So much ink has been spilled on the anxiety of the first date. After all the app-chatting, witty text banter (that may or may not lead to a toyfriend), and eventually meeting in person, you land yourself a first date that actually leaves you wishing for a second.
But you’ve just spent all that time and emotional investment just getting to this stage. Now you gotta do it again for date number two? “People get so fixated on the first date, but really, that’s just a quick look,” says Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist and chief scientific adviser to Match.com, who helped conduct its sixth annual Singles in America study.
But after surveying experts and sifting through exclusive-to-Cosmo research about romantic success, we were surprised to learn that, in many ways, date number two is much more meaningful than we ever thought. “That’s when you start to learn about your shared interests, ideas, and goals—all the things that can knit people together,” says Fisher.
But the experts agree, date two deserves way more credit than we usually give it. Why? Glad you asked, here’s a quick rundown:
It means that both parties are interested and the stakes are therefore higher, according to Michelle Baxo, a dating and relationship expert. “Think of it this way: the percentage of people going on a second date with that person is far less than a first date and this narrows down even further after [that].”
Second dates are when you get to show off your real personality. “A first date, despite what some think, doesn’t reveal a lot except that you look like your online photo,” says Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. It takes more than a first date to reveal true chemistry. You aren’t as nervous this time around, and since mutual interest has been established, you can show your true self more.
It’s a great chance to make sure their first date manners don’t just melt away after the first encounter. Everyone is on their best behavior on a first date, but if they’re still treating others like servers and cashiers with kindness and tipping well (as they should be) on the second date, you at least know you’re not being personality-catfished. “Some people let their guard down as early as a second date, so you might get a sneak preview of how you will be treated down the line,” adds Wendy L. Patrick, JD, PhD, author of Red Flags: Frenemies, Underminers and Ruthless People
It’s a chance for more attraction to build. Let’s say you weren’t super attracted to someone on the first date, but they were interesting enough to make you wanna see them again. “A second date is important, especially if you are on the fence with someone after the first date,” explains Alyson Cohen, LCSW. You might find yourself feeling differently once you’ve had some time after a first date to think about it. Do you keep finding yourself drawn to the way they spoke or did something on the first date? Here’s your chance to see if the sparks for something long term are there.
Why Date Two Matters
The thing is, first dates usually aren’t amazing...and they’re not heinous either. They’re...something in the middle. And because we’re not totally swept off our feet, we’ll often just shrug our shoulders and move on without planning to meet again. If you’re not sure about a person, why waste another two hours with him? Well, here’s the reason: Turns out that guys who are serious about finding love (read: not just out for a hookup) are willing to put in that extra time.
According to data from Match.com’s 2015 survey of more than 5,500 people, single men and women who are actively looking for commitment are 74 percent more likely to give a date a second chance. Plus, a full half of men and women believe that someone from a just-okay first date can grow on them, and if you think about it, they’re right. “When you first meet someone, you know so little about them that you put too much emphasis on the tiniest details. Your date might say one dumb thing and you assume that means he or she isn’t that smart. But data shows that the more you get to know a person, the more you get to like them,” Fisher says. “When it comes to dating, you may be focused on thinking of reasons to say no. But a smarter dating strategy may be to think of reasons to say yes.”
Wait for It...
It’s also the second date where shit gets real and you figure out if the person is worth pursuing. “Meeting up again allows you both to get past the generic surface stuff, and research suggests that the more you interact, the more your conversation matters,” says Daniel McFarland, PhD, a professor of sociology and organizational behavior at Stanford University. Plus, you may need some extra time to feel a spark...and truthfully, sparks don’t matter all that much anyway. Exclusive data from OkCupid shows that 79 percent of guys would still pursue a relationship with someone they thought was great even if they didn’t feel an immediate spark. “There’s such a myth of instant fireworks, but the brain system that governs romantic love can be woken up at any time. You might feel that attraction at the beginning, or it might happen after a couple of dates or even after years of being friends,” Fisher confirms.
So that’s why you want to get to that second date. And besides, second dates are fun! Sixty-one percent of single guys and 70 percent of single women are more excited by a second date than by a first date, according to the Singles in America survey. So go for round two. To up your odds, here are some science-backed ways to increase your chances of scoring that second date.
Your First-Date Game Plan
Grab dinner or drinks. If you don’t do the whole dinner/drinks thing on date no. 1, you’re way less likely to get to date no. 2.
Go to a pricier restaurant. Match.com’s research shows that indulging in fine dining makes you 50 percent more likely to see each other again.
Have cocktails. We know: duh. But the Singles in America study shows it really does make a difference.
...Or sushi. Seriously better odds—maybe because you avoid a sexy vibe-killing burrito belly.
...Or something sweet. Purdue University researchers found that when you eat or drink something sweet, you’re more likely to be interested in pursuing a relationship with the person you’re with.
Strike a power pose (yes, really.). A recent study found that speed-daters who spread out their limbs and stretched their torsos—literally taking up more space—were 76 percent more likely to get a yes to a date. (If you want a head start, choose a profile pic for your app that shows you power-posing too. That alone could up your odds of connection by 27 percent.)
Elevate Your Conversation
Bring up politics. Want to increase your second-date odds by a whopping 91 percent? “Discussing real-world topics gets you past the surface and shows you’re engaged in our culture,” Fisher says.
Show off your humor and smarts. Fifty-six percent of dudes will want to get to know you better if you’re funny or charismatic. And 42 percent of guys will date you again if they’re impressed by your brainpower.
If you're into you date, make it known. Forget that tired crap about not showing your cards. A guy who’s looking for a relationship is 71 percent more likely to want a second date if he can tell you’re into it. “They sense they’re already over the barrier of winning you over,” Fisher says.
Look for These Secret Cues
Keep an eye out for these little tells to gauge whether or not your date is feeling it.
Is his voice getting louder? That’s a sign he’s excited, according to research in the American Journal of Sociology.
Are you laughing at the same things? Research from the University of Kansas shows that if you find yourselves cracking up at the same time, it’s very indicative of romantic interest...and that translates to another possible meet-up.
Don’t Stress These Things
Who pays for the date. The Singles in America survey shows that in terms of getting to the second date, it doesn’t really matter who pays, although splitting the check is always a safe bet.
Whether or not you kiss. One-half of singles think that a kiss is appropriate on the first date, but you’re good either way.
Sex on the first date. It actually doesn’t affect your second-date odds. Only 6 percent of men expect to have sex on the first date. And expecting anything is really lame, so steer clear of those dudes.
What to Say When...
Chances are, you’ve had guys say some weird-ass stuff to you on dates...and wished you had the perfect response ready. Comedian Jordan Carlos helps you deal.
He says: “So, why are you single?” You say: “’Cause it’d be strange if I were out with you and had a boyfriend.”
He says: “You look different from your profile pic.” You say: “Yeah, I have legs.”
He says: “So, what’s your long-term plan?” You say: “You’re in luck! I have my vision board here!”
He says: “How much money do you make?” You say: “In rubles?”