How You Misunderstand Your Dates and How It Backfires

African-american couple having a wine toast

Did you ever wonder after a date why he didn’t call back?

Did you ever think you had a great time, but were shocked to discover that he didn’t feel the chemistry?

It’s really common — for both men and women — but if you’ve never bothered to put yourself in the shoes of the opposite sex, you may be killing your chances to find love.

Translating men to women is what I do best.

Your perspective on sex is way different than his perspective — and how neither of them is wrong!

Women want the potential for love. Men want the potential for sex.

Each time you go on a date, you have an agenda. You may not be conscious of it, but every man you meet causes you to ask these questions:

Is he polite to the waiter?
Does he reach for the check instantly?
Does he talk positively about other women?
Is he pressuring me for physical contact?
Does he want to learn more about me?
Is he looking for a long-term relationship?
Does he have good values and will he fit in my world?

None of these are “bad” questions. But, if you add them all up, what you’re doing is tantamount to acting like a detective. You’re trying to figure out, in 90 minutes, whether this stranger is potentially husband-worthy.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself (and him) on a first date. You’re picking up on every subtle clue and extrapolating it to a greater meaning.

So if he talks about his crazy ex, you may conclude that he’s hung up on her or is a misogynist with baggage.

Or if he talks about himself too much, you conclude he’s a narcissist who’s not interested in you.

Or if he seems interested in you physically, you conclude that he’s disrespectful and wants only one thing.

These are all possible conclusions you can draw, but they are, by no means, the only conclusions. In fact, they’re probably incorrect.

A man who talks about his crazy ex may be a great guy — with a really crazy ex and some good stories to tell. If he has bitter feelings, he may be entirely justified in having them. His only crime is in not knowing how he comes across on the date.

A man who goes on and on about himself may be extremely interested in you, and extremely nervous that he’s not going to impress you. So he tells you as many things as he can to “impress” you, so he’ll have a chance of getting a second date. You think he’s selfish. He may just be insecure.

Finally, a man who tries to kiss you at the end of the first date is also known as a “man”. That’s right. Men who are attracted to you want to kiss you. It’s not a crime, it’s not a flaw, and it’s not inherently inappropriate. Sure, a kiss after 3 minutes at Starbucks is pretty weird, but following dinner, drinks, and a car ride home, a good night kiss is standard behavior for a man who’s attracted to you.

I share this with you because you may feel that men are supposed to do things YOUR way.

He should just KNOW that he shouldn’t talk about his ex.
He should just KNOW that he should ask you questions.
He should just KNOW that you’re uncomfortable kissing on the first date.

As one of those clueless men who have done ALL of those things — I hate to remind you what you already know about men: we’re not mind readers. We’re not perfect. We do what comes naturally to us, not necessarily what comes naturally to YOU.

Theoretically, we can do everything perfectly right on a date — check off 20 for 20 on your scorecard — and then be dismissed for trying to kiss you. And if every little misguided action can set you off, it becomes really hard to make a good first impression.

Which is why I wanted to remind you of an insight I had about men’s and women’s first date agendas:

Women want the potential for love. Men want the potential for sex.

This is a fundamental difference between us and I think it’s important to know that I’m not blaming you for trying to figure out where things are going.

Since you want the potential for love, you give your first dates the tightest screening outside of airport security — and dissect everything he says to determine if he has long-term relationship potential.

Alas, while your heart is in the right place, your efforts are premature — and they usually backfire. Men don’t like to be dissected.

We know when you’re asking leading questions about our jobs, exes, financial stability, sexual past, and desire for family and kids. So, for your own sake, stop thinking of the future when you’re on a date. Try hard to have fun and stay in the present.

By enjoying the night, having light, breezy conversation, and flirting a little bit, you’ll ensure a great first date which will make him want to ask you out again.

That gives you the choice to go out with him or not and allow him to reveal himself over the course of the next few dates.

While you are entitled to want to figure out the entire puzzle at the very beginning, it’s generally a losing proposition. Not because you’re wrong for wanting to protect yourself from wasting time on a bad man — but because it doesn’t WORK.

Men run from women who interrogate them in the pursuit of love, the same way women run from men who push for sex too soon.

Can you see the parallels?

There’s nothing wrong with a guy wanting to have sex one day. The problem is when they push for it too fast. The harder they push before you’re ready, the more you pull away.

Smart male daters know that women want trust, comfort, and security. If they’re wise, they’ll take appropriate measures to show you this during your first date.

These subtle nuances of relationships are where most of the friction lies in dating.

