Are Women More Likely Than Men to Require Chemistry to Go On A Second Date?


Dear Evan,

Is it my imagination, or are women, generally speaking, much more likely than men to expect some sort of lightning or magic on a first date for them to consider going on a 2nd date? I’m not talking about chemistry, which everyone wants, but some sort of overwhelming emotional response that causes “butterflies,” etc.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say that they had a nice first date with so and so, but there were no butterflies, no shooting stars, and therefore they have turned down a request for a 2nd date. Yes, there was chemistry, but no visceral reaction.

I find this a bit difficult to comprehend, because I personally never expect to see shooting stars on a first date. And if I do see stars on a first date, I push them aside because experience has taught me that in most cases those stars were just a temporary thing and my first impression of a woman from just one date is always incomplete. I mean, a first date is not the real world, it’s not the way people usually are most of the time. If nothing else, both parties are usually a bit nervous and on their best behavior, so you don’t get to know the real them. (I start feeling butterflies after a few dates, when I get a more complete picture of the woman, and I like the picture that is emerging.)

Anyway, is my take on this whole thing wrong? Are men, generally speaking, also expecting lightning from the first date in order to consider a second date? Or, on the other hand, are women generally more rational about this than the impression of them that I have?


Dear Roger,

First of all, thanks for writing such a thoughtful and articulate question. Your insight about “shooting stars” being temporary is a priceless one, and we’re going to get back to that shortly. But as to whether women are more rational than you’re giving them credit for, the answer is yes.

Despite your very mature view about how one date is only a glimpse of the whole person, what your question misses is a broader perspective on “how women are.” Instead, it’s only reflected through your views, your experiences, and your eyes. You go out with a bunch of women, they tell you that they didn’t feel the “click” or the “chemistry,” and you determine that women are looking for magic on the first date. This is a logical conclusion, except for one thing: you’re not going out with any men. And men, in my experience, do the exact same thing and more.

True, women dissect men on dates like frogs in ninth grade labs. From how he talks to the waiter, to whether he tucks in his shirt, to how quickly he reaches for the check, the details are generally quite important to women. (As always, I’m generalizing here, so cut me some slack). As for men, our needs are a little simpler when we determine if we want a second date. As I see it, there are only two main criteria: 1) Did I have fun with her? And 2) Is she attractive enough to sleep with? As to how she dresses or whether she’s late or talks with her mouth full…yeah, we notice, but we’ll pretty much forgive such things if she’s both cool and sexy. SO……

You’re spot on when you recognize that first-date sparks don’t portend a future relationship. But when you say that women are more likely to cut off someone who doesn’t make them tingle, I have to challenge you. If you’re going to compare and contrast our genders, men are, by far, the more visual and chemistry-driven sex. Which means that they are more likely to conclude within five seconds of meeting a woman that there is not going to be a second date.

In general, women are more forgiving of men, as long as they are kind, respectful, and potentially good providers. In general, men are more likely to be forgiving of women of pretty much anything as long as they are young, thin and pretty. Hey, I don’t write these things, I just report them.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this is not that men, are, in fact, shallower than women. That doesn’t really qualify as news. But your point, Roger, that first date sparks don’t mean anything more than first date sparks? Well, I’m betting that’s a revelation to a number of our readers

I confess candidly that I would probably not have gotten to know my wife if we had gone on a conventional date instead of meeting at a party. Nor would I have gotten to know a previous girlfriend in 2004 if we’d met on JDate. Doesn’t mean they weren’t attractive or interesting. All it means is that we all make snap judgments on dates and inadvertently cut off people who have true potential. As anyone who’s ever met through friends knows, sometimes HOW you meet is as much a determining factor as chemistry in terms of moving forward.

Alison Armstrong does a great piece about the value of chemistry. She says that while we spend our lives looking for that intense one-of-a-kind chemistry with a partner, it’s actually BAD for your relationship. She goes on to explain that we are simply not at our best when we’re crazy about someone. We become insecure and weak and needy and yes, somewhat crazy, in the presence of chemistry. … And the reason that the quiet person at work has a crush on you is specifically because you’re being YOURSELF around him/her. Since you don’t feel that chemistry, you don’t start trying too hard, or attempting to impress, or any of the other things we do under the affects of “chemistry.” This doesn’t mean you should be with someone you’re NOT attracted to, but instead, you might want to dial it back a bit. Especially if your relationship is unbalanced, dramatic or unhealthy.

Better to be with a mate who’s a 7 on the chemistry scale but a 10 on the compatibility scale than to be with someone who’s a 10 on the chemistry scale and a 4 on the compatibility scale.

Should women be less judgmental of men? Sure.

