Rubin was excited that his first date with Emma went really well. They had planned to meet for a quick drink after work and ended up talking for three hours. “We really clicked,” Rubin said to me in our therapy session. “We shared a lot of the same interests and the conversation flowed easily. Each time the waiter asked if we wanted another round of drinks, she said yes.” Rubin texted Emma the next day and asked when he could see her again. “She said she had fun but that she wasn’t interested in a second date.” Rubin was both confused and hurt, “Why would she spend three hours with me if she wasn’t interested? I don’t get it.”
It’s a story I hear frequently from my patients—first dates that seem to go well, but the person doesn’t want a second. I’ve worked with people on both sides of this dating scenario, and indeed it can leave the rejected person feeling bewildered and questioning how they could have totally misread the situation. Except, they probably did not. Here are five reasons why you might get turned down for a second date, even if the first one went well.
1. They like you, but not romantically.
The most frequent explanation I hear for this phenomenon is the person really enjoyed your company, they thought you were nice and fun and interesting to talk to, and they considered you attractive—but they just did not feel enough chemistry. The overall sense of sexual or romantic attraction was just not there for them. The word "chemistry" is important here, because it is about intangibles, not necessarily specific physical features.
2. They’re not over their ex.
I’ve worked with countless people who go on dates even though they are not over their ex. Their hope is to meet someone so great that they will be able to move on and pursue a new relationship. While that does happen, they are in essence coming to the date having set an extremely high bar for you to pass—a much higher one than you might face in more normal circumstances. In other words, if they were not emotionally preoccupied, they might have wanted a second date with you, but in their current state of emotional attachment, they still feel too connected to their ex to pursue getting to know you better.
3. You reminded them of someone and that doused their flame.
Another common reason for not wanting a second date is that you reminded them of someone and that familiarity turned them off: “Wow, he looked just like my dad did in old pictures,” or “She went to the same school as my ex,” or “She’s a lawyer, and the last two lawyers I dated were really difficult people.” Yes, they decided early on that you were not a match for them because of the associations you evoked, but since you were nice and fun, they decided to make the best of the time you spent together anyway.
4. You’re too good for them in some way.
People have a good radar for situations that might make them feel bad about themselves. For example, you might be really competent and ambitious, and they take life way more easily. You’re really against drinking and drug use, and they love to party. You’re training for a marathon, and they’re training for a hotdog-eating contest. In short, they feel you might expect them to rise to a standard which they are not eager to meet or that you would judge them for their approach to life (which you would probably not do on a first date, but might do if you were in a long-term relationship with them).
5. They’re just looking to have sex.
Yes, you might have met on a dating app, or they might have stated they were interested in a relationship, but really they’re more interested in just hooking up. And it is exactly because they liked you and had a good time with you that they decided not to risk hurting your feelings by pursuing the hookup option when they knew they would not want to see you again thereafter.
In short, the most common reasons people don’t pursue a second date after the first date went well have much more to do with them than with any flaws or shortcomings you might have. Therefore, although it is extremely common to become self-critical after being rejected romantically, doing so is not only the wrong move for your self-esteem, it is likely to be based on faulty assumptions. (Read how to revive your self-esteem after a dating rejection here. Tip: do the exercise in the post after you get rejected.)
Copyright 2019 by Guy Winch Ph.D.