Perfect Dates For Every Stage Of Your Gay Relationship

A lot has been written about first dates. I mean, here’s one, here’s another, and here are some guides to making it work!

But what about the second date? The third? Beyond? If your first date goes really well, and you’re trying to do the healthy thing and not just instantly merge your life with theirs, move in, get completely obsessed and spend the night at their place for a week or two before coming up for air — how do you go about doing second, third, and beyond dates? Where are the guides for this? Well, I’ve got you covered! You’re reading it. Enjoy.

The First Date

Note: if it’s a hook-up and/or you just want to fuck them, go to a club or a movie you can make out in or a bar or just like, text them “wyd?” at 1am or get on Tinder and then just go back to your place or whatever. These guidelines are for if you’re looking for something a little more “serious!” That being said, you can still fuck after one of these dates. Fucking on the first date is great if you’re into it! But that’s not like, the intention of this guide.

The big thing to keep in mind on a first date is to stay CALM! You hopefully have VERY little invested at this point. A first date is basically a mutual interview, meaning you’re evaluating them just as much as they’re evaluating you, so don’t fret! You just want to get a little bit of info on what they’re about and what their vibe is. You want to see what they look like in person. How they treat service workers. It’s really a pre-date — you’re trying to figure out whether you even want to date them! Some articles propose an active first date where you’re doing something distracting and fun to keep it light. I say, save that for the second date! You want to do something where you can talk and aren’t too distracted. Communication is the NUMBER ONE important factor in a relationship! Can y’all talk? You gotta get a bit of info on this from the jump.

So, do things where you can chat one-on-one. A coffee/tea shop, or a drink at a quiet bar or restaurant, sounds great to me — but lots of people think it’s boring. Then get a beverage, or, I don’t know, ice cream, and go walk somewhere! Like a little walk around the lake while feeding the birds, or something similarly chill and outdoorsy like checking out a botanical or rose garden. Or a museum trip (you can whisper quietly about what you think the art MEANS, or use Instagram and make memes of the fine art?) can be a GREAT window into someone’s brain and/or sense of humor. Go to the animal shelter and pet the puppies, or if your town has a cat cafe try that! Peruse a used book store and talk about the books you want to read or have recently read. If they really pique your interest, and you’re curious to learn more about them, and you think they’re cute, then it’s maybe time to set up another date! Yay!

The Second Date

This is much LESS-trod territory! There are so many resources for what to do on the first date. But what about after that? That’s where it gets scary and anxiety-inducing! What if you REALLY liked them? How long should you wait to text? What should you say? Which of you should ask the other out for the second date? Ahhh!

Well, what’s cool is there are no rules or answers for any of those questions. Text them as soon as you want! Tell them you had a great time! Say “let’s do this again sometime” at the end of the first date! If you want. Be yourself! If they don’t like it, they’re not your compatible future lover. Same goes for if you really weren’t feeling them on the first date. If you weren’t feeling it, don’t ghost them! That’s like, mean. The most respectful thing is to call or text to say, “Hey, you seem really lovely, but I just wasn’t feeling it. So sorry! Good luck with everything!” And then don’t go on a second date. Not unless you were intrigued enough to want to know more about them. The second date is when you do just that!

This is a great time to do something active and/or fun. You can see how they have fun — a healthy relationship should be a lot of fun! Mini-golf is a great one here, forget anyone who tells you it’s corny. It’s chill, you don’t have to drink or spend much money, you can chat while also playing a silly game that you’re both going to be terrible at, and you can playfully rib each other when you get 19 strokes on a par 4 (don’t lean too hard into making fun of each other this early, though, probably).

Another great option is an arcade. And, luckily, sometimes the arcade and mini-golf course are in the same location! They are at my hometown spot, at least. There are some really great arcade bars popping up in some cities, too — these are super cool because you can drink a little bit (not recommended on the first date, to be honest, but cool on the second) and play some games! At an arcade you can compete — racing, shoot-em-up, even fighting games — or collaborate, like on a beat-em-up like The Simpsons. You can play a solo game and cheer them on, which is a great way to bond. And vice versa. It’s loose, relaxing, you can chill between sessions, or if you get tired of the games just retire to the bar and relax and chat.

