Why The Fourth Date Is Make Or Break For A Potential Relationship

Jumping into a relationship too quickly is never a good idea. However, you also don’t want to waste your time seeing someone for months on end, only to discover that they’re totally wrong for you. That’s why the fourth date is so pivotal for relationships. By that point, you should know enough about the person to decide whether or not to move forward. Here’s why it’s such a milestone in the dating world.

Why is the fourth date so important?

If you’re not familiar with the “Four Date Rule,” it basically means that by the fourth date, you should know where things are headed with a guy. You’ve already talked about all the basic stuff and it’s time to delve into the nitty gritty. If you notice some red flags at this point or he doesn’t seem like he’s looking for a long-term relationship, it’s probably worth walking away.

“At this stage, people start feeling more comfortable, letting their ‘real’ selves shine — the good and the bad,” Kate McLean, Plenty of Fish‘s resident dating expert, tells Bolde. “For example, while you’ve already determined that there are no obvious red flags, things that may have been ‘yellow flags’ may shift to red, or as comfortability increases, you might see positive new sides of their personality, like humor and sensitivity, which can be key to long-term compatibility.”

Why the “four date rule” is one worth following

  1. By date number four, you’ve invested enough. Let’s do some quick calculations. If you’ve been on four dates with a guy and they each lasted for an average of three hours, that’s already twelve hours you’ve spent with him. This might not seem like a lot, but add in all the time spent on texting, Snapchatting, etc. and you’ll see it adds up fast. You may have even slept together by now. Despite all of this, he’s still not clear on what he wants from you? That’s not good enough.
  2. You can’t start a relationship by making excuses for himYou might think he’s taking his time to make things official because he’s scared of getting hurt again or he wants to be sure, but honestly, that’s crap. You’re not expecting an engagement ring here, for god’s sake. You just want to know where you stand and that you’re important enough for him to want to be exclusive. You should know this after a max of four dates! It’s really not a lot to ask.
  3. Actions aren’t always enough. You might think that since you and the guy are always holding hands, kissing, and enjoying each other’s company so much, this is enough to show you that he’s really into you, but it’s not. Who’s to say he’s not just having some fun while it’s convenient? Who’s to say he wants to be serious? He has to man up and say that he wants you to be his girlfriend so that you’re both on the same page and you prevent any nasty surprises.
  4. You filter out the freaks. You should never have to ask a man where you stand because if you’re dealing with a great, genuine guy who really likes you, he’ll be clear about his intentions. That’s the great thing about the “Four Date Rule” — it weeds out the time-wasters and jerks.
  5. It forces you to take your blinders off and see him clearly. It’s easy to get blindsided by an interesting, attractive guy. You might focus so much on all the great things he does, such as his early-morning texts and his love of PDA, while completely ignoring the crappy stuff that shows he’s not in this for the real deal… like the fact that you’ve gone on four dates and he still calls your time together “hanging out.” What the hell?
  6. You can use the rule to give yourself a deadline. It’s way too easy to fall into the comfort zone of waiting around for the guy to make a real move. But sticking to the “Four Date Rule” prevents this from happening. It keeps you focused on your goal and pushes you to move on to someone who is worthy of your time if this guy isn’t.
  7. He knows what he wants by now — don’t believe otherwise. It’s so true. In the same way that you knew how much you wanted this guy from date one, he knew what he wanted with you immediately after meeting you. He had a plan: you were either going to be his woman for now or he wanted to make you his girlfriend. And if he doesn’t seem to know what he wants by date four, what game is he playing?
  8. It’s a perfectly reasonable expectation to have. You might think you’re being a bit hectic or unfair by using this rule, but honestly, you’re only being unfair to yourself if you don’t follow it. Why should you allow this guy to lead you to stagnant waters? Only dead-end dates go with the flow!
  9. You’ve given things a real chance. You shouldn’t feel guilty or like you’re missing out on something special by deciding not to date the guy anymore after four dates. Hell, you’ve really given things a chance. If he doesn’t seem to be meeting your standards, then you have every right to get out. You hoped he’d be the kind of guy to step up to the plate, but he wasn’t and it isn’t your fault. He really only has himself to blame for missed opportunities.
  10. You’re not the settling type. Too many people settle for average relationships and guys, but screw that. If you’re going to stop being single, it will only be for someone who is truly incredible and treats you like a queen right from the beginning because he knows that if he doesn’t make you his, someone else will very soon. Fact!
  11. The “Four Date Rule” is empowering. Too often in the past, you’ve spent way too much energy and effort on guys who just didn’t deserve you. Maybe you even waited until months into a relationship to end things, but not anymore. By making the fourth date a crossroads, you’ll stand up for and empower yourself. You’re not waiting around for a guy to catch a wake-up call. You’re holding your destiny in your hands and it feels fantastic. May the fourth be with you!

What the fourth date can’t tell you

While four dates is a good amount of time to get a feel for things with a guy, there are some caveats you need to keep in mind.

  1. You still may not have long-term potential. Just because you’re in a good place by the time you hit the fourth date doesn’t mean that you’d work out long-term. Assuming you see each other at least once a week, that means you’ve only had about a month to determine your compatibility. It may be there in the immediate — maybe the sexual attraction is stellar and you have a lot in common, but does that mean you could last years? It’s too early to tell. “It’s unreasonable to think that by the fourth date you’ll know if you’re going to marry the person and live happily ever after,” MacLean says. “Every person, and every relationship, moves at a different pace, so don’t worry if your current relationship is progressing faster or slower than previous relationships, or the relationships of your peers – all that matters is that you are happy and enjoying things.”
  2. You don’t really know him yet. You’ve probably gotten to know a lot about him over the past four dates, but there’s no way you could know his entire history or who he is deep down by the fourth date. You may end up discovering things about him that are deal breakers or red flags down the line. Keep that in mind as you continue to see each other.
  3. It’s not a guarantee. Seeing one another four times definitely displays an interest on both sides. You obviously like each other enough to keep hanging out, but that doesn’t mean you’re about to become boyfriend and girlfriend. That may never happen. I don’t say that to deter you from getting excited about the potential that exists between you — you definitely should be hopeful — but you should definitely temper that excitement with a good grip on reality at the same time.
  4. It doesn’t make you beholden to him. The fourth date is only as meaningful as you make it, in many ways. If you decide in the end that you’re not really feeling it after all or that you’re not as into him as you initially thought, you’re free to go. You don’t owe him anything and you’re not a bad person for deciding that this isn’t the right situation for you at any point. Keep that in mind.
  5. It’s not the be-all, end-all. At the end of the day, it’s four dates. It doesn’t determine how successful any potential relationship might be, nor does it say anything about your dating life or who you are as a person. While it’s good to keep the “Four Date Rule” in mind, it’s even more important not to think about it too deeply.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.