If There’s No Spark, It’s Okay To Walk Away


I’ve been on a lot of great dates this summer. I’m not talking about the “let’s meet up for drinks at some uninteresting bro bar” dates; I’m talking about the kind that sweep you off your feet. A long sunset walk sipping on iced coffee and listening to an Italian guy recite Dante’s “Inferno” in ancient Italian, a VIP ‘Sublime with Rome’ concert that ended in a sunny rain storm, and most recently, rock climbing at an amazing indoor facility, in the middle of the city.

These dates have been memorable, the men…not so much.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. And I think those guys would agree with me. Not every magical first, second, or even third date has to end with the resolution that you are meant to be.

I think it’s possible to have an amazing time with someone and walk away saying, “You’re awesome, just not what I’m looking for.” While I can admit that for any relationship to begin, there is usually a series of great dates, I have more recently come to believe that sometimes everything can go right on a date and in the end it is still just wrong. After the effervescent glow of the date passes, you realize there is no real “spark.”

For a while, I was so caught up in “finding my person,” that I was unable to be realistic about what I actually want and deserve in a companion. I had set ridiculously low standards for myself. Just because some guy isn’t a Class A creep, does not mean I need to see him again! Good conversation doesn’t automatically mean “he’s boyfriend material.” A shared experience that leaves you smiling from ear-to-ear, does not mean you are meant to stay together forever.

And that is ok.

Casual dating, and no I’m not talking about casual sex, can be really freeing- if you let it be! It can boost self-esteem, get you out of your comfort zone, and help you gain perspective on what you like and dislike in potential partners. Often, there is so much pressure put on the “first date” that you can’t enjoy the situation for what it is: getting to know a person, in a public place, within certain time constraints.

If you allow yourself to go with the flow, and embrace the awkwardness of hanging out with a stranger, you can not only meet and get to know a new person, but you can also detach from whatever expectations are in the back of your mind.

This date does not define your future. Ce La Vie, you know what I mean?

At the end of the day, you can have a great experience with someone, but that does not mean there is lasting chemistry and commonality between you. There has to be a spark, otherwise, you are wasting your mutual future time.

I think lots people end up in relationships with people they don’t really see themselves with long-term because there was never anything glaringly wrong with the person. They always had a “good time,” so they just continued hanging out with the person. I’m going to argue that just because there isn’t anything wrong, doesn’t mean there is anything right. Why do we accept mediocracy? Why do we allow ourselves to enter into this strange head space that says “Well, this is ok, for now.”

As tacky as it sounds, I think the spark is so important. It turns the great time into a blur. All you remember is the person you were with. “What was the name of the bar, what did we talk about?” …who cares!
If you are not excited by the mere thought of the person you are dating after one or two dates, get out before anyone’s feelings get hurt. Casual dating is fun and liberating, but even the best of us settle into a comfortable rhythm after hanging out with a person a couple of times. If you don’t want to know how they are at a given moment, or when you’ll see them again after the first few interactions, it’s best to be on your way.

A real-life example of my unnamed theory is the aforementioned “rock climber man.”

On our first date we went rock climbing. Let me tell you, this is a great date. The subtle innuendos and hilariously awkward harnesses make for the best banter. Having a defined activity to participate in left no room for awkward silences, or oddly deep conversations. After an hour and a half, we left the gym, walked to the train, and went our separate ways. We had a great time and I was excited to see him again.

Our second date was drinks at a local cocktail place, followed by sharing a pint of gelato and a flask of whiskey on his roof top deck. This date encouraged more chatting and eye contact. While it was fun, I look back and distinctly remember not wanting to kiss him. We were lounging on a recliner and I made concerted effort not to melt too far into the cushions. Must. Stay. Vertical.

This is the moment I’m talking about. The moment you realize there isn’t a spark. The company might be great, and the date might be going well, but it is just wrong. If it was right, you bet your ass I wouldn’t have been exerting all that brain power on ways NOT to kiss him…

After that I should have said, “You’re cool, but bye.”

Instead not only did I kiss him, I went on 3 more dates.

Comically, on our last date we went rock climbing again. I had been sort of avoiding him all morning, but I knew we had plans to get together. He mentioned climbing again and the rush of good vibes from the first date came back to bite me in the ass, and so I found myself strapped into a harness, 20 feet up, with rock climber man staring at my ass, while guiding me up the wall. This second climbing experience was not as fun. The thrill was not there, the conversation was stilted, and nothing remotely close to physical chemistry remained. When we left, I kissed him, and loathed the way he said goodbye. It was so sing-songy. Gah- How had I let this go so far?!

It’s because nothing was ever blatantly wrong.

The ironic end to it all was that he called the next day. With awkward tension in his voice he said, “I think you might like me… a lot more than I like you. I don’t want things to get serious and hurt you, so I thought I should let you know. There isn’t anything wrong with you. You’re funny, smart, and really cute. I really enjoy hanging out with you too. I don’t know how to explain it… except that there just isn’t a spark.”