How Long Should A First Date Be?

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How long should a first date be? Is there an optimum length of time? I mean, how long does it actually take to get an accurate impression of someone – to know whether there is or isn’t something potential there? Well, my friends, let’s find out.

How Long Should a First Date Be?

So, how long should a first date be? Well, think less of it as the length of time, but how this time is spent and what the actual goal of the first date is.

See the purpose of the first date is to gage how you feel about the person. To know what is or isn’t there between the two of you. To gage the level of interest and attraction.

If you’re currently dating online, you’ll be able to “qualify” the person pretty heavily, even before you’ve met them. You’ll usually know a lot about them, you’ll have a good picture in your head. Especially if you ask these key qualifying questions!

However, there are still some fundamental things to talk about on a first date – regardless of the groundwork before – and these take time.

The first date is therefore about building on the foundations you put in place and seeing if that picture matches up. Is the attraction there? Is the spark there? Do they act the same in “real life?” What do you think of them?

Recommended Read: Funny First Date Questions To Keep Conversations Fun!

How Long Do Most First Dates Last?

Well it varies. You’ll have some first dates that can go for hours. Drinks, more drinks. Maybe you decide to do something extra spontaneously – grab a little drunken desert or something. Which is awesome!

You click, you feel like you’ve known them far longer than you actually have, and it feels comfortable! You don’t have to have a first date, set a timer, then say…

“Damnnnn, times up. You’re done. Next one in!”

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If you’re enjoying it, go with it. If you don’t have any plans afterwards, enjoy continuing getting to know this person. It’s exciting!

So don’t have too many “rules” that could potentially take away from that. Just go with the flow.

At the same time – you shouldn’t feel obliged to stay for hours on end. If you’re not feeling it, you’re not tied to this person.

You owe them (and yourself) enough to take the time to give it your best shot, but sometimes you’ll know pretty quick – in which case – it’s okay to say, “thanks for a lovely time, but I better get off now!”

Why Shorter Dates Can Actually Be Better

If each first date takes up your Saturday night – even when you’re not totally feeling it – you’re going to start resenting it.

And that’s the problem: committing for too long before you’ve actually met the person, not knowing how it will go, then feeling obliged to stay.

It ends up being three hours of your life gone, a night out with your mates missed – instead to be spent on overpriced cocktails, uninspiring company and an expensive Uber back… only to rock up back home, alone and disheartened! Uh huh. It’s no wonder you may be getting dating burn-out.

And of course not EVERY one is going to go like this, but you just can’t know for sure – so if you block out the whole evening for a date, or a good section of it, you’re taking a risk.

If you instead reduce the length of date-time (with the option to extend them or plan a second one if it goes well), you still have room for other things in your life, or are able to get through more dates and find the people you most click with… then invest more time into them!

The other advantages of shorter first dates, even if things are going well are…

  1. It enables you to better reflect after the date. Are you itching to see them again, are you not fussed straight away, or is it a definite no – especially now you’re away from the situation and can better see it clearly? (Maybe that move in for a kiss was too much?!)
  2. It also leads you – and them – wanting more. If you have a great date, you make an impression, as do they, so long as you’ve both had enough time to form that initial connection, it will actually only make it more likely for things to progress through to date number two. [What Does a Second Date Mean? Find Out Here!]

Initial Attraction Actually Comes Fast

Initial attraction itself happens fast. I mean, according to some studies, you can tell if you find someone attractive in three seconds. Yup – THREE SECONDS!

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And of course attraction can grow. Attraction may be deepened even before you meet the person based on the bond that you’ve started to build before it. (Or, you could build them up in your head, only for them to not live up to that – that’s always a tricky one!)

But where attraction’s concerned, it takes no time at all to know if the initial attraction is there. The thing is there’s more to attraction than just physical appearance – so you don’t just want to look then judge. Not if you’re actually looking for something meaningful here.

So it’s all about striking the right balance – having a first date that is long enough to know how you feel about them, but not too long that it creates dating burn-out if they’re not quite the one.

