Congratulations! You have arrived at the end of a terrific first date. It was an evening filled with both chemistry and compatibility. No gaffes, no wine spills, no accidentally using the name of your ex. Now comes the awkward, but important question of how to say goodbye — for now.
The dynamics of parting company is significant as both an assessment of the first date and a predictor of whether there will be a second. To complicate matters, research reveals that men and women view the process differently.
Regarding physical contact, research by Marisa Cohen (2016)[i] of 390 predominantly heterosexual participants indicated that women perceive a wave goodbye or a handshake at the end of the night as indicating their date was not interested in them. Hugs and kisses, on the other hand, indicate attraction. End-of-date physical contact was not as significant for men, who focused on other indications of attraction, such as topics of conversation.
But the question remains: After the first date is officially over, now what?
Who Initiates a Second Date?
Some of you might remember this quote from the movie He's Just Not That Into You:
“Hey Conor, It's Gigi, I just thought that I hadn't heard from you, and I mean how stupid is it that a girl has to wait for a guy's call anyway, right? Cause we're all equal right? more than equal. more women are accepted into law school now then men. Call me, oh this is Gigi, call me.” [ii]
According to research, Gigi's approach is not the best idea. After the first date, men prefer to take the initiative to arrange a second. Cohen found that men expressed a desire to be “hunters,” preferring to be the one to initiate contact after a date, as opposed to having the woman contact them.
If you're a woman who practices proactivity in every other aspect of your life, though, the post-first-date waiting game may feel unnatural, because it requires patience. And because your schedule fills up quickly, if there is going to be a second date, you want to get it on the calendar soon, or you fear you may become totally booked. Resist the temptation to worry about this. Even very busy people somehow manage to find time to get together if they want to. Besides, the fact that you have a full life may make you even more attractive.
Ironically, when a partner finally does decide to get in touch with a woman, research indicates that he would like to hear back from her sooner rather than later: Cohen found that when men reach out after a first date, they want an immediate response. Now the ball is in your court to decide what is a reasonable delay on your end.
It's a Relationship, Not a Race
Speaking of delay, when it comes to cultivating a successful relationship, research reveals the value and wisdom of progressing slowly, both emotionally and physically. In a sample of 10,932 individuals in unmarried, romantic relationships, Willoughby et al. (2014) found delaying the initiation of sexual activity to be positively related to relationship outcome.[iii] Their results provide support for earlier research by Busby et al. (2010) demonstrating sexual restraint theory, indicating that abstaining from sex until marriage (as compared to initiating sexual activity early in a relationship) resulted in better marriages in terms of marital satisfaction, sexual quality, and communication.
In summary, research supports the conclusion that, similar to the attainment of other goals in life, a good relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. Expressing enjoyment and gratitude at the end of a first date paves the way for a second, by giving an interested partner the confidence and courage to ask for a second date. And moving slowly, both emotionally and physically, allows both parties to get to know each other at a comfortable pace, paving the way for a healthy future.
[i] Marisa T. Cohen, “It’s not you, it’s me…no, actually it’s you: Perceptions of what makes a first date successful or not,” Sexuality & Culture: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 20, no. 1 (2016): 173-191.
[ii] http://www.moviefanatic.com/quotes/movies/hes-just-not-that-into-you/ (with corrected mis-spelling)
[iii] Brian J. Willoughby, Jason S. Carroll, and Dean M. Busby, "Differing Relationship Outcomes When Sex Happens Before, On, or After First Dates," Journal Of Sex Research 51, no. 1 (2014): 52-61.