Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I date occasionally and consider myself lucky to meet so many great women. However, for whatever reason, I can usually tell quickly whether I am interested romantically enough to ask someone out for a second date.

But often I will go out with someone I end up liking very much, and feel that the interest is not romantic. How do I communicate this? Should I say something to this effect at the end of the date? This seems to me like a very awkward thing to do on a first date. Should I simply not call them back? This seems a little harsh, especially if I did have a nice time and thought they were a nice person.

I have asked many women friends how a guy should appropriately indicate a lack of interest and, oddly enough, I get very diverse answers. Do you have a recommendation? What if I like the person, but not as a potential mate?

Lewis

Dear Lewis,

When you don't want to date a woman again, the best way to end a date is to thank her for an enjoyable evening and let it go at that. Don't promise to call -- she'll expect that you are interested in continuing to date and will wait for that call. Don't get in touch with her after several days and expect her to read your mind (i.e. that you are not interested in a courtship). She'll think that you want to date her again.

If you were set up by a third party, you can have that person call your date to say you're not interested. This way the woman gets the courtesy of a call, without any discomfort on your part or hers.

Or you could always call her home number during the daytime, when you know she's at work, and leave a brief message on the machine: "I enjoyed meeting you last night, but I don't think this is a 'match.' Best success to you, I know you'll make the right guy very happy."

We'd like to address a more basic dating issue.

Our culture has conditioned us to expect to feel a spark of romantic interest when we first go out with someone new. Truthfully, this spark isn't genuine romantic interest. It's chemistry, plain and simple, and in every single case this chemical reaction will burn itself out. We all hear of some couples who felt an instant connection and have been going strong ever since, but you have to believe us when we say that their marriage has not endured because of that chemical reaction. It has endured because they acquired the foundations of a good relationship and built on them. Most people who feel instantly attracted to each other never achieve this and break up in a matter of time.

We know that what we have to say next goes against everything you have come to expect from dating, but it's the truth: The majority of good marriages don't start out with that spark. They build gradually. Many times, the first date for such a couple is pleasant but not superb, and sometimes it's only mediocre. That's only natural when two people hardly know each other and may feel uncomfortable. However, the second date is better, and after three or four dates the couple senses that something is starting to develop.

If you are looking toward marriage we'd like to see you give yourself more of an opportunity to get to know a date whose company you enjoy. Go on a second date, and even a third or fourth, to see how things develop. You may find yourself becoming more physically and emotionally attracted to your date than you initially believed could be possible. If this happens, we hope that you'll concentrate on developing the courtship further (rather than wondering if something better could come along).

We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,

Rosie & Sherry