If you’ve reached the third date, that’s a great sign, because most people cut bait between date one and three.  The third date should feel more relaxed than the previous two dates.  Whereas in date one and two, there is a bit of pressure going into it and concerns about making a mistake, date three is more about getting to know each other better without the need for a fancy night out.  I think date three is a good time to invite that person over, or to go over their place. 
This was the first dinner that Alena made for me.

For our third date, we spent it at my place enjoying dinner and a movie.  Alena knew the way to my heart was through my stomach, and she brought over a delicious dinner of sautéed shrimp, salad, a mix of sweet and regular baked potatoes, and some tomatoes with mozzarella cheese.  That was the first time someone that I dated cooked me dinner, and it was a sign to me that she was a keeper, because she was putting in the effort too.  The same night, she looked at my fridge, saw that I had healthy food in there, and told me months later that it got me some points, since I was walking the walk about eating healthy, not just talking the talk like other guys did.

Before the Third Date

- Keep your options open.  Before the third date, I think it is fair game to keep your options open and date other people casually if you haven’t committed to dating anyone exclusive.  It’s not about being a player – it’s about dating efficiently.  It's about giving yourself as many options as possible in case something doesn’t work out, and not making the mistake of going too fast with anyone too soon.  The first or second date can be unpredictable.  The person you’re dating may be dating someone else casually, and may be gone tomorrow.  It’s good to be dating someone else casually if possible so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket too soon, and you don’t get too head over heels for someone, which can scare them away. 

But I caution about keeping the options open too far into the distance – after three or more dates, you should have a better sense of who is a better fit, and you should respectfully narrow the dates down.

- Rejection is likely to happen.  You’ll find as you go on more dates, most of them end before date three.  It’s normal and happens to everyone, and although it can sting after a while of going through it over and over again, just move on and take whatever lessons you can draw from them.  Write the experience down in a dating journal.  Rejection sucks, but I can assure you that it’ll pass, and when you meet the right person, you’ll look back and may even feel like you dodged a bullet!

After years of dating, I learned that one's success is influenced heavily by 5 key factors:

Self Awareness + Self Improvement + Time + Opportunity + Luck = Dating Success

The more you:

- are aware of who you are, and what you want and don’t want in a relationship (self awareness), 
- improve your life (self improvement),
- increase the amount of time you spend dating quality people (time), and
- increase the pool of eligible singles in your life (opportunity).

…the more ‘luck’ that will appear to come your way in dating.

“Every Battle is Won Before It is Fought”

The great Chinese General Sun Tzu said in his influential work, the Art of War, “every battle is won before it is fought” to emphasize the importance of preparation.  In dating, if you’re prepared, you’ve already won half the battle before you even meet anyone.  And being prepared means growing in self awareness and self improvement.

Self Awareness

Know who you are, and what you want and don’t want in a relationship.  Some questions to ponder:
• What kind of lifestyle makes you happy?  Are you more of a homebody or a social butterfly?
• Do you want to have children someday?  If so, when?
• How often do you exercise, eat healthy, and drink?
• How do you spend and save money?     
• Are you just interested in playing the field, hooking up, or looking for a relationship?
• How religious are you, and is that something you need in a partner?
• What are the things that you ‘must have’ in a person?  It’s good to have standards, but be realistic too.
• What are your dealbreakers?

Note: You don’t have to put yourself in house arrest and forgo dating until you figured out everything about your life.  If you do, you’ll be in your 90s!  Go out, meet people, have fun, and you’ll figure yourself out and what you want and don’t want with each person you date. 

Keep a Dating Journal

If it helps to ask a trusted friend or relative what they think, do it.  If it helps to write it all down somewhere, do it.  I kept a dating journal in my last year of dating, and it helped me to see that I was falling into a pattern of dating people who were just interested in playing the field while I was playing for keeps.  When I met Alena, she said she was looking for a relationship in our first conversation, and I knew I was looking for the same and asked her out confidently.  She told me years later that it really impressed her that I was bold and it made me stand out.  The more you know who you are and what you clearly want and don’t want in a partner, the easier and quicker it will be to recognize if someone is a match, and also quickly filter out someone who isn’t a fit.

Self Improvement
A month before meeting my wife, Alena.