How long should a first date last? It’s a question I get from my clients every week.
It’s kind of amazing how many people don’t put a cap on how long they’ll spend on a first date. Consider the situation: Your date is often someone you met on an app (40% of American couples meet online, after all). That means, before opening up your wallet for this person, all you have to go by are a few photos and a brief text history. Are you sure you don’t want to have any time limit?
Even if you met her in person through friends or some other way, you still don’t know if the two of you will really click. So when it comes to the question of “how long should a first date last?” I’d recommend no more than one hour, tops.
But there are other reasons, as well. Spending more than an hour on a first date has many other consequences you might not have thought about. If you’re not careful, regularly having long first dates can leave you with so many negative experiences that it might shake your faith in the dating process itself.
Curious? I’ll break it down for you. Here are the reasons why first dates should never last more than 1 hour.
First Dates Over an Hour Aren’t Cheap
Spending more than $10-$15 on a first date is basically throwing money away. Assuming you’re meeting for drinks, just remember: The longer you’re together, the more you’re likely to order … which means the more you’ll have to spend. And that extra money won’t do you much good when it’s all said and done.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the first date at a bar and see how quickly it can spiral out of control after the 1-hour mark:
6:00: You sit down; she orders a glass of wine, you order a beer.
6:15: Conversation is decent. You compliment her on her outfit.
6:30: She’s feeling more comfortable now, and starts telling you about the documentary she’s making.
6:45: You find her interesting and let her do most of the talking. As a result, you down your beer. She’s only halfway through her wine.
(point of no return)
7:05: Waitress comes by. Another round? Your date says, not yet. Normally you’d be leaving, but your date is still in mid-story. You get just one more beer to keep her company.
7:10: Your date finishes her story and you guys keep talking.
7:25: Waitress comes by again. Everything alright? Your date sees you’re still drinking a beer, so she orders one to keep you company.
7:45: You’re both two drinks in, and now you’re getting the munchies. She suggests, maybe we should order some stuffed mushrooms?
7:50: Waitress comes by. You guys ok? Actually, you say, we’d like some stuffed mushrooms, and (hell, why not) some fried potato skins, please. Oh and one more beer for me since I’m empty.
8:10: The apps are going quick, and after two drinks, she’s ready to party. She orders another round while you’re in the restroom.
9:00: One of you realizes it’s Wednesday and you have to work tomorrow. You cut it short and ask for the check.
9:05: You see the bill and you are SHOOK. It reads:
1 Stella Artois = $5
1 Pinot Grigio = $5
1 Stella Artois = $8 (ugh, happy hour ended at 7)
1 Pinot Grigio = $10
1 Stuffed Mushrooms = $9
1 Potato Skins = $9
1 Tenaya Creek Imperial Stout = $9 (remember you switched?!)
1 Pinot Grigio = $10
1 Tenaya Creek Imperial Stout = $9
Tax: $7.40 (sorry, you may live in CA)
Tip: $20.35 (you chose $25% because you’re drunk)
Over one hundred freakin’ dollars. Consider this a PSA. Don’t let it happen to you.
First Dates Over an Hour Kill the Mystery
Back when I was single, I conducted my own 100-date experiment to find out all I could about dating. Not only did I want to know what made guys tick, but I wanted to learn about myself, as well. Going on 100 dates definitely gave me a clearer view of what makes men attractive, as well as the behaviors and decisions that lead to getting more dates, for both men and women. It’s become a huge part of my dating expertise and still helps me in my coaching to this day.
During the experiment, I went on 52 first dates. Since I let the men lead, I was able to see how each of them set the timeframe on the first date. What I found was that men who took me out for first dates that lasted 1 hour (or LESS) made it to the second date approximately 3 times more often than men who let first dates last over 1 hour.
Want to know why? Mainly, it was because the dates that lasted under an hour left me wanting more. A first date isn’t enough time to really get to know someone completely, or even much at all. But it shouldn’t be. Your goal for a first date should be to create enough mystery around you in her mind for her to want a second date.
In other words, you want to reveal just enough about yourself so that she knows you’re interesting, but is still curious. And since she doesn’t know much about you, she’ll fill in the blanks with her best expectations until the next date. If she’s attracted to you, this strategy will practically turn you into a prince in her head.
