Didn’t Click With Your Date?

It could be you two just weren’t a match… or, it could be due to one of these surprising chemistry-busters that you can learn to avoid.

By Gregory Gilderman

t happens to everyone: You go out on a first date. You think it went perfectly. Then a couple of days go by, you check your inbox, and there it is—an email telling you, “Sorry, I think you’re really great and all, but I just don’t think we have any chemistry.”

So you blame yourself, or maybe you think fate just wasn’t on your side. But here’s the thing: Sometimes it isn’t you, luck, or even “chemistry” that’s at fault. The two of you might have made a great couple—except that you made a tiny move (OK, a mistake) that can squash the chances of a relationship taking off. Here are five to watch out for.

Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong date location or activity
It could be a café so loud you can’t hear. Or a restaurant that’s so expensive, it makes your date uncomfortable. Or maybe it’s a movie that lasts so long, you don’t get a chance
Desperation is never good, but there’s an equal and opposite mistake: acting so aloof your date thinks you’re not into him or her.
to talk to each other before you have to head home. The point is that some locations make it almost impossible for two people to feel any kind of rapport. “I met a woman at a Starbucks but it was on a Tuesday afternoon, right as a bunch of high-school kids were coming in,” says James, 32. “They were so loud and annoying that the whole date felt terrible. I was so embarrassed about the whole thing that I just didn’t email her again.” The lesson? Be picky about where you meet someone for the first time. Casual restaurants are a good idea, and if you pick a place that happens to be so mobbed it’s hard to hear each other, suggest moving to a more secluded table if there is one, or even a whole new place. The slight inconvenience of hiking elsewhere is well worth the possibility that you two will be able to actually connect.

Mistake #2: Playing it too cool
Granted, coming across as desperate is the last thing you want to do. But there’s an equal and opposite mistake: acting so aloof and uninterested that your date thinks you’re not into him or her—even when you are! “I’ve definitely played it too cool,” says Lilly, 28. “I’ve even had this bored expression on my face that I’ve practiced, kind of to challenge a guy to impress me. But I think some guys have lost interest in me because of it.” Long and short is, keeping yourself closed off emotionally will keep you from getting hurt, but it won’t create any chemistry. So if you like someone, show it! People in good relationships can always point to a moment where they weren’t afraid to show the person who liked them just how much they liked them back.

Mistake #3: Arguing about a touchy topic
There is a fine line between engaging someone in a lively conversation and making them feel like a guest on Meet the Press. “I went out with this girl from a group called ‘Students for Choice,’ which is cool because I agree with everything they stand for,” says Alex, 24. “But the whole time she’s going on and on about ‘patriarchy this’ or ‘patriarchy that.’ I agreed with her on a superficial level but it killed the mood.” It’s not that you should hide who you are or what you believe in. It’s just that most people prefer a first date to be as light and fun as possible. So steer clear of controversial minefields like politics and religion—you never know what will set your date off.

Mistake #4: Bragging
This is usually a guy error. We men want to impress our date so much that we end up clumsily saying how much
Certain locations make it almost impossible for two people to feel any kind of rapport.
money we make, what kind of car we drive, or something else that we think women will like. More often than not, though, this will backfire. “To me, when a guy goes on and on about his money, it just says he’s insecure,” says Margaret, 27. “When I’m on a first date, I really just want to know who they are, not what they make.” Am I saying women don’t care about a guy’s income? Of course not. But women admire confidence even more. So stop trying so hard, and let her be pleasantly surprised by your yacht later.

Mistake #5: Getting too personal too soon
I think women tend to do this more than men do. They’re out with a guy, and because they want to establish as soon as possible whether he’s the real deal or a waste of time — which is perfectly understandable — they make the date feel like an interrogation or a job interview. Some of the questions that guys would rather not deal with in the first few hours of knowing you include, When do you want to have kids? and When do you see yourself getting married? Getting too personal can also mean asking too many questions about someone’s family history or ethnicity. Marco, a 32-year-old writer from a mixed racial background, always finds it off-putting when women demand to know everything about his background on the first date. “It’s a complicated story and I always wish we could just save it till the second date,” he says. “I just want to enjoy myself on a first date.” So stick with less dicey topics—books, movies, hobbies, common interests, favorite restaurants and hangouts. Those are all fine first-date conversational fodder that will get you bonded, rather than your chemistry busted.

Gregory Gilderman has been giving frank and humorous dating advice for so long his friends call him “Dr. Greg, Unlicensed Therapist.” His column, “The Dating Life,” appears in newspapers in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, and his first book, She’s the One: The Surprising Truth About What Makes a Woman a Keeper and Other Mysteries of the Male Mind Revealed is available now.

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