Why you don't need "THE SPARK" on a first date

Nov 09, 2023
Intimate couple

You know how it goes… you walk into the bar to meet your date, and there he is sitting at a table, looking super-confident and at ease. He looks up and spots you, and his face lights up with a wide, gorgeous smile. There’s a glass of champagne already waiting at your place, you sit down and the conversation is fun and engaging from the start. It makes you want to lean in closer…

This is exactly what you’ve been yearning for.

The “spark” or the “chemistry” is great. It’s lovely. It’s an amazing feeling when you meet someone and you instantly feel like there’s a strong connection, you’re excited to be with this guy, your insides are fluttering away and you know already that you want to spend as much time with him as possible.

But of course it doesn’t always happen this way the first time you meet someone.

I’ve heard so many of the women I work with say something along the lines of
“We had a nice first date, but there was just no spark – so there’s no point in seeing him again”.

“But”, I tell them, “this could be a big mistake”.

That’s because actually, the “spark” is neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee a happy long-term relationship, or even make it a likely outcome.

The guys who give us that feeling of chemistry – they’re often not the ones that are great in the long term. Men who are extravert and charismatic – they’ll often be setting off fireworks in our brain when we first meet them, but there’s a risk they may also be narcissists which is going to spell very bad news further down the line.

Another thing to think about is that men who we’re attracted to physically in the first instance, those we get the hots for right away, may seem to us to have other good qualities they don’t actually possess. We have a habit of assuming good-looking people are kinder, more honest, funnier, more intelligent – just all-round better, but of course this isn’t true. So beware this “halo effect” or “beauty bias”.

The thing is, many of the things that we are initially attracted to in a partner, and the reason we get this “spark” effect, are traits that suggest good genes for our children, good genetic compatibility and short term gains. We’ve evolved from ancestors that probably didn’t have really long-term relationships. It was about having babies with the right person in the short term. Even as older women who aren’t going to have babies we’ll likely have retained some preference for these things.

Nowadays we tend to want longer term relationships, but the partner qualities we need to be happy have nothing to do with the “spark” at the beginning. Lasting happiness comes from being with someone who has values aligned with yours, someone who’s kind, considerate, and is “on your side”.

We can build a great connection with a guy with these long-term traits. Of course there needs to be some level of attraction or curiosity at the beginning, but if we can get to know a good guy, and especially if we can see him “in his element” where he’s confident, we can start to desire him and build up a much more powerful, lasting connection than often happens when we rely on the spark.

What do you think? Do you feel you really need the chemistry right at the start?

Or can you hold off a bit and go for a slow burn…?

Go for the latter and I think you’ll be pleased you did.

Mairi Macleod PhD