No, You Don't Need To Be Attracted To Someone By The Third Date To Develop ~Feelings~

Dating and relationships aren’t easy to navigate. WH advisor and therapist Dr. Chloe is here to help, tackling your most confusing issues and burning Qs.

So you’ve made it to the third date with the same person…congrats! I don’t mean that in a “you should be grateful they still like you” kind of way—I mean, congrats to you for finding someone who you click with enough to see not once, not twice, but three separate and deliberate times. That’s not so easy these days, as you probably (okay, definitely) already know.

“Society has, for whatever reason, led people to believe that the third date is the date…”

That said, because of how rare the third date might be for some people, you might throw a lot of weight onto it. On one hand, you’re more comfortable with this person than you were on the first date because, hi, you’re no longer total strangers. But on the other hand, you’re likely in your head more than usual. That’s because society has, for whatever reason, led people to believe that the third date is the date—as in, if it goes well, you’re suddenly a legit couple, a.k.a. exclusive.

But that’s certainly not the case! Or at least, it shouldn’t be. I generally tell my clients to continue seeing a potential partner for way more than three dates before they stop seeing other people. Why? There’s still so much you won’t (and can’t) know about each other by the end of the third date. It doesn’t need to be such a big deal.

Oh! So how significant is the third date, really?

The importance of the third date is really up to you, and it differs for everyone. As a relationship therapist, though, I truly believe that the only reason the third date should feel more important than the previous two is that it’s now signifying a pattern. At this point, you’re starting to invest time and some amount of energy into seeing them potentially on a regular basis.

Some women have a “three-date rule,” where they wait until the third date to have sex. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, but having a date-specific personal law like this might encourage you to put even more pressure behind the date itself, because now you’re suddenly thinking about whether you’re both on board for sex and if it might actually happen. Who needs that pressure?

And for some people, the third date might feel like a tie-breaker, especially if either the first or second date weren’t great. (It’s sorta like a “three strikes, you’re out” thing, but opposite.) But regardless, the truth is, there’s no magical timeline for when you’ll know if someone is The One. Placing too much meaning to a particular date can cause you to either attach to someone too quickly or, on the flip side, give up on them too soon.

Got it. So what should I know by the third date?

Probably not as much as you think! But there are a few things you should definitely know by the end of that outing, including:

1. You should know what their dating goals are. Basically, are they dating to get married or are they dating for other reasons (say, a companion for social events, a casual-sex partner, or a third party for a polyamorous relationship)? If your goal is get married (to someone, eventually), you should absolutely know by this point if they’re on the same page.

2. You should know if your values are compatible. “Values” cover a wide range of topics, so you have to choose which ones matter most to you (that’s what the word means, after all). Are they family-oriented, like you? Do they want kids or want only fur babies? Do they value their career and moving up the ladder? Do they work out and eat well to stay healthy? Do they drink regularly? Are they religious? These are all questions that you should have answered, to some degree, early on, in order to suss out whether your values work with theirs.

3. You should know if they’re generally an upbeat person. Negative Nancy’s (or Nathan’s) aren’t fun to be around. By the third date, you should have an idea of whether this person has an optimistic attitude toward life or, eek, a pessimistic one. If they complain a lot about things that they have an amount of control over (like their job) over the first three dates, it’s probably safe to assume that you’d be dealing with a lot of that grumpiness and lack of proactiveness in the future. Is that something you want? My guess is no!

4. You should know if their relationship with time meshes with yours. What the heck does that mean, you ask? At its most simple, this: If you’re a planner who lives by the clock and is never late to anything, and they’re a last-minute, spontaneous, doesn’t-wear-a-watch kind of bird, you might struggle a bit as a couple. Not to say that you can’t work through it, but people who respect time and fear wasting it don’t always jibe well with those who hardly notice it.

If your date shows up late more than once within the first three dates, doesn’t make plans days in advance, or seems to have no problem “doing nothing,” think about whether you’ll be cool with that long-term. (P.S. You could be this laissez-faire person while they’re more type-A…either way, make sure the contrast works for you!)

5. You should know if you don’t want to see them again. There’s no point in wasting time with someone who you don’t enjoy being around, at least on some level. If you feel that way, let the third date be your last.

However, if you have fun with this person but you can’t decide if you want to see them again—perhaps you’re not sure if you’re romantically interested in or sexually attracted to them—I highly recommend you not cut them off after the third date. Here’s why: Real attraction can (and typically does) develop as you get to know a person for who they are, not just what they look like. It’s always nice to feel sexually drawn to your date, but sometimes you won’t feel that “spark” right away. Try not to let that be the only thing that dissuades you from going out again.

Some people are also more reserved and less flirty on the first few dates, which could chip away at the sexual tension you’re used to. And others just might be outside your usual type, and that’s not a bad thing! Oftentimes, the relationships that start off really hot and heavy because of oozing sexual attraction end just as quickly as they started. In many cases, letting that connection simmer can actually be way better.

So I shouldn’t know if I want to be with this person by the end of the third date?

Nope, not at all! In fact, try not to think about the future yet. If you start picturing yourself walking down the aisle with this (still relatively new) person in your life, you could end up getting out of what I call “info-gathering mode”—essentially picking up on clues and evaluating them to decide if this person is actually a good long-term match for you. That’s a really important mode to be in when you just started dating.

The bottom line: The third date isn’t some monumental milestone that should be a make-it-or-break-it, event for a potential relationship. If you have a gut feeling one way or another about a person, listen to it. Otherwise, let yourself enjoy the ride…and a fourth yummy dinner with, at the very least, good company.

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