18 Things Relationship Experts Want You To Know About Second Dates

Photo: Getty Images/Michael Heffernan
While first dates might get all the buzz, a second date is where you can really get to know whether there’s a connection with someone. “A first date is just the beginning of a potential relationship, and it often takes time for feelings to emerge,” explains therapist Courtney Morgan, LPCC. A second date is where you can decide if you have chemistry, expand upon conversations you might’ve had the first time you met, and get to see beyond your first impression. “Going on a second date allows you to remain curious and discover more,” adds dating expert and love coach Orna Walters.

“It often takes time for feelings to emerge” —Courtney Morgan, LPCC, therapist

Your next date doesn’t have to be super serious. All you’re really doing is getting to know each other beyond the initial meeting and sussing out whether there’s something more worth pursuing with the other person. To make things even easier, we spoke to the experts to discuss everything from reasons to go on a second date to who should initiate the second date, tips and advice, second-date ideas, and red flags to be on the lookout for.

Experts In This Article

When should you give someone a second date?

Your decision of whether to go on a second date should depend on a few factors, such as shared goals and values and how curious you are to see them again. Below, a few clear signs that you should go on a second date, from the experts.

1. Your long-term goals and values align

When thinking about long-term or serious relationships, “it's much more important to be aligned on what is most important to you rather than feeling a spark on the first date,” says Morgan. If you’re both dedicated to spending the next 10 years of your life focusing on career advancements and want respective partners who support that, it could be a better fit (and potentially less heartbreak down the line) than wowza fireworks between two people who don’t have any goals, dreams, or values in common.

“Even if you wind up not pursuing a romantic relationship, [this] can be an opportunity to connect with someone who has shared goals and interests, which is useful in a lot of ways,” Morgan adds.

2. You had a good time

Consider the quality of the date, says relationship and sex therapist Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST. While it might sound basic, we can often get so wrapped up in deciphering whether there was an initial spark, how big the spark was, wondering if they felt it too, etc., that we can fail to focus on whether we had fun. If you genuinely enjoyed yourself on the date and enjoyed the person you met, go on that second date.

3. You’re curious to know more about them

Sometimes, it’s more about noticing if you want to get to know someone else more, explains relationship expert Amy Babish, MA, LPC, ATR-BC. “You’re a complex person and so are they,” she adds. It’s unlikely that two standalone dates can accurately give you a taste of what a lifetime with someone will be like, anyway, so instead, you might follow your curiosity and see if you’re interested in simply knowing more about them.

Who should initiate the second date?

“Either party could initiate the second date; however I think it would be wonderful if the person who was asked on the first date suggests the second date,” Morgan says. If this is you, not only does this show the other person that you’re also interested in knowing more about them, but it can help the relationship feel balanced, she adds.

How soon should a second date be?

You might have heard about the three-day rule, where you should only make plans to go on a second date three days after the first. But the experts say you don't need to pay any mind to that at all. In actuality, they suggest anywhere from one to two weeks after the first date as a good time frame for a second date. Walters recommends booking a second date five to eight days after the first, Babish recommends one week after, while Morgan recommends anywhere from one to two weeks after.

However, if you’ve got a super hectic schedule and need to book a second date three weeks out instead, that’s totally understandable. In that case, Morgan recommends just being transparent around timing and sharing the reasoning for the delayed second date.

What should you do for your second date?

For your second date, keep things easy and casual. These five date ideas can also be done on a pretty tight budget if you’re looking to keep things cheap.

1. Go for a scenic walk or hike

Haters will say walks are bad dates because they’re free (and therefore cheap), but that’s the fun of going for a scenic walk. You’re not committed to any big activity, and you’re free to take as little or as much time as you’d like. Going for a hike or walk on a second date allows conversation to be front and center, and you can really get to know someone better.

2. Go to a museum

Whether it’s an art, science, or history museum, appreciating the natural beauty and wonder of the world around you is a great way to open your heart and mind for a second date. This makes an especially great date idea in the winter or summer, as museums are usually climate-controlled so you don’t have to be in the freezing cold or sweltering heat and can instead focus on your second date.

3. If you didn’t have dinner the first time, have dinner on the second date

Go to a sit-down place or a hole-in-the-wall dive—whatever floats your boat! Good grub makes good conversation easy. Or, if you got dinner the first time, get dinner again at a totally different place with a different vibe.

