Love Nest: Demystifying the third date curse

Imagine this: you just matched with someone on Tinder and things seem to be going pretty great for a change. Their banter has just the right flirt-to-kink ratio, they get all your obscure references and they even made you a playlist.

Then comes the first date, which went pretty well. I mean, how can one go wrong with the safe bet of grabbing drinks and saying ‘do you want to head back to mine?’

By the time the second date comes around, you’re pretty sure they are The One™. Or maybe that’s what you are thinking while making every effort to not expose yourself to your friends who still think that this is just Tinder Boy #7.

But, then comes the third date and suddenly your hot and heavy romance runs dry almost as randomly as it came about to begin with. You find yourself either canned before the third date, or right after.

If this sounds anything like what your dating life has been like as a university student barely holding onto their sanity, welcome to the club! The generation’s greatest social script of ‘going with the flow’ (aka matching, going for drinks and having no-strings-attached sex) is a big source of disappointment to all of us.

After observing this common trend in both my dating life and the lives of my friends, I realized that maybe there is just something about the third date that is hell-bent on fucking over our romantic dreams. And I, for one, am tired of it.

I took my theory to Dr. Anna Dawczyk, a lecturer in the department of sociology and potentially my new favourite girlboss. I heard about her after a friend had taken FMST 314: Relationship Development with her and had only good things to say.

According to Dawczyk, whose research in family studies includes work on personal relationships, there’s multiple factors at play within the progression of dates one through three. 

“You’ve connected for a reason — whatever that reason may be — and you go on that first date. The idea is that you tend to put your best foot forward... You may talk about some things that are not necessarily positive, but that’s not a bad thing — you’re trying to get to know someone and trying to let them get to know you too,” said Dawczyk. 

“By the third date, it can sometimes be that if you progress to a fourth date, you’re then dating that person. It can be ‘maybe I actually see a future with this person,’” she said. We shared a laugh here at the general commitmentphobia that seems to characterize Tinder users these days.

When I asked Dawczyk how to soften the emotional burnout that comes with this style of dating, she suggested that we need to reformat the way we go on dates.

“Think of it as an interview — you’re trying to assess the compatibility of that person, but also you’re trying to assess the compatibility of you with that person," said Dawczyk. "We tend to have this perspective that it’s a bad thing if a date doesn’t go well, but we really need to shift the focus and think that maybe they’re just not the right person for us. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said. 

“It’s better to think about these compatibility issues rather than to be let down. We need to celebrate [them] — now we’re making room for someone better.”

Love Nest is the Ubyssey blog's dating column. Have something specific you'd like to see covered? Email