DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m really appreciating what you’re doing. Your books were quite helpful for me.
I have an issue with post ‘speed dating’ dating and I don’t know what the hell am I doing wrong.
But first things first: I’m a male in my late 20s, I’m rather handsome, maybe not really fit, but I’m working on it. My social circles are non-existent – I have a limited number of friends and many of them are nerds like me, so meeting new people at parties is impossible. (Most evenings I spend alone – reading, gaming etc)
So, I started going to speed dating events. When I have a match, I invite her for a date, usually coffee/beer followed by walk in a park. Usually I get positive feedback: “I think you’re cool”, “I had nice evening” etc., but there rarely is a second date. Also, even if conversations are really awesome, things seldom are sexual, or even flirty.
Am I being too nice? Are our topics too serious? We tend to talk about things like life and philosophy.
I’m confused how to build tension and attraction – how do you even propose a simple kiss? Do I lack courage? Am I playing things too safe? Or maybe I cannot properly read some signals? Or is a first date too early to propose such things?
Need An Instruction Manual
DEAR NEED AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL: I’m not terribly hot on speed dating as a general rule, NAIM. I don’t think it’s necessarily a great way to meet people that you’re compatible with and they’re often set up in a way that makes it harder to connect with people. That having been said, if they’re working for you, then hey go for it. You’re clearly making a good enough of an impression that you’re getting a series of first dates out of the mix. The problem is getting that second date. And there are two potential problems to work on.
The first is that you may not be meeting people you have chemistry with. One of the things that you aren’t going to hear from folks in the dating advice industry is that dating is something of a numbers game. There are people who you just aren’t going to be compatible with, no matter what you do. They’re often perfectly lovely people, but the two of you just won’t mesh on the levels for a sexual or romantic connection. And while you can do a certain amount of pre-vetting as you get to know people, the only way you can get around this is, well, to date.
The second issue is that your dates are pleasant. Nice, even. And that’s a problem.
I know, I know. “What’s wrong with pleasant dates?” Well… it’s that pleasant is, frankly, boring. They’re vaguely pleasing but not terribly exciting or memorable. They’re the dating equivalent of going to a movie and leaving thinking that you don’t feel like you wasted your money, but you’re going to forget all about it as soon as you drink a beer and only remember that you saw it months later when someone mentions that it exists. If you want a second date, you need more than just “pleasant”. You need to give them a reason to want to see you again.
Now you are doing some things right. Getting coffee is a decent start, especially if you can parlay it into another activity. But as a general rule, meeting for coffee is less of a date and more of a pre-date audition. You’re essentially doing your due diligence and seeing if there’s enough interest and compatibility to go on a real date. But in and of itself, they’re not always that great by themselves.
Going for a walk isn’t necessarily bad either. It’s low-investment, both in time and money and it’s active. But at the same time, it can have some drawbacks, especially with the way you’ve been conducting yourself.
But what you’re asking for is a a series of instructions or guidelines for a good first date. With that in mind, here are the Dr. NerdLove guidelines for making sure you have a memorable first date.
First: you want to prioritize fun. One of the most important factors that determines whether you’re going to get a second date with someone is how much they enjoyed themselves while on a date with you. We instinctively prioritize relationships with people whose presence make us feel good. This is what’s known as the Reward Theory of Attraction; the more we feel good with someone, the more time we want to spend with them. We want more of that dopamine hit that we feel when they’re around. So you want to plan dates, especially first dates that maximize the fun potential. There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest is to plan more novel first dates. We’re novelty-seeking creatures, and everybody and their dog has done the “dinner and a movie” date. Very few people, however, have gone go-karting or take a sushi-making class or play competitive skee-ball. You can even do twists on walk-and-talk dates; you could go hunting for Pokémon, you could visit a farmer’s market or a crafts fair, or conduct a two-person scavenger hunt. Ultimately, you want to not just stand out from the typical first dates but also to help them enjoy themselves in a way they may not with other people.