4. See a show and grab a bite or a drink after

Chances are, there’s some comedy, music, or theater show the both of you might be interested in. If you’re anxious about being “on” and being entertaining for an entire evening, seeing a show together takes a lot of the pressure off each other. Seeing a show is also great because it gives you something to talk about together afterwards. Long live the debrief!

5. Be tourists in your own town or city

Open up TripAdvisor, and see what the most popular activities are to do in your own home town or home city. Even if you’ve both lived in the same spot your whole lives, there’s a chance you haven’t done absolutely everything on the list.

Should you kiss on a second date?

You totally can kiss on the second date, or you can wait—it's up to you. This is 100 percent going to differ for each person and each situation, but ultimately, do what you feel is right for you and your body and how you feel in that moment.

Babish notes that she’s had clients who usually never kiss on the first date feel a certain *spark* when with someone new and go for it, just as she’s had people who usually kiss on the first date decide to hold back. It all depends on what you’re feeling with a given person, whether you're on a first or second date... or any other date, for that matter.

What are some tips for a great second date?

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and called them up for a second date. You’ve landed on a fun, cheap second date activity, and you’re both on for the next weekend. Now what? Here are some tips to make sure you have the best time possible on your second date.

1. Be genuine and transparent with each other

“I encourage people to consider their personal values when dating and stay true to themselves above all else,” says Morgan. Whoever you are, that’s okay. Don’t try so hard to be likable or a “good date” that you lose sight of what makes you you. “It is best to be transparent and open from the start of a relationship.

“Remember that you can’t do or say the wrong thing with the right person,” Walters says. “If they’re your ideal match, the two of you will figure it out together.”

2. Slow down

“You can’t rush getting to know someone,” says Babish. Morgan agrees, adding that she’d “advise against getting too serious or too deep at this point, as second dates are still very early in a relationship.” Treat this opportunity as a chance to simply get to know the person more, follow up on previous discussions from your first date, and enjoy each other’s company.

3. Don’t feel the need to rush into anything physical quite yet

There are no hard and fast rules about whether you should or shouldn’t get intimate or have sex on a second date, but the experts agree that there’s certainly no need to become intimate. “Intimacy on a second date is truly dependent on the person,” says Morgan. “Regardless of your stance [on intimacy], it is helpful to be transparent about this so that the person you’re dating has accurate expectations.”

Walters adds that keeping sex out of the equation for now may help you better gauge compatibility and chemistry. Sex has a tendency to “take your mind offline” and may keep you from thinking logically about whether this is truly a good match for you in the long run.

How do I know if a second date went well?

Besides a third date being immediately scheduled, you’ll know a second date went well if you find yourself thinking about that person positively the next day and looking forward to seeing them again, Walters explains. If you felt a genuine connection and enjoyed your time together, that’s also a great sign that things went well, Morgan notes, adding that, “In my opinion, you can trust your intuition with this one. If you think your date went well, it probably did!”

Another sign that things went well? There should also be consistency with how the other person shows interest. “When a person is interested, they will make it clear with paced contact,” Babish explains. Therefore, don’t be afraid to take your time getting to know someone. If they have good intentions and are genuinely interested in learning more about you, they’ll consistently show their interest. “You’re worth the wait, as are they,” she adds.

What red flags should I look for on a second date?

When it comes to dating etiquette for a second date, common sense rules usually apply (i.e., don’t be a jerk). However, we asked the experts to name some important red flags to be aware of, just in case.

1. Instant intimacy or love bombing

“This is true for both emotional and physical intimacy,” explains Walters. “Too many people fall into the trap of looking for an immediate connection or spark.” Also be wary of love bombers, as they may be looking for a fantasy relationship. “Don’t invest your heart with a stranger no matter what grand gestures they make to win your heart,” Walters adds.

2. Too much communication, too quickly

On a second date, you still don’t know each other that well. Babish compares a second date to getting to know a new friend. “How would you feel if said new friend texted multiple times a day, gave you lots of compliments without knowing you, or made big promises for the future?”

3. Anyone who tells you how to think, feel, or behave, or otherwise pushes your boundaries

Full stop, anyone who does this is someone you need to stay far away from, explains Walters. Not only is this behavior totally inappropriate, it’s also a huge red flag that it’s showing up as early as the second date.

When someone makes you feel like your boundaries are being stepped over (this includes clinginess or feeling like you’re unable to get a word in), this is indeed a problem, says Morgan. If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, listen to it.

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