Should men be less judgmental of women? Sure.

Should we all act normal when we’re infatuated with someone? Sure.

But as long as we’re human, we’re going to be judgmental, and lusty, and myopic.

The first step is in admitting it.

It’s one thing to understand the role of chemistry in dating. It’s quite another to learn to make different decisions than you’ve made in the past.

After years of being a dating coach, I’ve realized that effective advice always sounds so simple when you read it. You find yourself nodding your head and saying “yes, that makes complete sense…” And then you go about your business and don’t change a thing. As a result, you consistently find yourself stuck in the same place, not really moving forward. This is why I created my Inner Circle – as a means to provide life-changing information, in a small-group setting, surrounded by other like-minded women.

So, if you want the support, guidance, and insight that can turn your love life around, click here to learn more about my coaching programs.

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  1. 21

    Is it really  true  that the  “chemistry” that  a  Woman expects in relationships  is an absolute and unconditioned given that she’s born with and therefore  can do nothing about (?)
    What would be the objective  evidence for concluding one way or the other (?)
    What a Woman “feels” about it . . . is NOT conclusive.   That’s just “chemistry” about “chemistry”.
    Until a Woman explores this personally  and  in-depth . . . she can’t know.   And ignorance is a really bad way to live Life and interact with Men  . . .

    1. 21.1

      Malcolm – I have wondered if the men that “I didn’t feel it for” if I could have “learned” to love them if I could have a year to explore their character and personality in depth.   However, men are demanding sex, earlier and earlier in relationships, and sometimes as a condition of even agreeing to be in a   relationship.   So if I’m not feeling attracted by date 3, and the guy starts groping at me and I get grossed out, I’m going to have to put the brakes on everything, and face accusations of “leading him on” anyway.   Since most guys will ditch a girl who doesn’t “sex up” by date 3 (maybe she’ll get an extension to 5 dates if she’s a 9 or a 10), he is not exploring her in depth either.
      And women do not have to give a scientifically backed reason for rejecting a guy any more than a guy has to give a lab tested reason for rejecting a girl.   If a guy does not give a nice girl a 2nd date, because she’s not attractive enough for him, why is that OK ? You said “Until a Woman explores this personally  and  in-depth . . . she can’t know.   And ignorance is a really bad way to live Life and interact with Men  . . .”   Why doesn’t the same apply to men ?

      1. 21.1.1

        Emerald:   It applies equally to Men and Women . . .  if it’s an issue equally to Men and Women.   It’s not   . . . so it doesn’t.
        You say “Women do not have to give . . .”.   Of course they don’t.   They don’t have to do anything but die.    I’m  talking about what it would be GOOD for them to do . . .  for themselves and for our common humanity.

        1. EmeraldDust

          What do you mean it’s not an issue equally to men and women ?   You can’t tell me men explore a woman’s personality & character in depth before making a decision.   If she doesn’t pass the visual test, she’s out.   If she doesn’t sex up on his timeline, she’s out.  
          How will women sleeping with men they aren’t attracted to doing anyone any good ? Humanity or herself ?

      2. 21.1.2

        “Since most guys will ditch a girl who doesn’t “sex up” by date 3 (maybe she’ll get an extension to 5 dates if she’s a 9 or a 10), he is not exploring her in depth either.”
        I sure hope this isn’t why the guy I am/was dating didn’t ask me out for our 6th date this weekend. I can understand him losing interest if we lacked chemistry or compatibility, but to lose interest because we haven’t had sex yet just pisses me off (if it’s true)…But hey it beats being ditched AFTER having sex rite?
        I bought Evan’s Why He Disappeared recently but haven’t found the time to read it yet, maybe it will offer some relationship help… 🙂
        Anyway I agree with what Evan wrote above–men are suckers for chemistry too, not just women.

        1. Evelyn

          If that’s why he hasn’t asked you out again, you are better off.

  2. 22

    You’re a Woman.   You speak English.   You meet a Man who speaks only Tagalog.   You don’t understand a word he says and  feel no chemistry for him at all.
    Is this “chemistry” an absolute and unconditioned given that you were born with (?)   Clearly not.
    So . . . to what extent is this a good analogy for “chemistry” in general    (?)
    If a Woman wants to understand herself and Men (with all that entails)  . . . she needs to explore this question in depth and  answer it for herself.

