How important is ‘the spark’ on the first date?

I’ve been on quite a few first dates over the last few months. I’m not desperate for a relationship or anything, (although I’d happily have one), but I like meeting new people and I love an outing, so a first date is just a fun excuse for cocktails really.

I find first dates a rather strange thing generally though.

It’s because of THE SPARK.

Ah yes, THE SPARK. That elusive something that is apparently meant to reveal clearly within minutes of meeting a total stranger whether or not they have the potential to be the love of your life. When you put it like that it seems a bit ridiculous doesn’t it?

That’s because it IS a bit ridiculous.

I mean sure, you might go for lunch with someone and be pretty sure at the end that you DON’T want to see them again, but unless they really are so tedious or insensitive or gruesome like this one I went on, that you can say NO with 100% certainty, then how exactly are you meant to know? How many couples have you heard joking about how they met – ‘Oh yeah, I couldn’t stand him when I first met him! I thought he was awful!’ – and then there they are, ten years later, happily married.

I love watching First Dates, and yet sometimes I can’t help but feel frustrated.

‘She was a really lovely woman’, a guy might say at the end. ‘She’s gorgeous, and we got on really well and shared a sense of humour, but I just wasn’t sure I felt THAT SPARK.’



When should you feel the spark on a first date?

Because honestly, are you really meant to feel fireworks within minutes? Isn’t someone worth meeting again if you have a lot in common and find them generally good company? And if you DO feel that spark, are you meant to ignore any niggling doubts and go for it, just because? An instant physical attraction isn’t always the best basis for a long term, stable, secure relationship, as my relationship history clearly demonstrates.

A sexual connection can be confusing. Feeling the spark doesn’t mean that that person is going to be kind, or thoughtful or respect you or even have common interests, but it can sometimes make you believe it does, or want to believe it at least.

The more dates I go on, the more I’ve become convinced that a first date just isn’t enough.

It isn’t enough to get a proper idea of someone who is probably nervous and not quite themselves. It isn’t enough to find that thing in someone that makes you sit up and take notice.

I’m not saying you should date someone indefinitely if you don’t feel any kind of attraction – if you go on two or three dates and aren’t feeling that urge to kiss them, then sure, let it go – but if you’ve had a perfectly nice time on a first date then what have you got to lose from doing it again? Worst case scenario you have a nice lunch and a good chat and nothing happens.

A friend of mine told me recently about the first date she had with her husband. They went out for Sunday lunch.

‘It was perfectly nice,’ she said, ‘but if we’d left it there I probably wouldn’t have bothered to follow it up.’ Luckily for her, her husband was a bit more proactive and suggested the go for a post lunch walk. A walk in the park turned into drinks.

‘It wasn’t until maybe eight or nine in the evening that he said something that made me think ‘oh hang on’ and things started to change,’ she told me.

So think about that – a lunch, an afternoon walk, evening drinks. That could be three dates there couldn’t it? Three dates before she began to feel THE SPARK for a man who is now her husband.

So help me out – how long are you meant to give it? How many dates should you go on before you feel THE SPARK? Did you meet your partner and just KNOW or was it a slow burn?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts…

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash



  1. Laura
    20 March, 2018 / 3:22 pm

    I think too many daters put a big emphasis on THE SPARK these days and probably miss real opportunities to find something special by writing somebody off after the first date because there wasn’t that elusive BANG. I think there’s a lot to be said for slow burners. Sure, there sometimes is a spark on that first date but in my experience that is rare. I think people expect far too much and would be happier if they forgot the spark thing and just see where things go after a few dates. When you know, you know. But it’s unrealistic to know instantly. P.S. I’m not sure how you’re single, you are lovely! x

    • Jo Middleton
      20 March, 2018 / 3:46 pm

      Aw shucks, thanks Laura :-)

      I think you’re right though. Perhaps it’s a symptom of the whole instant gratification culture we live in, where we get impatient if something doesn’t happen IMMEDIATELY? I’m sure the spark is a very modern phenomenon really.

  2. Rosie
    20 March, 2018 / 10:50 pm

    For him, it was love at first sight, but it took almost a year of him hanging around — going running together, having dinner at the pub after work etc — for me to suddenly feel the spark which immediately burst into a flame. We’ve been together 7.5 years now, despite having to be long distance half the year because of work.