Second: active first dates beat sedentary ones. One of the quirks of human psychology is that we’re very bad at understanding why we feel the way we feel. Often as not, we feel the physical sensations of a situation and retroactively apply a reason for it. When our hearts are pounding, we’re breathing hard, our palms are sweaty and our mouths are dry, then we might be scared… or we might be aroused. It depends on the context; is there a tiger in the bush, or are we with someone who’s just stupidly hot? We tend to associate the feeling with the person we’re with, instead of the activity, so riding a roller coaster may make your heart pound, but you’ll feel like it’s because of your date. The nice thing about this is that anything that excites your central nervous system and gets your heart pounding will excite the rest of you. So visiting a haunted house or an escape room might make a better first date than, say, meeting at a cocktail bar.
Third: don’t be afraid to be polarizing. One of the reasons why first dates fizzle is that the conversation is pleasant, but not terribly memorable. This is a mistake a lot of people make: they don’t want to risk talking about potentially divisive or polarizing topics, so they stick to “safe” ones. As a result, you end up having what I call the “Applebees” of conversations. That is, it’s like trying to decide where you want to go to dinner. You both have an idea of what you actually want, but you don’t want to be rude and insist on it, so you toss out options that you’re not crazy about but you think the other person might like. After a little back and forth, you end up settling on a place that you both can agree on – Applebee’s – even though neither of you really want to eat there. It’s just the easiest, least divisive option.
So it is with most first date conversations; you don’t really talk about the subjects that let you get to know the other person on a deep and meaningful level because you don’t want to risk being too polarizing. So you have very pleasant, if not terribly deep, conversations. You’re better to have conversations where you actually get to know people – their favorite vacations, what they would do if they had no fear of failure, even politics or religion – than you are to talk about growing up or their current job.
Fourth: you’re on a date, so act like it. Dates are, by definition, a romantic engagement; you are both there because you’re seeing if there’s enough interest to consider pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship. So while it’s understandable that you might be a little hesitant to flirt or otherwise express interest, not doing so is going to send the message that you’re not actually interested in your date. So while the date may be enjoyable, it ends up being something platonic; you’re essentially telling them that you only like them as a potential friend, rather than a lover.
Now this doesn’t mean that you need to visibly drool over your date or make a pushy ass out of yourself – that’s a different great way to ensure that there’s no second date – but you do need to show that you’re into them. Compliments, flirting, even light physical contact – ranging from taking their hand to a gentle hand on the small of the back – are all ways of indicating your interest with someone.
Just keep in mind, these are best practices, not hard and fast rules. Some dates won’t lend themselves to one rule or another; not every date can be a heart-pumping extravaganza, for example. But as long as you keep these in mind as you go on dates, you’ll find that you’ll have far more success in the future.
Oh, and if it feels like there’s a spark between the two of you? Go for the kiss. And if you’re not sure… then just ask. “So, this feels like it might be time for a goodnight kiss, huh?” or even “I’d love to kiss you right now” are some great ways to make sure that your date wants to kiss you as much as you want to kiss them.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Thanks for writing so many good articles, like your ones on chemistry. They’ve been really helpful to a guy like me.
Sometimes I have some extra time on the evenings and weekends. What can I do during that time to bring myself closer to getting a girlfriend?
Some things I’ve tried include reading dating advice sites (helpful, but I need more practice now) and going to coffee shops, bars, and other places to approach women in real life. This hasn’t worked for me just yet.
What do you think I should do?
Ready For The Next Step
DEAR READY FOR THE NEXT STEP: As much as I want you to keep reading through my archives – hey, pageviews are pageviews – you can only learn so much from books, sites and podcasts. There comes a point where rubber has to meet the road, and you have to put what you’ve learned into practice. What I would recommend you do now is spend time practicing socializing. Not just to get dates and meet women, but to just meet people in general. The more socially fluent and calibrated you become, the more at ease you become around people you’re interested in. The more at ease you are, the easier it is to connect with them on a romantic or sexual level.
Plus, the more you expand your social circle, the more opportunities you have to meet awesome people. So take that time you have and start getting social. Go to events just to hang out and meet folks and build up those social muscles of yours. You’ll be glad you did.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)