Similarly, if you’re a smart woman dater, you’ll know that men value attraction and want to feel desired. So if you’re wise, you’ll take appropriate measures to show them this during your first date.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean sleeping with a man before there’s a commitment. It means putting yourself in his shoes.

He’s excited about you, he wants to impress you, he wants you to like him, and he wants to know you like him back.

All you have to do is let him know.

If you like him, a kiss is a great way to do this.

Once again, just because men want sex doesn’t mean they get sex on the first date.

Just because women want love doesn’t mean they get love on the first date.

But if you want to be the BEST first date, you’re probably smart to give a little hint of what’s to come in the future — just like the right man shows that he’s interested in a relationship, instead of just sex.

These subtle nuances are where most of the friction lies in dating. And whether you’re dating online, offline or are embarking on a new relationship, there are hundreds of ways in which your miscommunication can sabotage your connection.

It doesn’t always come naturally, but once you “get” it, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to relate to men.

Join our conversation (80 Comments).
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  1. 41

    Margo… you have every right to your opinion and yes, there is often a double-standard, but the way we stop double-standards is by ceasing to perpetuate them. And where are you coming up with this info that men sleeping with women on first dates is spreading STDs? Obviously having intercourse comes with risks, but virgins can get an STD the first time they have sex with a monogamous partner. I don’t think your argument holds any validity what-so-ever.

    If you find a man sleezy for wanting to sleep with you on the first date, so be it. I think we are all animals. As a woman, I’d like to have sex as often as I want, with whomever I want, because I enjoy sex. However, there are consequences. If you specifically want a relationship with a man, odds are, you are going to need to hold-out for awhile to find out his true intentions. Sleezy to me is someone who intentionally lies or mis-leads another person… or perhaps a person with very little tact. Passing so many judgments about people in any arena of life is going to lead to heartache in my opinion. And having an open-mind means that you allow a man (or woman) prove who they really are to you. You just sit back an enjoy the ride!

  2. 42

    @ Mami, lying to oneself doesn’t change reality.

    Some women never learn.

  3. 43

    @Anne #20
    Your posting really resonated with me. I have only been dating for about a year, am divorced and middle-aged. Although I have no trouble attracting men, the quality of available men in my age range (mid forties to mid fifties) is less than desirable. I didn’t throw in the towel but I did change some items on my list. Most importantly age. I met a man who is 8 years older than me and he treats me wonderfully. I am attracted to him, we have fun being with each other and I know where I stand with him. I also have a rule about not contacting first. That I would never change. I feel if the guy makes the first move, it is a good sign in the law of attraction.

  4. 44

    Margo, the level of judgment and stereotyping in your posts is pretty astounding. Furthermore, you seem to have missed the fact that plenty of women these days are into first date sex, and some are even doing the sexual propositioning themselves. You act as if women are solely victims and men are solely predators, but it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

  5. 45

    Anne #20

    “I have also experienced the ultimate rudeness of being treated like a whore by  men who either outright say they just want to “have fun,” “hook up,” or never want to be married, or don’t want to date exclusively, and other words to that effect.”

    How can you complain about men who are completely dishonest about their intentions and then in the same post lambast all the men who are being completely honest about their intentions!?   If you value honesty you should give these men some credit. And  If you say these men are bad people for being honest about just wanting sex, are you really surprised that other men lie to you?   

    And just because you aren’t looking for no strings sex doesn’t mean to say other people aren’t within their rights to seek that for themselves and it doesn’t make them bad people for doing so (and they are emphatically NOT treating you like a whore, look the word up in the dictionary);  

    On the contrary, I think being up front about what they’re looking for is an act of kindness.   As you point out, men who are honest about just wanting sex actually “lose” a lot of sex that they could have had if they hadn’t revealed their intentions (you write  “Most  men, however, just lie, since  they know that saying that type of thing is not going to get them far with the woman, so they just say what they think we want to hear.”)   These men (and women who do the same) do reveal their intentions because they are prepared to sacrifice some of their own pleasure for the knowledge that they are not hurting or misleading the women (or men) they  do  get involved with.   This to me is a sign of good character.   Credit where credit’s due please.

  6. 46


    You have sons? I’m wondering how  the hatred of men you’re seething is affecting them.     

  7. 47

    Helene #39

    In my experience with speed dating,3 minutes is only enough time to figure out if you have chemistry with the other person, and that’s about it You just can’t discover much in much a short time. I would suggest simply asking normal questions and casually chatting. It generally won’t be until you have an actual date or two that you’ll be able to assess any real potential.

