Let's say you find yourself out and about, having a grand old time at a party or a reading or hanging out with a crew on your best friend's roof, and someone comes along who is kind, and funny, and adorable, and gracious, and after you talk for a while, they reveal that they'd like to go out with you sometime. You're already off to a great start with them — but what should you look for before you agree to a date? How do you know when this new person is someone worth your time, and how can you tell when they are better left at that party, reading, or rooftop?
Of course, if you know someone in real life, through other people, it's easier to know what they're like before you say yes to a date. But it can get even trickier when you're dating online, as it's hard to find an obvious way to tell that someone is awesome — you could just as easily have amazing chemistry with someone as you could wind up having absolutely zero sparks whatsoever. And though there is only one way to really ascertain this for sure — and it involves going on a date — you can get some clues before you commit an hour of your time to a date. Here are 13 things relationship experts suggest that you look for before committing to a date. But first, check out the latest episode of Bustle's Sex and Relationships podcast, I Want It That Way:
1. Their Level Of Seriousness
Even if you're not looking for something long-term, if you're in search of someone who has some good dating staying power, look out for how serious they are about getting to know you, Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle. "You want a partner who is interested in more than sex, if you’re looking for a relationship. You want someone who wants to know as much about you as you want to know about your date." It should be reciprocal, not one-sided. If your date is just saying flattering things about your looks, they may not be serious about dating.
2. If You Share The Same Rhythm
"Before you commit to an actual date with someone, make sure you guys have good rhythm," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. You can find this out by having a phone conversation first if you met online, or giving them a good amount of time at the party or event where you meet. "You don't want to spend two-plus hours with someone who doesn't get your humor, allows for insanely awkward long pauses, or talks over you every chance they get," Rogers says. "How awful. Ideally you'd like to enjoy yourself."
Though dates can always go wrong, and even if they go right, it's possible you won't want to see each other again, it's nice to at least have a good time while you're out there. "We all know that sometimes it's difficult to tell if there is a romantic connection right off the bat, but it's pretty easy to see if your rhythm has the same beat," Rogers says. "Do yourself a favor and ask yourself if you'd still want to spend time with this person even if there is no sexual attraction." If the answer is yes, then it may be worth your time.
3. Your Gut Instinct
Be on the lookout for "any queasy feeling in your gut," Caitlin K. Roberts, founder of To Be a Slut and cofounder of I'd Tap That, tells Bustle. "Dating is easy. Finding the people you'll actually enjoy occupying time with is trickier." So take a deep breath and tap in — how do you really feel about this person? "If your 'Spidey' senses are acting up, listen to them and move on to the next person," Roberts says. Wise.
4. Their Attitude
"Manners and respect," Dr. Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With A Narcissist , tells Bustle. "Unwillingness to commit to a time or date till within 24 hours or a few hours before is unacceptable," she says. Though sometimes it may be appropriate to give them a bit of leeway, depending on the circumstances— maybe cut them slack depending on their job or lifestyle, she says, like if they are a medical resident or a parent. "If they have to play it fast and loose in the beginning, that may not bode well," she says. Definitely.
5. Your Attitude
"It is important to commit [to a date] only if you feel you are ready to handle diverse views and habits," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle, real-talking us all. "It's really more about you than the other person. Your headspace might create negativity, and that isn't a way to start a relationship at all — or even a friendship."
6. Whether They Have Just One Personality
"If you have the opportunity to observe someone with their friends or coworkers before you go on a one to one date with them, this tells you a lot about their character as an individual," psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. This way, you can find out if they're authentic. If you're dating online, this is pretty much impossible, but it is easier if you know each other through friends, colleagues and the like. If you can do a little recon, there are certain things to look out for. "Are they themselves — kind, funny and considerate with [their friends] — or do they say things you find offensive and crass, just to impress them?" It's important to see if they're genuine. Or, as Martinez puts it, "Do they present as one self, or two different selves — and are you willing to invest the time to find out which is real?"