    1. 22.1

      Chemistry is basically a euphemism for sexual attraction.
      However, there are men to whom I feel initial attraction, but I will NOT act on it, if I discover a major incompatibility, or an undesirable personality trait.
      I also need to feel a certain amount of conversational chemistry.   So in the case of a foreigner, if we didn’t know each other’s language well enough to converse easily it wouldn’t work.   No matter how hot I was for him physically.
      It doesn’t matter if this sexual attraction is nature or nurture.   If it’s not there, it’s not there, why waste his or my time ?
      No amount of studying sexual attraction as if I’m taking a college level sociology class is going to change things.   Doesn’t matter if I’m not feeling it.
      I don’t sleep with men I’m not attracted to.   I don’t sleep with men that I AM attracted to if they behave badly. Or only want NSA.
      I recently had a wonderful second date with a man I felt quite attracted to (about 8, on a scale of 1-10), and we were making plans for a third date.   He sent me a vulgar message about his penis, complete with a picture made from special characters, so I cancelled our third date.
      I had some good dates with a really good guy, and felt about a 6 attraction for him   (which for me is 1 pt above neither attracted nor repulsed)   I felt he possessed good character (from what I knew) and we had very good conversational chemistry.   I WANTED my attraction for him to grow.   He seemed very smitten with me.   He went waaaaaaaay overboard, but if my attraction for him had been 7 or 8, I probably would have been Ok with the way overboard.   When we made out, my attraction dropped.   🙁 .   I decided to try again.   It dropped more.   The more we kissed, the more my attraction dropped.   His hand started burrowing toward 2nd base.   Now usually if I am attracted to a guy, I might RESIST that pass at first, but in this case I RECOILED. He apologized profusely, which made me feel worse, because he didn’t really do anything wrong.   I felt really terrible.   I still decided to try again, as we already had plans again.   He started putting me up on a pedestal, and it was a very high wobbly pedestal, one that I didn’t want to fall down from.   I felt my attraction dropping lower and lower, the more he cooed at me and got all lovey dovey, and went on and on about how much he liked me.   I felt terrible hurting him, and he let it be known that he was very hurt.   But I knew at that point if I led him on any more, it would just hurt more, and I would be getting more and more grossed out at his touch and his kiss.
      I have NO IDEA, why I feel it for some guys and not others.   (OK, with some guys it’s an OBVIOUS looks or voice thing,) but for many, it’s just an IDK.   I even felt wildly attracted to a short, bald, pasty faced guy, but he was a player.   And I have seen him at several meet ups since we went out, and he always has a different girl on his arm, and she always looks smitten.   I have NO IDEA how he does it.   (I didn’t sleep with him, because his actions revealed him to be a player)  
      So I could analyze to death why I am attracted to one guy and not the other, but since sex is what sets apart a romantic relationship from all other relationships, and since women have about 3-5 dates to “sex up” or get dumped, I have got to feel some pleasure in the act, no matter what the biological, and/or sociological reasons are.  
      Understanding that I am not turned on by one guy due to pheremones, or the tilt of his chin, etc. will not make me feel something I don’t.    
      Ideally I like to feel an initial 7 chemistry.   That will generally grow, if the guy is a good match for me in the personality/character department and treats me well.   I can enjoy his touch, and not feel like I am forcing it, but I am not so over the moon that I will accept bad behavior.   8 is also a good place to start, but that gets into judgement clouding territory.   The guy who I cancelled a 3rd date for showed some signs of being a player, but at attraction level 8, I let it slide A LITTLE BIT, but once he sent the nasty-gram, that was it. I dumped him in spite of my attraction toward him.   (and now I’m over it)
      A 6 chemistry can go either way. But it RARELY grows.   But in the past it has grown on very rare occasions, so sometime I give the 6’s a chance.   Sometimes they dump me during the time I am trying to give them a chance.   (perhaps they sense my lack of enthusiasm when we get physical) a chemistry of 5 or below, I don’t waste his or my time.   (5 is my neutral zone, 4 & below gets into “Bleh” territory)
      Chemistry of 9 or 10, I haven’t experienced since my divorce.   I honestly think I don’t have the hormones for it any more.   And I am glad !   Chemistry of 9 or 10 was judgement clouding and deadly.   I hope I never experience that again, UNLESS, it starts at 7, and slowly blossoms to a 9 or 10 after a firmly established stable relationship.   Otherwise, 7 or 8 attraction level is my sweet spot.
      And my “attraction” level scale, is NOT the same as the looks scale.   It is the scale for how I attracted I FEEL towards someone, and not how good I think they look.   I have been not too attracted to fairly good looking guys and vice versa.   I’m pretty sure, body language, voice tone, facial expressions, and personality all mingle together to create my attraction level. But KNOWING that a good looking guy with a nasally, high pitched voice, is the reason I’m not attracted, will not allow me to get past it, and feel attracted.
      Yes, I know it’s shallow, a guy with a nasally, whiney, high pitched voice could be a good relationship partner, and I really wish attraction wasn’t so shallow.   But a girl who cringes at a guys touch is NOT a good relationship partner.  
      The older I get, the fewer men I feel attracted to and vice versa.   Most likely a mixture of looks and declining pheremones.   Makes sense, biologically speaking, mother nature has no reasons to help the 50+ crowd mate.  
      All this academic discussion about attraction is interesting, but it doesn’t change anything.

