What Can You Tell From A First Date?

Do you ever wish you had a crystal ball that would allow you to know if a first date will turn into a worthwhile relationship? I sure did!

As someone who went on hundreds of first dates, it’s so easy to get your hopes up every  single time. Does he like me? Do I like him? Is he the real deal or full of baloney?   Whether meeting for coffee, dinner or a fun activity it’s tough to tell from a first meeting if a person has what it takes to make a good partner.

I often advise my friends to give someone 2-3 dates to really decide if you like someone or not and then continue to assess your feeling as you determine if the other person is worth going “off the market” for (i.e. agreeing to exclusivity). But, are there any indicators right on that very first date that might signal whether someone will last the test of time?

Randi Gunther, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor practicing in Southern California inventoried First-Date personality characteristics and behaviors that survived the test of time, and those that did not in this great article in Psychology Today. She identified 9 positive behaviors and 7 negative behaviors to watch for on a first date that predict future relationship success.  Today, let’s go through the 9 positive behaviors (we’ll tackle the negative ones tomorrow…)

  • Physical desirability is the most common characteristic that is initially attracting in most all new relationships. It is not limited to just sex appeal. Physical desirability is an overarching feeling people have when they look at someone who physically intrigues them. That choice can be influenced by many things, only one of which is physical.You will know when you are attracted to someone’s physical characteristics because you are entranced by the way they look to you.  “I couldn’t stop looking at her.” “It seemed as if I was falling into his eyes.”
  • Generosity – Whether of spirit, availability, or pocketbook, generosity is a definite winner. It is not no so much their offering of gifts, but their willingness to give that matters. Generous people look for ways to care, often before they are asked. They pay attention to what others want. Innately generous people don’t worry about being taken advantage of, or of being judged unfairly. They easily forgive faults and look for the best in people. You will know when you are with a generous person when you feel that your needs are upper most in his or her mind.
  • Kinship – People who love deeply and are loved in return are very desirable.  They are laid back and secure because they have nurtured so many relationships and know they can count on them when they need them. These naturally social people show you their ability to connect by the way they are genuinely interested in you. The seemingly effortless interest they show makes you feel important and valuable.
  • Compassion – The ability to feel compassionate is crucial to a successful long-term relationship. Compassionate people genuinely feel others pain. They want to understand, empathize, and help. Compassionate people don’t miss a beat when their lovers are in trouble. You will know you’re with a compassionate person when you feel comfortable being vulnerable and don’t feel you have to cover your faults. “No one has ever cared for me that way before.” or “I never worry about being put down when I do something dumb.”
  • Openness is the ability to put out authentic feelings and thoughts without the need to hide who you are. Open people are more interested in learning than looking good. They don’t seem to worry about making mistakes because they accept their own faults, and are eager to know how others see them. Open people are not gullible or naive. They just have a strong sense of self that is not easily threatened, and don’t need to cover when unexpectedly exposed. They aren’t uncomfortable with whatever questions they are asked and don’t overreact when faced with their lover’s vulnerable feelings. You will know a lot about an open person early in your encounter. You’ll also feel comfortable talking about your deeper self in their presence.
  • Integrity can mean different things to different people, depending on their convictions. People who live by their integrity know which behaviors and thoughts are sacred to the people close to them, and will not abuse that knowledge. If their beloved people express judgments, prejudices, defenses, strong opinions, and held , a person with integrity simply states what their own ethics are, and doesn’t try to force others to feel or think the same. You will know when you are with a person of integrity when they are comfortable with what they believe, but are openly interested in your views, even if they are different.
  • Humor – A great sense of humor never loses its luster. People who see the humor in situations, or laugh just as easily at themselves, are easy to be with. A couple is unlikely to be any real trouble if they can still laugh at the same things together.  A great sense of humor is not about sarcasm, mockery, or stripping away an opponent’s defenses. It is a way of lightening life’s challenges so that sorrow is lessened and joy is increased. You will know when your date has a great sense of humor because you will find yourself relaxing, letting go of tension, and laughing a lot.
  • Passion is energy, focus, and intense commitment to a behavior or person. New partners often find it in their lustful feelings toward each other, but zeal and enthusiasm can be expressed in many ways. Passionate people are superbly alive in every aspect of their lives. They care deeply. They love with abandon. Life is for living to the fullest and the greatest punishment is the inability to feel. You will know when you’re with a passionate person because you will feel more alive.
  • Confidence – People with confidence have learned who they are and what they can do as a result of the battle scars of their own heroism. They take risks, and aren’t afraid of losing as long as they learn to do it better the next time. Confident people are resilient. They know where they have value and where they don’t. They lean into critique, unafraid to hear negative comments. They mean what they say and do what they promise. They’re open to new experiences and don’t seem to worry about embarrassment or loss.

