sign that old wounds haven’t healed. The degree to which this matters again comes down to your intention for the date.
“If the date is just a hookup, that might be all right. But if you’re looking for something more longterm, maybe that person needs a little longer to work on themselves,” Lovett says. “You’re not there to cure somebody of their ex.”
They’re rude to others
People often put their best foot forward for their date, but the facade may slip when they’re speaking to others. Beware of dates that are rude to bar and waiting staff, says Lovett.
“If you notice that this person is rude to people around you, at some stage, if you carry on with that relationship, they’re likely to be rude to you,” she says.
There are signs of jealousy
“If you’re meeting somebody for the first time and they’re already showing signs of jealously around other dating experiences you might have had or other people in your life, I would have a listen out for that,” says Lovett. “I would be cautious about how controlling that relationship might be.”
The other person should never make you feel bad about meeting up with established friends, she adds, and this includes people you’ve previously been in a relationship with, if they are still part of your life and friendship group.
You have different moral values
Having different opinions is a good thing, as it leaves room to grow and learn from each other if your romance blossoms into a relationship, says Lovett. However, she thinks these opinions need to be grounded in the same moral framework for a relationship to work.
Politics isn’t always the biggest hurdle. Lifestyle factors can also be an obstacle – in fact, Lovett is increasingly being visited by couples at loggerheads because one is vegan or vegetarian and the other isn’t. On a first date, consider how important someone else’s eating habits are to you – because you can’t force them to change.
“It’s about working out what’s important for you. If you’re a vegetarian, would you only date a vegetarian? Only you can decide that, there’s no hard and fast rule,” she says. “You might find it very difficult if you’re sat across the table from somebody eating a meaty steak – you might not fancy giving them a kiss afterwards!”