Hikes are fun at this point, and so is going to a street festival, seeing an obscure art-house movie that y’all will want to talk about, riding go-karts or laser tag if that’s like, your thing, checking out local queer performance art or a gallery opening — the focus at this stage should be spending time together doing something. You want to witness how they move, what their energy’s like, if y’all have similar senses of humor and fun! If so, then it’s on to the third date!

The Third Date

OK, here’s where it gets tricky. If you’re going on a third date, you probably already know that you very much like this person and want it to go somewhere. This is a date that will probably involve some processing. If you’re super casual, maybe it’ll come up later, but for me, this is where I want to know: how do you feel about me? Do you see this going somewhere? If we haven’t had sex yet, this is where I want to start talking about that — either after this date or sometime soon (if sex is something you’re into, it’s good to start getting into it somewhat early on in the relationship, in my opinion! Sexual chemistry is as important as almost every other type of chemistry).

So you want to do something somewhat fancy and/or romantic, and you want time to really sit down and discuss your feelings for each other. The third date is where you usually have to decide if this thing is serious or not. The third date is usually where lesbians actually go and rent a U-Haul together, because by this point you probably just know (note: please don’t do this). Getting food together is usually a good idea. You’ll be close, intimate, and there’s a little bit of distraction (eating) to cover up any awkward silences/moments.

So a fancy dinner date is a great bet. It doesn’t have to be at an expensive restaurant, though that can be nice if it’s in your price range. If not, you could invite them over for a home-cooked meal and put a tea light and some cheap Trader Joe’s flowers in the middle of the table (if you have space, that is) and a bottle of cheap Trader Joe’s wine on the table (I love TJ’s). You can really level it up by visiting a farmer’s market together, choosing the veggies and such y’all want, and then cooking them together later that day! Another great option is a picnic in a park. This can be super simple – bring a clean bed sheet or blanket, go to a park that has a grassy field that hasn’t been rained on or watered recently and hopefully isn’t too crowded, bring snacks and beverages (avocado, pita bread/chips, hummus, dried or pre-sliced fruit, and cheese, salami, and crackers is a lovely, inexpensive picnic — wine can be good too, but don’t forget the opener). Focus on really connecting, talking, processing, and figuring things out. If y’all figure out that you don’t know yet whether you want it to be serious, that’s fine! But knowing that you don’t know is important!

Beyond the Third Date

This is where it gets fun! Hopefully y’all have decided that you, you know, like like each other. Maybe you’re each others’ “girlfriend” or “partner.” It’s time to have lots of fun, lots of sex (if that’s your thing), and enjoy that New Relationship Energy. Remember that y’all aren’t engaged yet and haven’t yet moved in together (hopefully)! You’re still learning more and more about them. It’s easy to wear rose-colored glasses during this phase, so please take them off regularly to look for red flags. At this point you’ll hopefully be learning more about their childhood, their trauma(s), their baggage, how they really move in relationships, if you’re sexually compatible, and all that important stuff. Remember it’s WAY healthier to dip out of a relationship too early than too late! Try not to just bail at the first sign of trouble, but be honest about what you need and whether this person seems poised to provide it.

Now is the time to go out to happy hour with your friends, so your new boo can meet them — in a casual environment that hopefully won’t feel like an interview. Or have a ga(y)me night at one of y’all’s houses and invite your chosen fam! You can also take them to the queer dance party if that’s y’all’s speed, because dancing close and getting sweaty and stuff can be sexy as fuck and really make the fucking y’all are gonna do when you get home that much hotter. If y’all are active, go for a bike ride or a hike! If you like music, go to a concert or a musical! Or, if you’re like, you know, “upscale,” get dressed up and go to the opera. In my opinion, this is where movie dates fit in, too — you don’t need to talk all the time; spending some time together is good even if you don’t talk. You can hold hands or cuddle if the theater seats allow it, and sometimes have great conversations afterward.