This mystery (and fantasy, on her part) sets the stage for the second date, where you can start to establish sexual tension. Establishing sexual tension will take things into the physical realm and possibly toward intimacy, but it all starts with capturing her mind. Getting her intrigued enough at the first date stage will make it more likely that she’ll enjoy physical touch later. That means, you’ll need to keep that date to a 1-hour limit.
First Dates Over an Hour Make It Harder to Stack Dates
What do you mean by “stack dates,” you ask? If you want to get the most out of your dating life, I highly recommend dating as many women as you possibly can — at the same time. This isn’t a “numbers” strategy so much as it is a way to take the pressure off yourself by thinking that every person you meet might be the “one.” Instead of trying to turn every prospect into a home run, I encourage you to play the field and not get too attached until you’ve increased your confidence and learned more about yourself (and women) through this process. I call this MegaDating.
Once you’re MegaDating, you’ll go on lots of dates — maybe even in the same day. “Stacking dates” means you’ll be setting up different dates back-to-back, which helps you in a few ways. For one thing, It helps you diffuse your energy. You simply won’t have the same pent-up anticipation you’d normally bring to a date if you know you will be meeting another woman right after her. You can relax on each date, knowing that everything isn’t riding on this one.
You’ll be more present with her and will probably come across as more engaged. Also, you’ll be able to compare women more easily since they’ll all be fresh in your mind. You can really get to know, in real time, what makes you connect with one person more easily than another. And that information is gold, because later on, you’ll avoid settling for someone who you know isn’t a great match.
So, especially if you’re a MegaDater, when you ask yourself “how long should a first date last?” be sure to keep your energy level in mind. Multiple dates in one day takes some extra concentration and mental stamina. But the boost to your confidence, and the knowledge you’ll get, is totally worth it. Try to stack those dates and go the distance!
First Dates Over an Hour Decrease Your Leverage
Let me put it this way: The easier it is for her to get a lot of your time and money, the lower she will perceive your value to be. That’s just the way the world works — everyone wants what they can’t have, or the things that are hardest to get.
Again, even if the date is going well, that impression can change … especially the longer you stay. So, giving her time and space after the first date to get excited about you is crucial (don’t even think about smothering her with post-first date texts). Not only will she assume the best about what she doesn’t know, but that feeling of curiosity about you will also make her value you more.
That doesn’t mean you have to be rude about keeping your date to an hour. Just simply let her know, ahead of time, that you have somewhere else to go afterward, but that you wanted to make sure to spend some time together since you’ve enjoyed your conversations thus far.
First Dates Over an Hour Can Be Painful
It’s time to be honest: Since you barely know this woman, there are also many ways your first date could go south. Consider the possibilities if you let things go beyond an hour …
- It could end up feeling like an interview. Don’t get me wrong, having a good set of first date questions ready could mean the difference between a good conversation and a bunch of awkward silences. But still, how many first date questions do you need to ask before you get an idea if you want to see this woman again? If you stay too long, she’ll feel interrogated no matter what.
- It could start to feel super awkward. What if she doesn’t talk a lot, and you don’t either? Those awkward silences could be awkward minutes. Are you sure you want more than 60 of them? Don’t stretch a date out if the two of you don’t seem to click, or can’t relax. The extra time won’t help turn things around, and likely could make things even worse.
- You might get really bored, or worse, turned off. After all, she might talk too much … about stuff you don’t care about. Maybe she’ll even go on a rant about politics and throw the entire mood off balance. I’m sure you’ve had your share of these. Set your time expectation upfront so the conversation stays light.
Answering the question, “how long should a first date last” is pretty straightforward in my book. Short dates under an hour will allow you to create the most positive impression, while minimizing the amount of time and energy you spend with people who you’ll never want to see again, anyway.
Also, the first date just needs to be long enough to establish that she’s honest, mentally stable, can hold a conversation, is attractive, and seems interesting. Then, you can use the second and third date to see how well you might click.
On the other hand, if a question like “how long should a first date last?” still confuses you a bit, don’t worry — lots of people tend to debate the “rules” of dating, which is why they can seem contradictory at times.
The most important thing is understanding how to apply rules that work for your own dating life. If you’re interested in learning more about creating killer first dates, feel free to book a 1-on-1 New Client Skype Session with me personally. I’d be happy to walk you through ways you can make first date “rules” work for you. During our intro session we’ll also create a strategy and see if my 3 month coaching program could be a fit for you!