Sometimes slow burns are more promising than instant fireworks.

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Everyone has bad first dates. While they can range from nails-on-a-chalkboard cringeworthy to just plain boring, no frequent dater has been blessed with smooth sailing and starry eyes on every first date. You're bound to encounter assholes who brag about their Hamptons houses or frat boys who share stories of taking ecstasy ten minutes into your conversation. But those are easy to write off—you'll let them pay for your overpriced cocktail, dodge the end-of-the-night kiss, and sigh with the relief that you never have to see them again.

But what about average dates? The ones where the banter flows well during your first beer, but by the time you're seated at another bar, you're fiddling with the straw in your cocktail and commenting on the weather. Or, when you have things in common and they make you laugh, but you're not dying for them to lean in when you say goodbye at your apartment door.

How do you handle those so-so dates when you're not sure if you felt a spark, but you're also not sure you'd be content never seeing them again? According to experts, you go on a second date.

If you're not eager to dish the deets to your friends afterward or you don't feel the urge to text your date the next morning, it'd be easy to skip round two. However, if you're torn on the decision, why not err on the side of caution and give your date another shot? As Connell Barrett, dating coach for The League, says, "There's little to lose and lots to gain."

To guide singles through the sticky world of early dating, we tapped relationship experts for their reasons why you should go on a second date—even if the first was as pleasant (but as ordinary) as a plain bagel.

second date ideas
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1. It might have been an off day.

We all have bad days at work, with our roommates, and on dates, too. Give your date the benefit of the doubt that they might not have been their best self for whatever reason. A stressful day at work, an argument with a family member, or even a delayed train could have thrown them off their A game. However, this doesn't mean you should ignore rude or concerning behavior—trust your gut if you know deep down they're not the person for you.

"There are many reasons why a first date might not be an accurate representation of the person you’re talking to," a Bumble spokesperson tells HelloGiggles. "We’ve heard plenty of Bumble success stories where people were open to giving their date a second chance even when they didn’t feel an instant connection."

In fact, Hinge conducted a study with 5,000 users globally and found that one in three users believe it takes them until the second or third date to know if they are compatible with someone.

2. Nerves could have gotten in the way.

No matter how confident you are, everyone is nervous on a first date. You're meeting a stranger, trying to impress them, and laying your ego on the line if they're not into you. Nerves can cause shyness, awkwardness, maybe even a spilled drink, and simply muddle your date's true personality.

"Two people could be a great romantic fit, but if one of them was nervous, it can throw chemistry off," Barrett says. Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert of Match, adds, "First date anxiety can mask a great potential partner." Plus, as Logan Ury, Hinge's director of relationship science, points out, "More daters are feeling stressed and anxious during the pandemic."

If you get extra jittery before first dates yourself, check out these seven first date tips.

second date ideas
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3. It's hard to gauge compatibility virtually.

During quarantine, virtual dates have become the norm—and have given singles a much-needed sense of connection while isolated. But let's face it: They're weird. Welcoming a stranger into your home over the phone and staring into a screen isn't the most comfortable scenario for getting to know someone. Especially if it's your date's first time going on a virtual date, there's bound to be some awkwardness.

"If the video date conversation was good and you find them attractive, give yourself a gut check about meeting in person," Barrett continues. "Ask yourself: 'Am I feeling a yes, no, or maybe?' If it’s a strong yes or solid maybe, take a shot at date number two."

4. Second dates are lower stakes.

It's no secret that the pressure is high on a first date—you can only make one first impression, after all. These high stakes can make it tough to simply relax and enjoy the date, letting your true self shine. However, if you've landed a second date, you know that the person is interested in you at least a little bit.

5. Second dates allow you to dig deeper.

If you've been on lots of first dates recently, you're likely sick of the staple questions: Where are you from? What do you do? Do you have siblings? While these are all important details, it can start to feel like the same old script. Second and third dates are when you typically ditch the basic questions and get down to the nitty-gritty of who a person is—or at least get a better feel for their personality.

A Bumble spokesperson adds, "It’s important to have more meaningful conversations to determine whether you’re connecting with the person."

6. You'll avoid a future "what if."

Is there any worse feeling than regret? Getting stuck wondering "what if" about past decisions can rob you of contentment in the present. So, if there's any small part of you contemplating going on a second date, go for it. You never know where it could lead.

second date ideas
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“If a date meets your non-negotiables—the fundamental qualities you need in a partner—and you have at least a hint of attraction," DeAlto explains, "you need to go on a second date." If you're still teetering between accepting and declining a second date, Barrett recommends asking yourself these three questions:

  • Was there at least a little chemistry?
  • Did the conversation flow well?
  • Did the other person focus on you, rather than making it about themselves? 

"If you said 'yes' to all three, a second date is a no-brainer," Barrett says. "Two 'yeses'? Lean toward going on date number two. But if you said 'yes' only once or not at all, cut your losses and move on. Life is too short to settle for disappointing dates."