Why You Should Be Worried If You Feel Chemistry On A First Date

Image by Mo Riza

Image by Mo Riza

When I was in high school, my best friend worked at a comedy club, so I got to see plenty of up-and-coming (and sometimes neither-up-nor-coming) comedians. The first time I went, I was blown away by the warm-up guy. Whenever any drunken heckler in the audience shouted out a snide comment, he came up with the perfect comeback on the spot.

As impressed as I was, my friend was quick to plug up my gushing. He pointed out that if you’re a comedian, you have to deal with hecklers all the time. After a while, you build up a repertoire of retorts for just about any occasion. So, you don’t necessarily need a quick wit. You just have to anticipate and prepare.

Interestingly, I’ve discovered that dating follows the exact same principle….

I’ve mentioned before that if you’re on a first date, and the guy seems to know the perfect thing to say at every opportunity, that could just mean he’s been a lot of first dates. Well, I admit it. I’m one of those guys. If I manage to snag a first date, I usually get the chance for at least a second date.

Long ago, I realized that I will never be the tall, dark, mysterious guy who just sulks in the corner and lets the girls flock to him – the guy who seduces with a glance and a smirk. Nope, I learned that if I wanted to find any success with women, I’d have to rely on my personality. And I’m okay with that, because it taught me how to interact with the opposite sex.

It also made me realize that being charming can be practiced and learned. Through the trials and errors of countless first dates, I’ve figured out what I need to say to keep the conversation flowing. I’ve learned how to build rapport by listening to her stories and connecting them to my own experiences. I’ve learned how to come across as intelligent and funny, with just the tinge of flirty.

People say that a great conversation will naturally evolve and flow in unpredictable ways. And I completely agree. When I meet someone new, I really don’t know where our conversation will end up. At the same time, I do find myself drawing from my repertoire of tried-and-true anecdotes. It’s just a matter of inserting the appropriate one at the appropriate time. Because these are the anecdotes that have worked for me in the past.

I’ve also noticed that the stories I share often lead to specific questions. Like the comedian who anticipates the responses his jokes will get and crafts the perfect comeback to those responses, I’ve learned to anticipate and craft responses to the questions my stories elicit.

For example, I used to play poker professionally. That little nugget of my life always sparks a deep conversation. I remember the moment I decided I didn’t want to play poker for a living anymore, the moment that led me to where I am today: a teacher of at-risk kids. The question of how I went from poker player to teacher/counselor seems to come up on every first date. And when it does, I don’t hesitate to tell the story, because I know it paints me in an attractive light.

I’m also an avid swing dancer and have friends in the scene who will invariably talk me up if they see me with someone new. My girlfriend will probably feel a bit disillusioned to read this (because, ahem, I took her swing dancing on our first date), but I’ve taken many first dates out swing dancing. And those first dates have always gone well.

These are just two of the pre-cut patterns that I pull from as we paint our first-date canvas. My metaphorical palette is brimming with many more.

Of course, I’m not claiming that I can woo any woman. Far from it. If someone just isn’t interested, there’s not much I can do there.

No, what I have learned is to take that spark of initial interest and stoke it — to find threads of commonality and use them to build a connection. That, to me, is what first dates are all about: Taking every opportunity to build rapport. To get to that second date and beyond, so you can really start to get to know the other person.

So what’s the point of all this? To brag about my dating prowess?

No, far from it. The point is that rapport… chemistry… butterflies… whatever you want to call it, it’s easier to manufacture than most people realize. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually easiest to create rapport on a first date, when you have essentially your entire unabridged tome of personal information to draw from, with no fear of accidentally telling the same story twice (something Melissa frequently gives me shit for).

No, to me, real rapport is when you’ve been with someone for a year-and-a-half, and you still look forward to talking to them every night, and you still find exciting things to talk about (and it’s only once every few weeks that you accidentally tell the same story again). That’s chemistry.

And that’s why I believe that if you meet someone who charms your pants off – perhaps literally – on a first date, you should exercise caution.

If you spend an evening with a guy, and you feel as though you know him so well, that you’ve connected with him so deeply, that there’s just something about him you can’t resist… sure, call it chemistry if you want. But, realize that he may be good at generating this “chemistry” with a lot of women. You may think you’re meeting someone special, but he might only be meeting someone who’s never seen his first-date routines before.

Yes, the butterflies you feel could mean that you really are compatible on multiple levels. And yes, he could very well feel the same tingling in his loins. But, it could just as likely be that he knows exactly what to say and exactly how to act because he’s been on a ton of first dates.

That’s why you should probably wait at least a few dates before you start putting any weight on the “chemistry” you’re feeling for him.

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  • This makes tons of sense to me. I’ve always been attracted to guys with..for lack of a better word, very engaging and outgoing personalities. But there has always been that little voice in the back of my head that knew that a guy who initially attracts me in that way, well, what’s different about me as compared to any other woman that he interacts with in that way? I feel like you hit the nail on the head with this one, Dennis – because it’s absolutely true that real, lasting chemistry has to go beyond the superficial first date chatter and must deepen over time. This has given me lots to think about!

  • Charm is a skill that can be learned. You’re so right, we need to remember that. I like the idea of somebody that we still want to rush home and talk to after a year or more. I just wish there was a better way to identify that person sooner, so we could avoid all those relationships that fade & die or crash & burn after three or four months.

  • yeah. on the side of the guys, chemistry on first dates are also to worry for. it’s like “oh-oh… i’m at it again. i have built chemistry on the first date again.” during the first few first dates, especially when we were still very young or immature, it was like doing it because we are pressured and want to be “very good with girls” and the want to actually snag the babes. then when we start being serious, we have already developed it as a skill or even a trait which lead ourselves to the vicious cycle of hellos and their troubles called goodbyes.

  • This is spot on! I started dating again after about a year and a half of being single and realized early on that feeling intense chemistry for a guy on a first date is usually a red flag. These guys are charming gentleman that know exactly what to say to make you feel special and at ease. They know how to show you a good time so you’re thinking “wow! why does everybody always complain about dating?” You end the night feeling great because you are excited and can’t believe how easy it was to connect with this “prince charming”. Then you never hear from them. Then months later you come across their dating profile and see the same lines in their profile that they used to charm you on your date. What you thought was genuine conversation and interest is actually manufactured script that they know works with girls. Anyway…good blog post. Very relatable to say the least. 🙂

  • Rapport and chemistry are so far apart. You can have chemistry with someone stumbling over their words, or someone that you have barely spoken to you, you just feel a connection and trust and affection (not necessarily sexual). I have rapport with lots of friends of both genders, none of it is chemistry.

  • This suggests all women are the same. I’ve only felt real chemistry with 4 guys in my life. I’m talking about sexual chemistry(that doesn’t necessarily lead to the sex part itself). You can’t learn that. Some people prefer one thing, others another…and that shows. I would say you really have no control over it. However, these people who you feel sexual chemistry with could just as well be completely wrong for you relationship-wise.

  • I love this. I feel validated reading this, because I’m always ranting about how people put too much stock in butterflies and chemistry. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot because of a recent experience. I felt excited and connected with someone after a first date, which has only happened once before. We both really opened up to each other and for me, these feelings continued for the next several dates. However, this person ended things with me after a few weeks, saying that the chemistry isn’t there and that the energy is off. I think I simply met someone who has been around the block and knows how to draw things out of people. I was left very confused and now am not confident in my ability to perceive real chemistry. Dennis, your article has given me a lot to think about as I continue to go on more first dates 😆

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