  3. 23

    The issue of chemistry is something I have struggled with. My take is that chemistry generally has nothing to do with looks or being superficial. I have had amazing chemistry with nerdy looking average guys and no chemistry with men that would be considered objectively handsome. It is a feeling of fireworks and sparks and for me I usually feel it within the first date or first few hours. It is a chemical thing and it is not within anyone’s control. I would be happy with a 7 chemistry but when its a 1 or 2 chemistry I cannot do it and truly it’s not fair to the Guy. If I kiss a guy and feel nothing then I cannot see seeing him again. For me you need to make me tingle and I have to want to sleep with you or at least be able to see it happening and like that thought. A big difference between men and women is that most men can look at a woman and all agree she’s hot that’s why they use a rating scale! Women are all over the place and sexual attraction has more to do with the individual woman. The guy that wrote this letter seems a bit bitter. I am an online dater and I used to always give guys a second date if I enjoyed their company and found them attractive but no chemistry but I got burned. See most men think you are leading them on if you do that and then act like real jerks. So for us its best to just cut it off after the first date than deal with that. In non online dating I have had chemistry grow when it was not there. But these were no pressure situations with no expectations. Online dating has an expectations and so going beyond a first date with a guy you have no chemistry with is seen by them as leading on.

  4. 24

    I view chemistry as being positive, negative, or neutral. Someone I feel negative chemistry with, I naturally stand farther away from and avoid touching. I might recoil if he tried to kiss me. I once went on 7 dates with someone like this because he was perfect for me on paper. We eventually talked about the problem and went our separate ways without having ruined a potentially great friendship by becoming sexually intimate.

    Someone I have neutral chemistry with, I’m indifferent to being touched by. I don’t feel drawn to be closer to him or touch him, but I’m not averse to it either.

    In  my opinion, for a relationship to succeed, there needs to be positive chemistry. The two need to feel drawn to touch, be closer to and eventually intimate with one another. That is one of the glues of a relationship. Otherwise you are just platonic, right?

  5. 25

    “In general, men are more likely to be forgiving of women of pretty much anything as long as they are young, thin and pretty.” So what if we’re not? Does that mean we’re screwed? I am 33 and average-looking. And I have the hardest time getting average guys my own age to pursue me, even those who are in my “league” looks-wise (I’d say I’m about a 5, I have a decent figure but my face is plain). The last guy I was really into was short (about my height, which is 5’6) and had an average build and face. He was a few years younger than me, but initially told me he thought I was younger than him. We went on one date, which I thought went well, but he claimed there was “no chemistry.” In my experience, men always seem to want someone younger and/or hotter than themselves.

    1. 25.1
      I love emk

      What a load of rubbish. Believe men want younger and hotter than you and bam the universe delivers what you truly believe you deserve.

      I’m 41. I attract almost everyone so your comment was your way of avoiding intimacy or abandonment. You say you are plain….what the fudge does that even mean? I’m no Megan Fox naturally. I wear makeup to make my face look flawless and I’m always asked out. I get men to commit by being FUN. I train so hard that I have abs after two children. I wear hugging clothes to emphasize my sexy waist to hip ratio.

      Some of you are sleepers. Evan can’t wake you up enough. You hold onto every word and blame the opposite gender for why you’re unloved. Do something different. Try everything that resonates with you. Start by having fun and stop worrying.

      Heres my secret… a happy goofy sexy woman. Dont have sex before the monogamy talk. Delay it for both of your sakes. Men dont realize how much they desire hot monogamy sex until they try it.


