I remember coming out to my car after a date about 10 years ago. He’d seemed like a nice enough guy when we chatted before the date, but during the date he was arrogant, rude to me and our server, and offered lots of unsolicited advice on every aspect of my life. Long story short, it was not a great date. Not even a good one.
Yet as I got in my car, I asked myself the same question I always asked after a first date: I wonder if he likes me?
He was a jerk, not someone I saw even a short-term future with much less a long-term one. Yet I was wondering if he liked me. And the worst part was I was not yet in a place where I could see that I shouldn’t be asking that question.
Maybe you’re still asking that question too. Maybe you’re walking to your car at the end of a first date wondering if they like you. But it’s not the right question to ask.
Why you shouldn’t ask if they like you
First dates are generally about first impressions. Trying to get to know each other a little, feeling out who the other person is and what they’re looking for.
On a first date, both people are usually on their best behavior (which is scary when you think about the guy I mentioned above). Everyone is trying to come across in the best possible way. And that’s really how it should be because if we all showed all our flaws and let people see us at our worst on the first date, no one would ever get into a relationship.
With exceptions like the date I wrote about above or discovering that we want wildly different things and couldn’t possibly have a relationship, most first dates end with both people wanting to see each other again.
So the end of the first date isn’t really the right time to be asking if they like you. Unless you decided to part ways, it’s safe to assume they liked you — and you liked them — because you’re planning to see each other again.
But what about later? What about after the second, third, or fourth date? There still comes a point where you should be asking if they like you, right?
Well, yes. But first, there’s another question you should be asking.
Why you should wait to ask if they like you
Whether it’s after the first or the fifteenth date, you still might think you should be asking yourself if they like you. But no, you shouldn’t. Not yet.
Because it’s not relevant. Not yet.
“But wait!” you’re saying. “The point of a date is to figure out if they like me so why wouldn’t it be relevant?”
It’s because the point of a date isn’t to figure out if they like you. It’s for the two of you to figure out if you like each other. You have just as much say in this as your date does.
And that’s why the first question you should ask isn’t whether they like you, but whether you like them.
If you don’t like them, then whether they like you doesn’t matter. If you don’t like them, there shouldn’t be another date. If you don’t like them, it doesn’t matter if they’ve fallen head over heels in love with you.
Think of a first date like a job interview. If you go to a job interview and decide you want the job, you don’t get to just start working and force the employer to pay you, right? Of course not.
You interview and then the employer decides whether they think you’d be a good fit in the position, in the company culture, etc. They offer you the job if they think it’s a good match.
But on a date, both you and your date are the employer. You both get to think about whether the other person is a good match.
And when you ask if they like you, you’re putting them ahead of yourself.
Dating is a time to be selfish
In relationships, putting your partner ahead of yourself is a good thing. It shows you care, you respect them, and you want what’s best for them. But even in a relationship, you don’t always put your partner first.
When you’re dating, however, the other person isn’t your partner yet. You have no obligation to put them first and you shouldn’t. Dating is the time to be selfish. Dating is the time to put yourself first and make sure your wants and needs are being met, not the other person’s.
When you don’t put yourself first, when you don’t put your needs and wants first, you end up getting into relationships that don’t satisfy you. You end up unhappy, or even downright miserable, and you don’t even know how you got there.
You end up unhappy with a partner who is happy or is confused about why you’re not. Or in a worst-case scenario, you end up in a relationship where both you and your partner are miserable.
When you put your own needs and wants first, you choose someone who can give you the relationship you’re looking for rather than just someone who’s there and happens to like you.
Ask the right question first
So the next time you’re ending a date and reflecting on it, don’t ask yourself if they like you. Instead start with the question that really matters. Ask yourself if you like them.
That’s the most important question. Do you like them? If you don’t, there are no more questions to ask.
And if you do like them, then you can wonder if they like you too. Because how they feel about you only matters once you know how you feel about them.
Ask the right question first and you’ll find relationships that are more satisfying and happy than you’ve ever had before.
Wendy Miller is a Single Mom Coach & meditation teacher. She helps moms use mindfulness and meditation to create the life they really want. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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