Turned Down For A Second Date?

Did someone you’re smitten with say “no” to rendezvous #2? Here’s why you shouldn’t worry—and what you can learn from the experience.

By Sherry Amatenstein

ou’ve just had an amazing first date. The conversation flowed so fast you didn’t need wine. The two of you discussed movies you’d like to see, trips you were dying to take, how great it felt to find a smart, cute, fun, compatible person. All in all, the question seemed not if there would be a second date but when.

The King Kong-sized fly in the ointment: When you called to make plans, you got shot down… with no real explanation. Yup, it’s disappointing. Sure, you feel frustrated and
Often, very often, there is no rhyme or reason to a rejection.
powerless. But the secret to a getting over a first date that inexplicably dead-ended is to quickly move on. Here’s how.

Don’t wonder what you did wrong
Instead of hitting rewind over and over to analyze your actions for any possible faux pas, try the erase button instead. Often, very often, there is no rhyme or reason to a rejection. Many first dates go no further even when both parties had a fun time. The reasons can be obvious or very subtle. But it’s not personal. It doesn’t mean you’re not an amazing catch. You never know what’s going on in another person’s life. Take it from Carl, 31, a San Francisco native, who calls himself “an endless spinning wheel of neurosis.” For weeks after a first date, he imagined negative scenarios for why a woman he’d had a fabulous evening with never returned his follow-up call. “I figured she thought I was the biggest loser/moron/jerk in the world,” he admits. Then Carl ran into Sara at a party—and while he fully expected she’d avoid him all night, she came up and apologized for not getting back to him. “Sara confessed she was involved with someone,” Carl says, adding that he now marvels that he spent weeks in agony over something that had absolutely nothing to do with him. The moral: Don’t let a turn-down chip away at your ego, making it that much more difficult to put yourself out there again. Even if you did do something that turned the other person off, think of this year’s theme song from American Idol: Bad Day. Well, you just had a bad date, not a bad day, but the point is, consider it part of life’s ups and downs… and realize that the next date could be the best one of your life.

Do wonder if you’re drawn to unavailable types
This is someone you spent — what? — two, three hours with? So the loss on a personal level is minimal. The depths of your post-date despair, then, likely stems from the aphrodisiac quality of wanting someone who doesn’t want you. Obviously that’s painful. But consider this an opportunity to reassess what you’re looking for in a partner. Do you only become attracted to people who aren’t attracted to you? Are you overlooking someone who could be deliciously compatible in favor of seeking out yet another unattainable heartbreaker? This was Ron’s pattern. The 37-year-old admits, “For years I couldn’t figure out why I had the worst luck with women. Sure I’m no Brad Pitt but who is? I’m not ugly, and I’m a decent guy. But I could never get to a second date.” His turning point came when a married female friend asked him straight out, “How come you only go after model-types or women who are practically psychotic? Why not give someone who’s ready for a relationship a shot?” Ron explains, “That advice was like gold to me. I’m not in love yet but I have gotten to a third date. So that’s progress!”

Play the numbers game
Statistically speaking, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. According to the US Census, single-person households are on the rise, increasing from 17 percent in 1970 to 26 percent in 2003. What this means for you is a practically unending supply of potential partners. So get out there. Explore the possibilities. The more options you entertain, the
“I survived her rejection. I’m stronger than I thought!”
more optimistic you’ll be about your romantic future and the less likely you’ll sit around brooding about the one who didn’t return your phone call.

Case in point: Jennifer’s romantic luck changed once she stopped brooding by the phone and began, as the 31-year-old New Yorker put it, “dating a pair and a spare.” Her explanation: “Time after time I’d have what I thought was a great first date, suggest getting together again, get rebuffed and be so devastated it took weeks if not months before I could venture back onto the scene,” she says. Her “a-ha moment” happened when two guys asked her out in one week. Instead of following her typical MO and saying yes to only one man, she accepted both invitations. Soon, a third cyber-suitor came calling. Dating several men casually kept her from fixating on Tim, the guy she really liked—which might have scared him away in the early stages. The two recently became engaged. The moral of the story: So someone turns you down for a second date? Don’t get sad. Get busy replacing him/her in your rotation!

Conduct a post-mortem, then put it to rest
Do you obsessively dissect a date after the fact? That’s like analyzing a job interview that didn’t result in getting the gig. What did you do wrong—dwell too much on your flaws, not your strengths? This is an invaluable opportunity to take a personal inventory of your communication skills and to sharpen your ability to read verbal and physical clues. Initially, Ben, 22, from Chicago, had no clue why Sara turned him down for a second date. Then he sat down with a box of Oreos and as each cookie disappeared he remembered a new piece of his behavior. “We were both in our second year of grad school but she was light years ahead of me on the maturity scale,” he recalls. “I realized my conversation had been way too young for her tastes—I kept asking things like, ‘So what bars do you hang out at?’ when she clearly preferred talking about politics and culture.” Since then, Ben has learned his lesson. “Now I try to listen to what the woman is saying and respond, not go off on my own tangents,” he says. “And I get a lot more second dates.”

Fred, 31, from Los Angeles, also had an epiphany after being turned down for a second date: that perhaps he revealed a little too much information. His and Naomi’s first meet-and-greet was so wonderful that drinks turned into dinner, then dinner into dessert, which was topped off with an after-hours club. By then, he’d told Naomi all about his ex-wife’s serial cheating, his severe case of hemorrhoids and about how he’d love to share his year-long symphony and ballet subscriptions with her. When he called for another date, the answer was nyet. “In retrospect, I definitely should have waited to mention the hemorrhoids,” he jokes. How right he is: A first date should be more Reader’s Digest than War and Peace. Tell your date your entire life story, and there’s less of a reason for an encore—a lesson Fred intends to use from now on.

Congratulate yourself on taking a risk
Yes, it feels wonderful when you attempt something scary, and the results are all that you hoped for. But it can be more of a growth experience to take a risk and be dropped flat on your face. That’s what happened to Ed, 28, from Boston. He felt trapped in a “safe” but boring job, berated himself for lacking the nerve to tackle big adventures (white-water rafting, for instance), and was terrified of initiating a date, so much so that he relied on set-ups and the occasional bold woman who made the first move. Then he lucked into the dream blind date. “Giselle was amazing—funny, gorgeous and, shockingly, seemed to like me. We even discussed a movie we should see together,” Ed exulted. With a “yes” seemingly guaranteed, he made the call to arrange a movie date only to be told by an unenthusiastic-sounding Giselle that her schedule was really tight and she’d get back to him if and when things loosened up. They never did. But Ed, emboldened that he even made the attempt, recently signed up for a rafting trip—and has Giselle to thank, kind of. “Hey, I survived her rejection without going into cardiac arrest,” he reasons. “So I’m stronger than I thought!”

Sherry Amatenstein is the author of Love Lessons from Bad Breakups.

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