Dating is damn hard. That's one of few universal truths people can agree on. But we often fixate on the difficulty of getting a date in the first place, when in reality, the most emotionally trying part can be the end of one.
Not everyone can end a first date by heroically saving someone from a burning car. For most of us, it's all foot shuffling, hands in pockets and awkward hovering. Do you mention a second date right then and there or text later that night? Or not text at all? Do you hug goodbye? Go in for a kiss? Do you go upstairs?
The confusion is rooted in our fear of being upfront and honest with one another. In fact, a 2015 study of worldwide dating habits found that 53% of people end dates with a kiss, whether or not they intend to go out again.
Dating might end less awkwardly if we knew what the other person was thinking and feeling, so Mic spoke to a few straight guys for a glimpse into their thought process during those final moments. What did we find? The best move anyone can make on a date is confidently speaking up.
No one knows what the protocol is.
Ben, 28, is in a relationship of five months.
"At the end of a first date, I am always very nervous and awkward. And it doesn't really matter if I like the woman a lot or not. If I know I like her, I get worried I am going to come on too strong, go in for a kiss and if she's not into it, blow the whole thing. I get worried she wants me to make assurances that I want to see her again, and so I try to do that — but then I've had women tell me I shouldn't do that because it is too much pressure to put her on the spot, and it's better to wait and text her the next day."
Each person's reason for not "making a move" is different.
Robert, 26, is recently single after a long-term relationship.
"Since I started dating, I have always let the woman make the first move at the end of the date. I don't want to push my luck, especially if things are going well, and I'd rather not make her feel like she's in a compromising position. I like handing over the power to her. If she's goes in for a kiss, then that's my green light that the night was a success."
Someone's confidence might be lower than you think.
Sean, 33, is in a long-term relationship of five years.
"It's laughable, but I've never been very good with making the move on dates. I've always had self-esteem issues, so I've always assumed the date is going nowhere by that point and been ready to wish her a good night and leave, regardless of how it actually went. The most I've ever expected was a 'Thanks, I had fun,' paired with a high five. The first real date I had with my current partner, we were lying on her bed face-to-face, and she finally had to say, 'You could kiss me any time now,' before I would budge."
Not everyone has sex on the mind.
Hashim, 34, is single.
"Usually, at the end of a date, I expect to go home alone. That is, unless it's someone I know and dated before, then it's 50/50. I'm shy by nature and tend to let the woman take the lead on an invitation, because I hate the idea of being an imposition in any way. I always hope to get invited in, but in my mind I feel that's usually more fantasy than reality. Then again, I think I suck at dating. My long game is way better."
End-of-date nerves might actually be a good sign.
Brandon, 30, is recently engaged.
"I've always dreaded the end of the date to a point that, if I really like the woman, I obsess about it through the entire date. I can go from being gregarious and confident, to just losing all self esteem. I think that's why I very rarely had second dates. I was too busy trying to get out the situation even if I liked her a lot."
The best move you can make: Just speak up.
Scott, 26, is in a long-term relationship.
"The best ending to a date for me, ever, was when I was walking the woman home and before we even got to her place she turned to me and said, 'We're going to fuck, right?' It was the most forthcoming a woman had ever been with me and the biggest turn-on. We've been together for two years now."