    2. 25.2

      I do think you are selling yourself short here, but a few tips.   I did online dating from about age 28 to age 36, I am now happily engaged with a man I met on online dating that I would have never given a second look and would have likely said there was no chemistry with. But I decided to join EH and whomever they matched me with I gave at least two dates. I figured their matching took that long they must know what they are doing right?   It worked. All I got on other sites were pretty boys that were players.    Online dating is a brutal brutal world.    Men online are suddenly opened up to a world of women that they would have never had access to before and never would actually approach in public.   So they starting shooting for the 9s and 10s when they are at best a 5.    I always used to tell my guy friends if you would not approach her in real life do not email her online.   Men get more rejection online then women do, mostly because it is their job to email first, but also because it is my honest believe that 90% of the men are emailing 10% of the women.    I was in that ten percent and my friend, who was more plain as you describe it got a few emails a week while I was hit with 30 a day.   She took the time to respond to her emails and really listen to the men. I was just trying to dig out from under what I got and weed out all the bad ones.    Now most of these men never get a response from that 10 percent, but instead of saying hey wait that 10% might not have the best personality, may only look hot, or we are totally incompatible, they get emailing her or them, and then get angry when she does not respond.      But when they meet another girl who they don’t immediately want to rip her clothes off or does not look like a model in the back of their mind they still think well there are others that are better out there, I see them I am emailing them, so I am not even going to try to get to know her.    It’s a problem, when you have too many choices you tend to end up alone because you are always looking for something better.   You never take the time to get to know the person in front of you, when 20 years ago that’s exactly what you would have done.   You flip on tinder and see wait there are 30 hot women or men in walking distance, great let me go for them.    I wish I had the answer for you.      I don’t other than get off line or try something like EH rather than match. I will tell you that almost every man that emailed me solely looked at my pictures.   They were not looking for me and my profile clearly showed i was not looking for them, but all they did was look at my pictures.    Good luck!    You will find someone you just have to keep plugging along.

  6. 26

    My current observation is that I feel as in dating is not supposed to be in the format that we currently do it.   I feel that it is supposed to be in the format of the old days when the husband to be would go to the parents of the woman and ask her hand for marriage and when the woman and the man finally met together it’d be with the purpose of having sex.   Women have this written in their instincts and they’re instinctually expecting a guy to make a move that leads closer to sex.   In the current dating model, the guys that are looking for a relationship restrain that sexual desire because they’re following societies logical set up of how dating is supposed to be in order to “respect the girl, get to know the girl, or show the girl you’re not just after sex”.   But in dating sexual tension is very important because it creates that chemistry that so many 1st or 2nd dates are lacking.

  7. 27

    I didn’t feel chemistry on the first dare with a man I went on to have incredible chemistry with, it struck during the second date. You don’t know til you kiss them!

  8. 28

    I agree with Suzanne. I think it’s that simple, a woman doesn’t know if theres chemistry until she has kissed him.

    1. 28.1
      Emily, the original

      Sometimes you can feel it the second you lay eyes on him.

  9. 29

    To those who want to point out that “it’s either there, or it’s not”, I do have to disagree.   The first time I met my guy, which was on my first day at a new job (we are no longer coworkers), our interaction was pretty strange and I walked away thinking he was weird!   It was only after we’d worked together for a few months, and after one particularly interesting impromptu meeting, that I realized how smart and interesting he was.   Over the next couple of months, my attraction to him developed, but I thought it was one-sided because frankly, he’s not just smart and interesting, but incredibly attractive and has a mouthwateringly amazing body.   I, on the other hand, was about 30 lbs overweight and more insecure about it than I’d care to admit!   Not long after we were no longer coworkers, he finally in his shy way let me know he was just as interested as I was, and I found out that part of why he was so weird the first time we met is because he was surprised by how pretty I was!


    I had a similar experience with my prior boyfriend years ago where I barely even noticed him until we had one particularly interesting conversation about books, so really, you just never know when chemistry might strike you out of nowhere!

    1. 29.1

      Completely agree, Nicole.  This comes up a lot and it’s counter both to my personal experience and that of many of my friends and family. Feelings can absolutely grow over time as you get to know someone, and in fact, it’s often healthier that way as you aren’t blinded by chemistry.

      In the happiest marriage I know, my friend told me about the guy ‘it’s never going to happen’. Two years later they were married and are now sharing their lives and a son in wedded bliss. Just one example but it stands out as she was both the most adamant that she wasn’t interested in him, but now the happiest person I know.

  10. 30
    Claire Cavalieri

      I feel men are expecting chemistry on the first date. In my age group (55-65), that is completely unrealistic. The days of instant phermones are gone when you get to be my age! Physically, our chemistry/hormones has changed, so to expect that either men or women in our age group will be exuding sexual vibes on a first date is highly unlikely to happen. I know that I have been rejected on several first dates for not having “chemistry.” And I am considered attractive, slender, and look younger than my age. But I’m just not ready to start panting on the first date with a guy. I am certain I’ve not been called for a second date for this reason. Evan, I’d love to see you address this issue, but not sure you can since you are not this old yet.

  11. 31
    Claire Cavalieri

    Perhaps on-line dating is not the place to meet men so that we are not so quickly judged by our chemistry and then instantly rejected after a first date if a guy doesn’t feel immediate sparks fly.

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