What Do You Say After A First Date With No Chemistry?

Dear Evan,

What do you do when you hit it off with someone in an email correspondence and in phone conversations, and then when you meet you find them unattractive? It’s not the kind of thing you can just come out and say, “I didn’t feel the chemistry,” because it means you didn’t like how they look. It’s clear that’s the reason. Some photos are just not how people really look, and while I don’t think they are misrepresenting themselves, it creates a problem. Especially since before meeting, they think you think they’re great.   What do you suggest?


Dear Wondering,

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

Your question reminded me of a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, entitled “How Do I Blow Off Thee?”

How do I blow off thee? Let me count the ways.
I blow off thee for weight and height.
For claims of age that don’t seem right.
For lack of chemistry and failure to praise.
I blow off thee any number of ways.
For photos proffered and deleted on sight.
For writing clichés, so hackneyed and trite.
I blow off thee quickly, at a wrong turn of phrase.
I blow off thee quietly, never meeting your gaze.
By hiding after saying, “I’ll talk to you soon.”
By calling during thy lunch break at noon.
I blow off thee after our very first date.
‘Fore your habits on my nerves ever should grate.
I blow off thee to show you who’s boss.
Then why do I sense it is I that has lost?

Yeah, it’s a little melancholy, but all the great poets of the 1800’s had a light case of the blues, as well.

Oh, wait, you had a question. And I’m supposed to have an answer. Let me get out of poetry mode for a second.

Okay, I’m back. And I will resist all impulses to write my dating advice in iambic pentameter.

No Chemistry? You Don’t Have to Say It…

So, in response to your query about how to tell that it’s the lack of chemistry with someone that’s the reason for blowing that person off, how about this novel idea: How about you don’t say anything? How about not hashing out the whys and the hows of your compatibility after only one date? How about not having a terribly uncomfortable and unnecessary conversation when you feel like there’s no physical attraction or emotional connection?


How about writing a quick email that says, “I had a fun time last night, but didn’t feel that necessary ‘click’ to move things forward in a long-term relationship. You seem like a great catch, though, and I wish you the best of luck in your search to find someone special.” That’s not too harsh, is it?

Reality Check: It’s Normal to Have No Chemistry

Listen, all of us have been blown off before as we try to get to know the other person, and I’d venture to guess that 90% of the time it’s not because you did something “wrong” like cuss out the waiter or refuse to wear pants in the restaurant. No, for the most part, the first dates that don’t turn into second dates between two people are all going to fall under the umbrella of “lack of chemistry” with someone. So what’s the value of discussing it?

I know you’re asking for an answer because you’re trying to be sensitive, but face it — you can’t be too sensitive when you’re dating. Either you’re going to blow them off or they’re going to blow you off. Whether it’s physical or online dating, that’s how the vast majority of first and second dates go…

How I Deal with Lack of Chemistry

My personal policy has been to NEVER tell a woman what I think is “wrong” with her. It’s simply not good, especially since it’s only one person’s opinion. Plus, there’s nothing to learn from saying “there’s no chemistry” with someone. It’s not like she could go back into the lab and work on that minor issue for her next date.

The only reason I see fit to offer my thoughts is if someone asks for genuine constructive feedback. And if they ask, they can’t be too hurt if you tell. Frankly, I’m a fan of the little white lie that hurts no one. Believe me, I’ve been on the other side of women who let me know just what they thought about me — even if I didn’t ask. And once you’ve been told to your face by a date, “I’m just not attracted to you,” you start seeing the value in moving on via email…