    • Jo Middleton
      21 March, 2018 / 11:36 am

      You see, this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I mean! Just because it wasn’t there for you straight away doesn’t mean it was any less powerful when it WAS there, and yet what a long time to wait for it!

  3. 21 March, 2018 / 12:16 am

    YASSS!! I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after a series of first dates that haven’t gone further. I now have two 2nd dates lined up, no immediate flash bang spark with either guy, but no obvious dealbreakers either, so why not see them again, sound it all out a bit more? You’ve basically said everything I’ve been thinking! (Dam it now I’ll have to think of a fresh angle for my own blog… )

    • Jo Middleton
      21 March, 2018 / 11:38 am

      Haha! Write your own blog anyway – solidarity in numbers and all that! What actually spurred me to write this post was being on the other end of it, which I found frustrating. I went on a date about a month ago with a guy who I got on really well with. We had loads in common, none of those obvious dealbreakers as far as I could see, and although I didn’t especially feel a huge spark, it felt like it was worth a second date at least. Clearly he did not feel the same!

      • Bex
        21 March, 2018 / 11:52 am

        Oh I’ve been there too! Twice recently I’ve had an enjoyable 1st date, spoken by text afterwards, started to plan a 2nd and then BAM they’ve disappeared without a word! It’s so rude!! What’s wrong with a polite ‘nice to meet you, but it’s not for me’ message?

        • Jo Middleton
          21 March, 2018 / 1:37 pm

          Ah yes, I’ve had that too! A couple of times recently actually, where it has gone well, they’ve pushed for a second date, I’ve agreed and then SILENCE. Maybe it’s just an ego trip? They want to see if they can get you to say yes and then when you do they’ve ticked the box?

  4. Bex
    21 March, 2018 / 11:51 am

    Oh yes I’ve been there too! Twice recently I’ve had an enjoyable 1st date, spoken by text afterwards, started to plan a 2nd and then BAM they’ve disappeared without a word! It’s so rude!! What’s wrong with a polite ‘nice to meet you, but it’s not for me’ message?

  5. DB
    21 March, 2018 / 1:17 pm

    Spark can be very over-rated Jo and can also get in the way of other considerations…

    But….what if you feel you want to snog the face of your date but you’re not sure how they feel??

    What if you agree to a next date but it’s 3 weeks away and really you’d like to see them sooner but don’t want to appear to be too keen for fear of scaring them off/seeming needy??

    My advice is just be yourself, be open, be honest with them and tell them how you feel. Then let nature take it’s course. What will be will be..

  6. KMG
    23 March, 2018 / 4:33 pm

    Oh my goodness! Yes, yes, yes! Preach on! Far too much emphasis is put on The Spark. I’ve always been a slow burner in that it takes a while for me to let my guard down enough to even entertain the mere notion of a spark. Equally (so I’ve been told), I tend to ‘grow’ on people, so if I wasn’t given the opportunity for a second date, I would never find it. Or get laid.

    • Jo Middleton
      23 March, 2018 / 5:32 pm

      Hahaha! I like thinking about it that way too – that people need to warm up to you as well as vice versa :-)

  7. Greg Saunders
    28 March, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    Isn’t part of the problem the fact there are so many social networks and sites like tinder that it could feel like there is so much choice that if the oomph isn’t there immediately you can try another. I’ve been married nearly 11 years so those things didn’t exist when I dated. You actually approached someone and made what seemed to be an effort. If an effort is made you possibly don’t give up so easily on a first date. Or am I simply a Luddite?!

    • Jo Middleton
      30 March, 2018 / 11:07 am

      Maybe Greg, although in my experience of dating sites what can FEEL to start with like a lot of choice really isn’t! Once you factor in distance, filter people out, get left with people who like you back, then people who actually want to message, it can be not that many at all!

  8. 11 April, 2018 / 8:27 pm

    My husband and I met through a dating website. We first met for brunch, my favorite meal for the day, but since neither of us had any plans we decided to hang out some more. We went on several dates that day we met: brunch, a museum, bowling, dinner, and the movies. It was enough for me to know that he was “the one” at that point. We were quite comfortable. But I was being extra careful, so I waited three more weekends of dates to make it official and respond to the spark. He was patient on the outside, but later I learned this method had driven him crazy. I figure, if I can drive them crazy and they still want to hang out, then that’s a perfect test. Anyway, we’re going on 7 years and it’s not perfect, but it’s comfortable and makes me happy.

