Sometimes you go on a date that sweeps you off your feet. Other times, you're counting down the minutes until your dinner is over. But often, first dates aren't so black and white, and while there may have been moments you enjoyed, there's a hesitation you just can't quite place.
Rather than just agreeing to a second date because you feel obliged to, you should take the time to dig deeper and analyze how your first date actually went. "Dating can bring up a lot of emotions, insecurities, expectations, and connections to the past or other relationships," relationship psychotherapist Kelly Bos, MSW, RSW, tells mbg. "It can be hard to get a sense of what we are feeling after a first date while we are sifting through it all. It is important to slow down and mindfully bring ourselves to the present, not an imagined future or tying it to the past."
Thankfully, sitting down and asking yourself the right questions can help you gauge your emotions and advise you on how to move forward. Here are 15 questions to ask yourself after a first date—and what you should do with your answers.
1. Did the conversation flow easily?
First, look at what your conversations were like. Did they feel forced, were there uncomfortable silences, or did the conversation flow without a lull? "When your communication is effortless, it shows that it's easy to build an emotional connection," relationship expert Rori Sassion tells mbg.
2. Did you (genuinely) laugh at all?
"Genuinely laughing is important when out on a date," dating coach Laurel House tells mbg. But just because you didn't laugh doesn't always mean the date is a bad match—you may have had your guard up or were too focused on what to say next. "If they seem to be a good fit due to lifestyle and core values, and you like what you see so far as a person, on your second date, include more fun and lighthearted conversation," says House.
3. Was there any sexual chemistry?
Ask yourself whether the other person was attractive to you. "This doesn't necessarily mean physically, but were you drawn to them in some aspect?" says Bos. "Was there some chemistry? This can develop, but it can be telling if it is not initially present."
4. Did your date ask you questions?
Asking questions is important on a date, as you want to invest your time with someone who is genuinely interested in what you want to say. "It is not a great experience to feel you have to keep the whole conversation going by peppering your date with questions all night or, perhaps worse, having to listen to your date monopolize the conversation only talking about themselves," says Bos.
5. Did your date actually seem to listen to your response?
Sure, they may have asked the right questions, but did they actually listen to your answers? Did they follow up with meaningful questions, or just switch the conversation back over to them? "Feeling talked over or dismissed can be a huge red flag," says Bos. "It is unpleasant and no doubt a sign of things to come."
6. How did you feel while you were with them?
On first dates, we tend to analyze the other person, which means we might unintentionally ignore one of the biggest signals: our own feelings. "Check in with yourself and how the date made you feel," says House. "Did you feel calm, happy, interested, bored, inspired, not good enough, great? Is it something that they did or said to make you feel that way? Or did that feeling come out of you for some other reason?"
7. What are their core values?
If a relationship is going to last long term, your core values need to align, or at least be respected. "You might not be able to extract all of their core values on the first date, but some of them should come to light through their stories," says House.
8. What side of your personality was shining while with them?
Different people bring out different sounds of ourselves. "With some people we are more talkative, more intellectual, more fun, more quiet, etc.," says House. "By checking in with yourself, you can see what side of you came out more with them. Is that a side of you that you like and that you want to come to life more often?"
9. Were you interested in hearing more?
Take a look at how you felt once the date was over. "If you left the date curious to know more, then you're on to something," dating and relationship expert Lisa Concepcion tells mbg. "If you left and couldn't care less if you ever saw them again then, that's a clear answer."
10. Are they available?
It's important to understand whether your date is available and actually dating with the same purpose as you are. "If it takes three weeks to plan a date, and then another two to get to date two, odds are timing is off, and they're more interested in attention on apps and dating sites than an actual relationship," says Concepcion. "People often date because they are lonely at the moment when they are not busy."
11. Is this someone you can bring around your friends and family?
If you're thinking of pursuing something serious with this person, you want to make sure they can integrate with the people who mean the most to you. "The way a person carries themselves on a first date usually answers this question pretty quickly," says Concepcion. "A recent client said she knew after a half-hour there's no way her dad would like him. She wants a guy who can hang with her dad when visiting."
12. Can you trust this person?
We all know how important trust is in a relationship, and if you're feeling uneasy after the first date, it's something to investigate. "You get a feel for people pretty quickly," says Concepcion. "In fact, you can feel it in your body when someone seems a bit shady. You might feel a pang in the gut or tightness in the chest, a throb in the head or neck. Pay attention."
13. Were they respectful to you?
Did they show respect for your time? Offer to split the bill? Did they make sure you had decided before ordering or ask your opinion on what you would like to do for the evening without dictating? "Disrespectful behavior on date one would be a huge red flag," says Bos.
14. What would your day-to-day life be like with this person?
"Try to pull yourself away from the romantic considerations, and think about what everyday life would be like," relationship therapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., tells mbg. Do you have compatible schedules? Do you have similar likes and goals? How would this actually work in the nonromantic parts of life?
15. What are your dating goals?
How you proceed with the person you're dating will likely depend on your dating goals—some of these questions might not matter as much if you're just looking for a quick fling. "Sometimes we are at a stage in life where we don't necessarily want to add more people to the friend list and know pretty quickly if the date has any romantic potential," says Bos. "At other stages we might feel more open to exploring someone different than we thought we would match with. A lot of whether to invest in more time or not can depend on your own goals and the life stage you are at."
What to do with your answers:
After you've dug deep into the nitty-gritty of your date, it's time to do something with that information. If most of your answers are positive, the ball is in your court. "It is OK to not want to go on a second date if you don't think it has potential regardless of how they did on the questions," says Bos. "It is also OK to go out again if you are curious or need more information."
If the answers to your questions were mostly negative, don't feel pressured to continue to go out with that person. "If there are a lot of red flags, you might have your answer there and give date two a hard pass," says Bos. However, you do want to pay attention to the type of questions that have negative answers. "Unless the 'no' reasons are major, like they were rude; made you feel bad; were mean, angry, or offensive; or had lifestyle differences that don't work for you and your life, then focus on the yeses," says House.
When your answers are split down the middle, it can be even more difficult to figure out how to proceed. "A helpful question to ask ourselves if we are struggling is, 'What might a friend I trust suggest, or what would I tell a friend in a similar situation?'" says Bos. "This can sometimes bring a world of clarity."
Some questions will matter more to you than others, so it's up to you to be honest to yourself about what you consider a deal-breaker or something you could see shifting over time. Go in with an open mind—just be clear with yourself about what you want out of dating, whether it's long term or just for fun.
Carina Wolff is a freelance writer and blogger who covers food, health and wellness. Her bylines have appeared in Bustle, Reader’s Digest, FabFitFun, and more. Carina has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology from New York University. She is the author of two cookbooks and runs a clean-eating food blog called Kale Me Maybe. When she's not writing and cooking, you can find her reading, hiking, or at the beach.