7. Their Communication — Or Lack Thereof
"[Look for] whether he or she is consistent and reliable in their communication and attention to you," relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. "Do they make time for contact, or do they leave you wondering when you’re going to hear from them?" When you dash off a text, how long do you wait for a response? "If someone plays games before or while you’re dating, they may be unable to consistently meet your emotional needs later," she says. "Someone who demonstrates consistency early on is much more likely to be supportive and attentive in the relationship as well." Though no one needs to be at your beck and call in the beginning, it's not cool to wait 24 hours to respond to a simple text message.
8. If Your Head Is In The Dating Game
"Before committing to a date, you should make sure that you are in the right mind-space to give that person a chance," Samantha Daniels, professional matchmaker and founder of The Dating Lounge dating app, tells Bustle. For example, if you haven't waited long enough to heal after a former relationship ended, you're setting yourself up for disaster. Whether you're hung up on exes or distracted with work, it doesn’t matter how great the person sitting in front of you is — you aren’t going to recognize that, appreciate them, or have the kind of connection for which you are looking," Daniels says. "It’s better to cancel a date completely than to go on one that is going to be a complete waste of time because you weren’t up for it in the first place."
9. Their Outlook On Life
Is your potential date a glass half-full or half-empty person?, Masini asks. "Two curmudgeons can make a happy life together because they see the world the same way," she says. "But if you’re full of sunshine, and he [or she] is full of vinegar, his [or her] negativity is going to annoy you or even depress you." And if you're negative all the time, you'll probably hate dating a super-positive, upbeat person — and vice versa.
"If you can find out his [or her] happiness outlook before that first date, you’ll have a better chance of not wasting time," she says. And on a more positive note, if you ask a few questions online or when you first meet and ascertain their outlook, you also have a better chance of "incurring a great match with your personality," Masini says. See, the glass really is always half-full!
10. Check Your Motives
"If you are drained from work or simply seeking out a date out of boredom, it may not be the right time to meet someone," psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. "Rather than having a positive experience, you would be setting yourself up to have a negative one, which would only fuel your dating frustration." Be ready for a great time if you go on a date — and if that's not what you get, at least your side of the street is clean.
11. Their Level Of Effort
When someone doesn't really want to do much work to make a date happen, you'll know off the bat. "If the person tells you upfront that they have no interest in meeting you near where you live, don't meet them," Stefanie Safran, Chicago's "Introductionista" and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. "If you have to put all of the effort in the beginning, imagine what is to come!" Instead, politely decline a meeting — and if they change their tune, feel free to talk it through before saying yes. What do you have to lose? Dating is amazing practice, and it's worth speaking up whenever you need. If that's hard for you, all the more reason to practice on someone you don't know — and if you do accidentally offend or upset them, no great loss, since you don't know them anyway.
12. A Quick Google Search
On the other hand, a light Google is a great pre-date idea, Marina Sbrochi, IPPY award-winning author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life tells Bustle. "Before you commit to a date, run a quick Google check and make sure you aren’t dating a convicted felon … as far as Google can tell," she suggests. Her suggestion is very real: "Just type in their name with the words 'jail,' 'felon' and 'scammer' behind it, and see what pops up," she says. "A date certainly doesn’t commit you to anything but a date." And she reminds that you can always leave if it's weird. "You can always walk out. It’s date two and onward that need more investigation." For the first date, throw on a smile and show up with an open mind — and no expectations.
"Look for yourself," clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. "No kidding! Where is he or she? You're going to need to bring your full self to that date, not a caricature of the person you think your potential date wants to see." In other words, it's just not worth it to try to pretend you're something or someone you're not just for the sake of the first date, in hopes of getting someone to like you. If they do like you, they'll like you for you — not some idea of who you think you should be.
"Just like wearing a push-up bra that increases your size by a few inches, the truth will eventually be revealed, so you might as well find — and bring — the real you to your date," Astarte says. If you're not authentic, it's not fair to your date — or to yourself. And honesty begets honesty. "The truth is that no one wants to be hoodwinked," she says. "The more honest you are about yourself in the beginning, the more honesty you'll receive about your prospects with this person." That way, you'll have a better idea of who you're dealing with ASAP.
"Wasting time with the wrong person means that you are not available for the right one," she says. "Before you commit to any date, look for your true self deep inside." That's who you should bring to the date! "Bring that incredible being to your date as the guest of honor," she says. Yaaaaaas!!
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