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Are You a Good Date?

Should you kiss (or more) on a first-date? How do you keep the conversation going? Our cross-Canada survey has the answers.

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Just the Facts

Reader’s Digest teamed up with the market-research firm Leger Marketing to determine whether Canadian men and women have a clear sense of each other’s wants and needs. First, we asked more than 700 women how they would react if they found themselves in four different dating scenarios. Then we asked the same number of men how they would have liked the women to react. After that we turned things around and asked the men to imagine themselves in four additional situations, then asked the women how they would have liked the men to behave. So how similar are the sexes? Read on to find out.

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Scenario #1

You are single, but actively looking for a partner. The date is going well and you like the person you’re with. At one point he casually asks if you’ve been single long and whether you’re dating just for fun or looking for a life partner. How do you respond?

a) “I would be open to a long-term relationship if I met the right person.”

b) “I think it’s a bit soon to talk about things like that.”

c) “I’m not looking for anything serious at the moment.”

d) “I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with just one person.”

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What it Means

If intentions weren’t important, online-dating websites wouldn’t ask their members to indicate whether they’re looking for love, friendship or, er, intimacy. “People shouldn’t be afraid to say what they’re looking for,” says Laurie Betito, psychologist, sex therapist and host of the Montreal radio show Passion. “Otherwise there’s a lot left unsaid and women, especially, can be disappointed if they realize later the men they’re dating just want to have fun.”

That’s probably why almost 70 percent of the women polled went for Option A, which leaves things open to planning a future without raising the spectre of marriage. This pick didn’t scare the men off, either-64 percent of them said they wouldn’t eat and run if a woman expressed a preference for the long term.

But according to Nick Savoy, professional pickup artist and CEO of the L.A.-based dating company Love Systems, men might want to cultivate a slight air of mystery. “Women like to flirt,” he says. “They tend to love ambiguity, the chase, the anticipation. Don’t spoil that.”

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Scenario #2

You’ve been having a bad time at work and it’s weighing on you. Your date notices you’re distracted and asks if something is wrong. How do you respond?

a) “Sorry, it’s just a problem at work. But it’ll sort itself out.”

b) “I’m having some issues at the office. May I ask your advice?”

c) “Work is a real pain right now. But I guess it always is, right?”

d) “No, not at all. I’m having a great time!”

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What it Means

Talking about work troubles is to a first date what harping on about relationship drama is to a job interview: weird. But if you’re truly upset and unable to hide it, it’s best to be honest and tell your date what’s bothering you. The key is to be confident (Option A) and not seem like someone in need of a lifeline. That’s how 67 percent of the women polled said they’d behave, which pleased 50 percent of the men.

However, a good number of men were also ready and willing to serve as crutches: While only 17 percent of female respondents would ask their dates for advice (Option B), over a quarter of males would like to be asked their opinion. “Men are notorious problem solvers. They like to be asked for advice because it’s an ego booster,” says Betito.

Men, be careful not to fall into the tricky “therapist zone,” warns Savoy. “That’s how women talk to their female or gay male friends. And that won’t lead to attraction,” he says. His advice: “It’s okay to listen to your date’s problems for ten minutes, but then try to switch subjects.”

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Scenario #3

Your date takes you to a restaurant that serves a style of cuisine you don’t like. He asks you if you’re enjoying the food. How do you respond?

a) “I don’t eat this type of food very often. It’s all quite new to me.”

b) “To be honest, I don’t really like this type of food, but how could you have known?”

c) “It’s delicious-what a great restaurant!”

d) “It tastes weird. But I guess it’s important to try new things.”

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What it Means

Before we get into this scenario, here’s a valuable tip for men: Ask your date what kind of food she likes beforehand. This will ensure you don’t invite your vegetarian crush to a steak house or commit some similarly disastrous blunder.

Still, nearly two thirds of women said they’d remain polite in a situation where they’re not enjoying the food (Option A)-unless you’re dating a woman from Quebec, and then you can expect a dose of La Belle Province sincerity. Almost half the women there said they’d keep it real and fess up if they didn’t like the food. Hopefully, they’d excuse their dates’ lack of foresight with a “you couldn’t have known” (Option B), which 30 percent of the men polled said they’d appreciate.

Our advice to women? Be as positive as possible. “If you don’t like the restaurant choice, suggest another option, or at least say you’ll try it,” says Jeannie Assimos, managing editor at eHarmony Advice, the dating portal’s Internet magazine. “You don’t want to come off too bossy on a first date.”

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Scenario #4

During dinner a waiter splashes red wine on your dress. It’s quite clear he’s responsible, but he doesn’t apologize. What do you do?

a) Tell the waiter about the spill. Accept compensation if he offers it, but otherwise leave it at that.

b) Do nothing. If your date comments on it, tell him it’s not a big deal.

c) Demand to see the manager and insist he pay for the dress to be cleaned.

d) Show the stain to your date and hope he’ll do something about it.

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What it Means

If you’re at the kind of place where the wine is worth twice the value of your dress, you’ll probably act as if nothing happened, as did 20 percent of our female respondents and 15 percent of our male respondents.

You are even more likely to keep it quiet if you are from Quebec, where 37 percent of women claimed they wouldn’t make a fuss. In the rest of Canada 45 percent of women said they’d point it out to the waiter and accept some compensation; just over a third of men expect their dates to speak up.