Remember, this should be fun and exciting! Not feel hit and miss, or like a chore.

How To Date More Effectively

In order to date more effectively when it comes to timings, a few quick tips / pointers:

1) Suggest an Appropriate Date

If you’ve matched with a guy, he’s not all that chatty, you’re not 100% sure, but you want to give him a chance – just suggest grabbing a coffee.

Coffee dates can be faster. And they’re expected to be in many ways.

If, on the other hand, you’ve matched with a guy, had a couple of phone calls, know you get on well and – will at the very least – be in good company, then it’s okay to suggest going for drinks, or an afternoon out.

If it turns out there’s no romantic connection, at least you’re then more confident that you’ll still have a good time, in good company and it will be more like doing something with a new friend!

2) Make It Clear That You Have Plans

If you don’t want to have the date drag on too long, tell your date – before you’ve even met them – that you’re doing something later that day, but are free from X time until X time and very much look forward to meeting them then!

See, there’s plenty of fun morning date ideas you can do. And this avoids any awkwardness; laying out the expectations before you’re even together.

On the flip-side, you can always use the “I have plans” excuse to head off after a certain length of time if you’re not totally sure how you feel but think that’s enough time for you.

If you’re just outright not feeling it, it’s always best to be honest. This leads me onto my next tip…

3) Be Open About It When You’re There

If you’re on a date, and it’s not going well, don’t be afraid to cut it off after an hour or so. You don’t have to be rude about it, you still took the time and effort to be there.

But if you’re not feeling it – or really aren’t enjoying it – if you feel uncomfortable even, really don’t feel the pressure to stay. It saves you time, it saves them time – which is why openness and honesty is the best policy.

You don’t have to insult them, or be nasty. In fact, you shouldn’t. Dating is hard for everyone. You don’t need to knock the other person down.

Just tell them you’re not quite feeling the spark and think it’s more on a friendship level if that’s the case. Or you don’t totally click or align in a lot of ways – but you wish them the best of luck. Do it with a smile. Be kind. Be genuine.

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Always Remain Open Minded

One final thing I think is worth mentioning, is that if you are going to make your first dates a little shorter – it’s absolutely crucial that you go into it open minded.

If you treat dating like a numbers in – one in, one out, it’s not going to work. If your dates are going to be shorter, you need to make sure you give each person a proper chance.

Try not to make up your mind before you go into it, because otherwise it will hard for your date to shake that in a shorter length of time.

There’s plenty of questions to ask someone you just met. It doesn’t have to be awkward and it can be FUN! But it’s all about the way you look at it and whether you’re willing to give everyone a proper chance and fully embrace these first date experiences!

Let’s Round It Up

So what’s the verdict? How long should a first date be? Well, long enough to make a fair, clear judgement on the romantic potential between yourself and your date – whilst knowing that you:

  1. Don’t need to drag it out if it’s not going well.
  2. Even when it is going well, you don’t have to be afraid to say goodbye!

A strong first date makes an impression. In fact, when you know it’s shorter, not only do you make better use of the time but it’s also higher energy, more engaging. It sets it up for more success with the right person!

See, it’s all about balance. You don’t have to set any sort of time limit on it, you don’t have to overthink it too much, but if you leave the date wanting more… that’s also a good thing!

Good dates will progress regardless if the interest is there equally from both sides.

So have fun with it, don’t have any expectations going into it, see how it goes, be flexible, open but also not tied down to too long of a period of time. Then see what you think from there!

Recommended Read: What To Text After a First Date

Have fun. Enjoy it. And really make the most of this time in your life! Single life can be awesome too, you know. There’s no rush to the “end destination” of that relationship goal.


How Long Should A First Date Be?

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Ella Stearn
Ell is a Breakup, Dating & Relationship Specialist & Coach, with over 3 million annual readers, globally. As the Creator of Forgetting Fairytales, her mission is to help you learn to love yourself, find the right person to give your love to, then make it a love that truly lasts.

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