    • Jo Middleton
      12 April, 2018 / 9:53 am

      Haha! Inadvertently treating him mean and keeping him keen then? I like it!

  9. Dana
    27 July, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    I have been single and dating for quite some time, and am exhausted by the fact that many men always say, you are such a great lady, kind, attractive, intelligent and in great shape, but I didn’t feel the spark (on the first date that might have lasted 2hrs). It puzzles me, and you’re right we are in a “I can do better” society, or rather disposable society that expects instant gratification. One day I’m going to say back to them “how has that worked out for you so far’ ??? lol…. If they ever do find the spark on the 1st date then it will only be temporary, I’ve seen it WAY too many times with friends. I met a nice guy this week and would have definitely went out with him again just to see what happens, and explore with him further – but nope, I just received that elusive ‘lack of spark’ comment, followed by the compliments on what he observed from me, that he is looking for in a partner – I just don’t get it !!! But wished him luck with finding the spark…hahaha

  10. John
    17 April, 2019 / 4:13 pm

    I so agree…unfortunately my partner (been together 20 years) passed away early last year. Time passed and I went to an online dating site. Met someone in similar situation..we took it real slow..texting, phone calls, photos and chatted easily..yes we left it 2 months, and then went on a date. Beforehand she wanted that spark, on the first date..I think it got inside my head (and the fact I hadn’t been on a date for over 20 it didn’t go well, but we stayed friends.
    Now we went for 2 more dates, one was an all dayer, and both went really good…but I didnt know how to respond as a friend…so just held back..I felt a big feeling for her, but she said that because I didnt hug her,ect as we met and left, she didnt feel the spark. Unfortunately, I told her exactely how I still a friend, and about to go on 4th meet in a few days time. She still goes on about how she loves meeting still confused…lol.
    She still goes on dates in the meantime…. but everyone has been a complete failure..I’m wondering if she is totally obssessed with that instant spark. She is insecure…but this now has been going on for 4 months. Sorry probably gone on to much..thanks for the article.last thing, I’m not going to give up, but if we are just to be friends that’s cool with me.

  11. Mully
    22 October, 2019 / 4:25 pm

    I’ve experienced an actual spark in a kiss and he felt it too. We had incredible chemistry, had texted online for a week and a half before meeting. It just felt like we were meant to be together. First date, first meet, first kiss in just an hour after meeting. I didn’t know sparks were real until this moment. It was completely unexpected that it made me stop, step back and look at him in shock. I literally was not expecting that then we proceeded to kiss again. But guess what? We didn’t last, I ended it. After the break up, he let me know he’ll always remember our first kiss which I wholeheartedly believe because I will always remember it too.

    Even though we are no longer together it will always remain the best kiss of my life thus far. Trust me, I have kissed many and it wasnt the only amazing kiss we had. Nothing has ever come close that I sometimes crave it. We didn’t get along although we tried our best to.
    I know if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for that ‘Spark’. It is incredibly rare to feel it on a first date but I think you wouldn’t rely on it to know if the person is ‘the one’.

    • Jo Middleton
      24 October, 2019 / 9:27 am

      Thank you so much for this comment Mully – it’s so true and very reassuring! So many of us go through life waiting for that moment, thinking it spells the beginning of a happily ever after, but in most cases it really doesn’t! Long term love is about getting that blend of chemistry and trust and respect and also hard work.

  12. Michael
    21 February, 2023 / 2:23 pm

    This from an older guy’s perspective – I just was “written off” by a woman after our first face-to-face meeting. Met through online dating site… texted for awhile through the site… graduated to telephone calls and texts on the phone… shared interests… same goals… traded cute photos … so, I was VERY much looking forward to the “first date.” VERY hurt to get a text next day (nobody has the courage to say things personally) – “no spark” so, goodbye. Does NOBODY think that a relationship can develop over time, as we learn more about each other? What hope is there for online dating if all the boxes are checked, yet it’s still, “no go?” Sorry for ranting… best of luck to all seekers!

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