So what do you think? Can you go into your next date armed with these behaviors to look for and see if that potential partner has any of these to offer? Also – how you YOU rate among these things? Do you posess these characteristics and have these positive qualities to offer?

Stay tuned…tomorrow we’ll talk about the 7 negative behaviors to look for….Oh, and don’t forget…whether you’re dating online or in person to date safely!

Photo credit: Bitterjug’s Flickr photostream


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Categories: Ideas


I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better place...one relationship at a time.

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12 Comments on “What Can You Tell From A First Date?”

  1. January 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    All great things to look for. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort the important stuff from the trivial. For me, a potential partner being a man of good character is the most critical thing.

    I have seen these charachteristics, and the lack of them on first dates. I still think 2 or 3 dates is a good idea though. I’d hate to wrongly assume something from a first short meeting.

    I believe I do possess all these qualities, and I’m constantly trying to foster & further develop them.

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      Hi Cadence!
      I totally agree about character. In today’s superficial world, people often forget that character is way more important than hot clothes or where he’s taking you for dinner.

      I often believe people quit too fast. What if you missed out on someone great because they were nervous or had a bad day? What if someone crossed you off the list because you weren’t at your best. That’s why I really think that if you feel “eh” or better always give it one more meeting. If your gut says “no way” however, you should honor and trust that too… Always listen to your gut and collect enough data to make an informed decision…

  2. January 27, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Oh Kristin… another gem!!! (your timing is impeccible!) I think I do decently in these respects, although i am always a bit shy at first. (we’ll see soon enough though!) xoxo

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      HI Cakes!
      I’m glad you liked the post and that the timing was good! I was swamped over the weekend and I regret not getting the second part out faster…

      I think that shy is fine. And, shy probably prevents the TMI issues that can happen on first dates that scare people off.

      I’ll be thinking about you!

  3. Will Date For Free Food
    January 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Thanks for this! I’m going on a first date tonight… so this was a great way to get pumped up for it! Unfortunately, I won’t know what to look for in the negatives! haha

    However, this made me think of some of the positive features I have and I will most certainly try and emphasize them a bit more tonight =)

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      How did your date go? Did you spot any of the positive attributes?
      Sorry for taking so long to post the negatives….I guess it gives you a chance to do some “monday morning quarterbacking” on the date today…lol.

  4. Will Date For Free Food
    February 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    The positive attributes that I noticed on my date Friday were: Openness, Humor and Confidence. I’m definitely someone who holds back on the more intimate attributes, like Physical desirability and Compassion, until having a few more dates — and I think he is as well. So hopefully I will see more of them to come!

    Luckily, looking back on the date while reading the negative behaviors, I didn’t pick up on any of them! Looking good so far…

    • February 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      I’m thinking about you and wondering what happened on date two? 🙂

  5. February 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    I guess I’ve never put a whole lot of thought on what goes into a first date– I have however, thought about what goes into a last date (even if it’s on the tail end of a two year relationship).

    • February 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      LOL…I guess it would be good to think about how to handle a “last” date too, Posky. How do you handle breaking up?

  6. cyrilimis
    February 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Reblogged this on cyrilimis.


  1. What Can You Tell From A First Date, Part Deux! | Couple-tastic! - January 30, 2012

    […] this sooner, but ended up getting sidetracked over the weekend. So, how were your weekend dates? Did Friday’s post make you stop and think? Well, finally….here’s part […]

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