In these circumstances, humour is a saving grace. Married to an incorrigible goofball, Geneviève Martel Kinder, 37, has experienced her fair share of messes. After her future husband, Jotham Kinder, spilled a gigantic Coke on her white tank top at the movies, he simply said, “I swear, this wet T-shirt contest was completely unpremeditated.” They’re still together, after ten years of muck-ups.

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Scenario #5

Note: Scenarios 5 through 8 are for men to choose their preferred course of action, with women indicating what they’d want their dates to do.

You’re at a restaurant and the waiter pours some wine for you and your date. A short while later you notice your date’s glass is empty. What do you do?

a) Ask her if she’d like more wine and refill her glass if she says yes.

b) Reach for the bottle and refill her glass without interrupting the conversation.

c) Tell her to help herself to more wine and let her pour her own.

d) Wait for the waiter to refill the glass.

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What it Means

Even though women have fought for equality, they still appreciate a little chivalry. That’s why 49 percent of them said they expect their dates to refill their glasses. Luckily, 66 percent of men polled said they would live up to that expectation.

For Betito, chivalry doesn’t mean gender inequality. “It’s just basic politeness,” she says. Sometimes old-school manners are a good call. Kate Meinhardt, 27, and Justin Cortelyou, 31, met on eHarmony. Before their first date, Kate’s grandmother’s only advice was, “If he doesn’t offer to pay, he’s not a good guy!” Justin offered. Less than two years later they were married.

“You’ll never go wrong by pulling out the chair,” says Savoy. “But if you don’t do those types of things, it’s not that big a deal.” He says the key is not to act strange. “Don’t sprint ahead to open the door. That just looks silly, like you’re trying too hard.”

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Scenario #6

You have taken your date to an expensive romantic restaurant. She asks if you’ve been there before. You have, quite a few times-with your ex. How do you respond?

a) “Yes, I’ve been here a few times and I’ve always had a great time.”

b) “Yes, I ate here a few times with my dreaded ex. But I don’t want to talk about her.”

c) “No, I’ve never been here, but I heard it was nice and wanted to try it out.”

d) “Yes, I had some incredible meals here with my ex.”

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What it Means

Dating rule No. 1: Don’t talk about your ex, whether it’s in a complimentary (Option D) or disparaging (Option B) way. “The ex is definitely a topic to avoid,” advises Assimos. “On a first date you’re getting to know the person. Talking about the past can be a turnoff.”

Savoy concurs, saying that anyone who talks extensively about his or her ex on a first date is obviously hung up on that person, or he or she doesn’t know how to behave in public.

As for Option C, which involves lying, it’s simply not a good idea. “A relationship is like a building,” says Donald Devine, a Montreal lawyer specializing in matrimonial law. “If the foundation is bad, the rest of the building will fall apart. Little lies, even if they don’t seem important, can become a nightmare.” By the time Devine meets most couples, those tiny communication cracks have turned the building into rubble.

Fortunately, 81 percent of the men polled said they’re most comfortable with Option A-an honest answer that doesn’t reveal too much-and 82 percent of the women feel the same way.”

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Scenario #7

After you’ve ordered your meals the conversation dries up. What do you do?

a) Comment on the restaurant’s background music, then ask your date what sort of music she likes.

b) Make a joke about awkward silences and how to break them.

c) Enjoy the silence and do nothing to break it.

d) Tell your date about a particularly successful presentation you made at work that day or some other professional success.

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What it Means

Everybody fears gaps in the conversation. To get around the problem, 47 percent of men said they’d comment on the background music. Another 31 percent said they’d make a joke about awkward silences, but only a quarter of women would expect their dates to use comic relief to move things along. “Conversation is an art,” says Betito. “If it doesn’t click, the best way to make conversation is to ask your date about herself,”she suggests.

But beware of the “job interview syndrome.” “Never ask two questions in a row; always follow a question with a statement,” says Savoy. “You’re not adding any value to the conversation if you’re only asking questions.” And make your queries charming. If, for example, you’re on a date with a woman who has a particular speech pattern, try, “I think I detect a French accent-are you from Quebec?” instead of just asking, “Where are you from?”

In any case, avoid bragging, as only five percent of women thought Option D was a good

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Scenario #8

You’ve had a good night and seem to be getting along very well with your date. She lives nearby, so you walk her back to her house. What next?

a) Tell her you had a great time and that you’d like to see her again, then say goodbye and leave.

b) Tell her you’ve had such a great time that you don’t want to say good night, then let her take it further if she wants to.

c) Go to kiss her good night.

d) Suggest you come in for a coffee.

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What it Means

Women aren’t as naïve as you think; they know exactly where you’re heading with that whole come-up-for-coffee routine. “Any time you invite somebody into your house there’s an implication,” says Betito. And while 37 percent of the men polled are open to taking a first date further (Option B), most women said they’re perfectly satisfied with a simple goodbye (Option A). “I’m not surprised men want more,” says the psychologist. “But women don’t want to feel they owe sex because they were taken out to dinner.”

As for the goodbye kiss, if it were up to Savoy, it would be taken care of early in the date. “Don’t wait until the end of the night for a kiss,” says the dating coach. “If you do, there’ll be this big awkward moment where the woman is wondering if the guy will make his move.”

But hey, don’t feel compelled to believe everything you read in magazines! Go with the flow, as Kate Meinhardt did: “On our first date I told Justin I wouldn’t kiss him, because I had come across an article that said we shouldn’t. About 45 seconds later we were kissing. I couldn’t resist.”