Lovehacker: Why Can't I Get Past The Second Date? (2023)

Dear Lovehacker, I was wondering if you could help me understand something that seems to plague my love life these days and maybe some of your other readers as well: “You’re a really great guy, but…”

This is a line I hear frequently these days that it has really started to get to me. It is a rejection that usually comes up on a second or third date and no further explanation is ever given, even when I politely and calmly ask for one. What am I doing wrong?

I’ve had plenty of relationship experience ranging from one night stands, to an engagement and a few long-term serious type ones. Going strictly off of what women have said to me, I’m a very good date. On paper I’m delivering most things on a stereotypical wish-list of “guy qualities” and I can’t seem to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

There mostly aren’t any problems for me in securing a first date. I really like dating so I try and make it fun and nice and it usually goes pretty well. The following date or two usually seem pretty good also. After that though, it all seems to go pear shaped regardless of how well things have been going: if we slept together, how the time between dates goes or any other factor I can think of. Maybe it’s all a heart breaking coincidence?

Frankly I’m beginning to feel dejected and am starting to lose hope in dating. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Really Great But

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Dear RGB,

Here’s the thing about being good on paper: It only works on paper. Logically you may be a great option, but as anyone at the bar at 1AM can tell you, good old fashioned lust has nothing to do with logic. To quote the sage: “Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will.”

So, here’s what’s going on. The fact that you get the first date means that you present well. You give good first impression, which is important; it’s how you get your foot in the door.

But the first date… is pleasant. That’s OK, but not great. It’s the second date that’s killing you.

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The problem that you — and many other people — are having is that while you may be great on paper and a genuinely nice person, you’re not exciting them. There’s no passion, no spark, nothing that stirs the loins and sets the imagination on fire with visions of things involving chocolate syrup.

See, the first date is going well enough that they decide to give you a chance on the second to see if it was just first-date jitters and maybe there’s something there that will grow. By the second, they have their answer. And that answer is “nope, probably not.”

The reason why nobody is giving you an explanation is that you can’t really explain chemistry to another person. Either they don’t have the necessary vocabulary outside of “I’m just not feeling it,” or they just don’t want to say, “Look, the truth is I just don’t really want to fuck you.” And even if they thought your ego could take the ways you’re not sending the blood to their squishy bits, giving you a detailed list of “this is what turns me on” isn’t going to fix things. You had your shot, it didn’t work, life’s too short and they’re moving on.

Now the good news is, this is eminently fixable… if you’re willing to put in the work.

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The first step is to work on yourself. The reason why nice guys get the “You’re a really great guy BUT” speech is because… they’re boring. They’re exciting as dry toast. You can be pleasant to look at or fun to spend time with, but unless you have that oomph, then nothing is going to happen.

So you have to start by finding your swagger. Your cool. Your je ne se quois that makes hearts pound and bits tingle. This can actually take many forms because people aren’t a monolith. The folks who drool over Chadwick Boseman as T’challa are going to be into different things than the people who feel their hearts skip a beat when Travis Fimmel gives them The Look as Ragnar. Matt Smith’s adorkable passion and energy as The Doctor is going to appeal to people in ways that Stephen Amell’s brooding doesn’t.

So start by finding the thing that gives you your oomph, in a way suits your personality. Don’t worry about be broadly appealing, be intensely appealing to fewer people.

The other thing is you need to do better on dates. Most dates are pleasant affairs and that’s actually bad. Pleasant is nice, and nice is boring. You want exciting dates, energetic dates, dates that get people’s hearts pumping and the electrical impulses darting all over the place. Anything that gets your circulatory system aroused gets the rest of you aroused, and that transfers to how people feel about you.

Humans are very bad at understanding why we feel the way we do. We feel the physical sensations and backfill the reason for them; it’s called The Misattribution of Arousal. When we’re excited, we tend to attribute those feelings to the people we’re with rather than the events causing them. So a pleasant but unexciting dinner leads to feeling pleasant but unexcited about the person you’re dining with. The thrill of, say, racing go-karts, or the enjoyable burn in your muscles after a good walk, on the other hand, makes us feel differently about our date. A little competitive skee-ball or pool makes for a better date than just drinks. A walk in the park or going dancing is more arousing than dinner and a movie. That excitement, that energy helps build chemistry. They’re also more fun, which triggers what’s known as The Reward Theory of Attraction — the way we prioritise relationships with the people who make us feel good in their presence.


The last thing I suggest is that, on your dates, don’t stick to safe or pleasant topics. Date conversations tend to fall to what I call the Applebee’s Effect. You’re discussing where you want to go to dinner, but you don’t necessarily want to advocate for what you really want because you don’t want to be selfish. Meanwhile, the other person is feeling the same way. One of you ends suggesting Applebee’s and you both end up choosing it as an acceptable compromise, despite the fact that neither of you actually wants to eat there.

So while getting-to-know-you questions about jobs and growing up are OK, getting deep into questions about passion or politics, when you first fell in love or what your dream holiday is like is far more meaningful. You get to know the person on a deeper, more honest level, and that increases that sense of connection between the two of you. It’s riskier, true… but it also means that you’re getting to the real person, not the polished facade we all put up when we start to get to know people.

TL;DR: You aren’t inspiring passion or excitement in your dates. The more you build that, the less you’ll hear “you’re great, but…” and the more you’ll hear “your great butt”.

Good luck.

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Lovehacker is a weekly relationship and sex column where our resident Agony Aunt answers your questions. Need help? Drop a comment below or email [emailprotected].

This story originally appeared on Kotaku.

Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove.


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