  8. 48

    Actually Margo, I’d like to think I’ve learned a ton in this life, but still have a long, long ways to go. But seeing things through the lens of non-judgment does not mean I am “lying” to myself. There is a big difference there. I allow a man to show me who he really is, rather than passing judgments on him. If he is “into me”, he will prove this through time and action. He will call, he will ask to see me, etc. In this way, there is no need to “chase” a guy, or really even wonder if he’s into you. If he is, he will find you. If getting into a relationship is the goal, you also decide your boundaries and can very softly implement them. A la the old adage, more to be gained by honey than vinegar. If he fades away, then he has demonstrated with that action. But everyone’s boundaries are totally different. You can share your boundaries with a man without calling him names. Nothing will repel a guy faster. My belief is that what you put out in the world is exactly what you will get in return.

  9. 49

    @Sayanta #47, I love men. I love having boys. I have thanked God often that I have boys instead of girls. My boys are being raised with integrity. They are being raised to treat people right regardless of gender. They also will know that it’s a bad deal to deceive and mislead women in regard to relationships. They will know it’s a bad deal to sleep with a woman first, then drop the bomb that they don’t want a relationship afterwards.

    Mami, I don’t call people names, be it men or women, until after they’ve demonstrated who they are. But, like a lot of women on here seem to do, I don’t sugarcoat a man’s behavior.

  10. 50

    I think the reason that men are more lenient when it comes to dates is because they figure they can at least try to get laid, even if they aren’t attracted or interested in their date.   Women don’t have that drive to hook up with anything they can, so there is less incentive to spend time on someone they have a ho-hum interaction with.   What’s the incentive for women?   I mean more of a short-term gratification, because constantly planning for 40 years into the future is not within basic human behavior and can get difficult to do day-in, day-out?

  11. 51


    I’m not sure you read earlier in the thread but a fellow mentioned that we women “make it harder to date.”   I don’t appreciate that.   Not all women are bad, not all men are bad.   But, as a woman, I have seen so many head games and lies coming from “your side of the fence.”  

    I’m just sayin.   You men are far from perfect, and we women aren’t perfect either.

  12. 52

    <i>”If the female (hey, ME) is interested in a kiss, she will have touched the guy during the date, be it tapping him on the shoulder, leaning against him, etc.   It’s conveying the message, I am physically interested in you, and a little good night kiss is ok.   I found this to be… fairly accurate, watching myself on dates.   Not that I am looking for a kiss, but all the guys I wouldn’t mind kissing I am not pulling back from.”</i>

    Thank you, Angie.

    Not rocket science, and not mind reading … no matter all the whining that it’s one or the other.  

  13. 53

    Stay confident “build confidence” use techniques like reassuring confident words you look great your confident, happy, fun to be around, don’t sike yourself up when approaching, you will seem like a nervous wreck and women can smell that a mile away show her that she is lucky to be sharing words with you. Stay chilled! 🙂 if the conversation dries off then make your exit say nice chatting gotta get going, then ask for her digits for drinks in the near by future then say bye 🙂 and just remember she doesn’t bite lol 😉  

  14. 54
    Karl R

    Margo said: (#50)
    “They also will know that it’s a bad deal to deceive and mislead women in regard to relationships. They will know it’s a bad deal to sleep with a woman first, then drop the bomb that they don’t want a relationship afterwards.”

    I think you’re destined to live a life filled with unpleasant surprises.

    If a man sleeps with a woman, it means that he wanted to have sex with her (and may want to do so again). It does not mean that he loves her. It does not mean that he wants a relationship. If she assumed that it meant more than sex, she deceived herself.

    You’ve been reading this blog for how long? This theme gets repeated every few weeks. If you want a happier dating experience, it’s time to absorb what Evan has been saying.

    If a man loves you, he will say, “I love you,” (and  will act accordingly).  If he wants a relationship, he will try to date you frequently and exclusively. (Evan has just done several posts about how men behave when they want a relationship.)

    Protect yourself from unwanted surprises. If a man has sex with you, assume that’s all he wanted until he proves otherwise. And if you see evidence that he wants more, scrutinize it to be sure you’re not reading too much into it. (For example, if he says you’re beautiful, you should assume that’s the reason he wanted to have sex with you.)

  15. 55

    I have no problems getting 1st dates. Not at all. What have I observed? I go in for a first kiss…if she gives me the cheek? Not sure. Not a bad thing. 2nd date? If I hold her hand, put my arm around her or try to french kiss and I feel like I’m with a   mannequin, it’s over. Why? The attraction is not mutual. Period.  
    Men want to know we’re not in the friend zone. Sex isn’t required, but jeez, be affectionate!  
    What else…men show too much interest too soon and women not enough.
    The big elephant in the room in regards to dating? The question nobody wants to ask early on…are you dating others?
    I’ve found that women who weren’t ‘affectionate’ on 2nd date were usually dating other men and couldn’t decide. Guess what? Not my problem.
    I live by this phrase when dating and women can live by it too…
    I will NEVER compete for your affection, even with your FRIENDS and sure as hell will never prove I’m better then the jerks or bitc*&s before me. Period.
    It’s about mutual devotion. Mutual attraction? Easy to figure out. I touch you and you sit there like a mannequin.  
    One more tip for the ladies…HAVE FUN! Men want fun. Sex? Nice, but c’mon, you can flirt, can’t you?

    1. 55.1

      i aabsolutely agree it is nothing wrong with showing affection in that way

  16. 56

    This is such a fascinating topic.  
    Yesterday I had a first date with a man who clearly, by behavior and words, was attracted to me as I was to him. And he was very clear about wanting an LTR. I hadn’t been so attracted to anyone in a long time and there was a day I would have happily had sex right away. As part of caretaking my heart I move a little slower but not on a pre-determined timeline.  
    In a follow up phone call I explained I have sex within an exclusive relationship. No timeline, no pressure, just when both of us have agreed to not date anyone else and give it a try.
    He heard “you are withholding and manipulative and give sex as a favor for good behavior, I’ve had enough of that in my life and I recognize the pattern. I want someone vulnerable and authentic. But maybe I’m oversensitive”. I was shocked. Completely not what I meant. I said “Ok I think I wasn’t very clear. Let me try this again.” but he says he’s heard what he’s heard.  
    Wow! So the red flag is, he assumed. He was wrong. And I’ve been dismissed. My head’s still spinning!

      1. 56.1.1

        Thanks, Evan. I now see that too although I was smarting for a few hours this morning after being abruptly booted. I’m no young pup (56) and am chalking it up to yet another learning experience! Dammit 😛
        Your advice has been invaluable and has helped me get so much more clear and definitive in the dating world. I value your wisdom.

        1. Janey

          You were too direct with him Lynn,it sounded cynical & unfeminine and he had a visceral reaction to it.

      2. 56.1.2

        Part 2 🙂 I forgot to add that caretaking myself and risking rejection by being super clear about my sexual choices IS, of course, being vulnerable and authentic. Interesting when people don’t get that.  

  17. 57

    I dated someone with a ‘crazy ex,’ which I brushed off in the early conversations, as “ex-talk.” Well it turns out that she is actually very unstable and caused problems in my relationship with Mr. Wrong. They have a child together and he would stay at her place often to babysit.   She once read all my texts to him and screamed at me from her window and at times would physically hurt him…BECAUSE OF ME. She even looked at my OK Cupid profile!  

    He was not over this relationship, time revealed he is entrenched so deeply with this woman, he would place her needs above mine, ‘for their son.’ I think it was out of fear but he could never explain it. I told him repeatedly I was uncomfortable with this situation, he just said: “Oh it’s not like that, we aren’t sleeping together, yada yada.” He couldn’t prioritize for me because he wanted to hide things from her. He also wanted counselling about the other ex, sympathy for things that happened. I’ve had a lot of crap happen to me and I’m not looking for sympathy from my new dates, I guess because I healed from it. I did complain to a recent love interest about this situation, but it was like just for a day. Ready to toss that experience into the garbage of the past.

  18. 58
    Dina Strange

    Girls, i want to join Evan in the suggestion if you really want to know whether man is seriously interested in you or not, don’t have sex with him right away.

    Make him wait. If he does, he is worthy, if not…good riddance 🙂

  19. 59

    What’s funny about this article is that when I’m actually attracted to a guy, I’m less likely to interrogate early on. I’m much more in the moment and being flirty and having fun. It’s when I’m on the fence and/or the attraction is lower, that I start to ask questions or notice things (i.e. is he nice to the waitress) because I’m trying to see if the good things will make up for the lower attraction. Maybe I just need to stick with the guys with which I’m more attracted.

  20. 60

    Dating is hard and different in later years. My recent date was all about touching from the minute we got together. No problem it felt nice so I went with it. But he also kept trying for a kiss the entire night from beginning to end. He even told me he was a great kisser. Nothing could just happen and due to turning him down left and right I felt bad. It was too forced. He also did the horrible X story that lasted way to long and was sad so I did not feel like laughing but he expected me to laugh at jokes after that. There was no way to win. I would go on a second just to see if this a nervous man date but dang I want to have fun and see if there is chemistry.  

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