Take a day and/or weekend trip to a beautiful forest and quaint small town (note: OK so this was after five days of knowing each other but we dated each of those days so technically this counted as “after the third date”). Go camping. A night at home, suffused with essential oils or scented candles, giving a really extended, luxurious full-body massage with that new CBD salve your stoner friend sold you — with or without sex during and/or after — can be a lovely “date!”

You’re also hopefully at the point where you can do political action together — volunteer registering people to vote, or go to a rally or march. Organize a letter-writing night to incarcerated queer and trans women. You can really dig into each other’s brains at this point, get deep, etc. Now’s the time to learn more about each other’s hobbies and see if you might be interested in sharing them! She likes ceramics? Consider accompanying her to the studio and letting her teach you how to throw! Do you rock climb? Use your gym’s monthly guest pass to get her in there and on the wall! If these kinds of dates go well, and you’re still into them after this point, then you’re on your way.

When It’s Decidedly Long-Term

OK, maybe that NRE has faded. How do you keep it fresh? You already know you like (love?) this person, so dates at this stage are about deepening your intimacy and care. This is where intentionality really comes in to play. My girlfriend and I have date night EVERY Tuesday night. If we can’t because of scheduling, we make sure to reschedule it! And we hang out all day on at least one weekend day depending on our schedules, to go for a hike, or to the beach, or on a picnic, or whatever. If you’re both employed adults, time management and scheduling are key! It was a struggle for a while, but we’re figuring it out.

This is especially important if you live together; when you’re around each other all the time it can seem like “quality” time — but if you’re doing laundry, cooking and eating dinner, or just watching TV or reading a book or scrolling Instagram while in each others’ proximity, it probably isn’t quality time. You have to invest in keeping the relationship strong by going on dates or at least spending quality one-on-one time together. This is 100x more important if one or both of you have kids! It’s so easy to focus on their needs, but you have to take care of yourself and your love for each other if you want to keep your capacity to love the little ones topped up too. If babysitting is too expensive, try bartering with folks in the community?

Here’s an idea: create a “date jar” where y’all each put in 10 little slips of paper with fun things to do together (anything from any of the previous sections will work at this point in your relationship!), both things that cost and things that are free, and on date night pick one out at random! If you’re able to save a bit, together — maybe by cutting down on time at bars and/or restaurants, or putting a moratorium on buying each other any gifts or presents, or designating a holiday or birthday gift as a means to save some cash — you can save for a big trip together. Especially if you plan this well in advance, and use some of the many travel hacks you can find online, you might be able to take a lovely vacation together. This doesn’t have to break the bank — I just saw tickets from San Francisco to Barcelona for under $200!

If that’s still out of your price range, though, even a “staycation” can be lovely. Pretty cheap AirBnbs (or, preferably, local hotels or actual B&Bs) exist all over for way under hotel prices, and even getting an hour out of your town and spending 24 hours focused on each other can be so crucial and lovely. If you have a car and a few days or long weekend, a short road trip together can be amazing quality time! Try to limit radio/podcast listening on the road trip, and instead go through asking each other these questions (if you’re extra like me — but honestly at this point, this should be OK) or otherwise getting deep.

Just enjoy each other. You’re in love! It should be fun but also comfortable and maybe even boring in a good way. But it still needs to be loving — make sure you don’t take your partner for granted! You’re an inspiration to us all (at least those of us who aspire to love and relationships and romanticism). Keep up the good work!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Abeni Jones

Abeni Jones is a trans woman of color artist, educator, writer, and designer living in the Bay Area, CA.

Abeni has written 90 articles for us.


  1. ABENI you goddess, this seven-earth sign weirdo who finds dating THE HARDEST has bookmarked this and sent it to approximately seven people. Thank you!!!

  2. This is such a lovely post and I second mini golf as a great early date spot! My personal fav is The Arroyo Seco Golf Course in LA, it’s charmingly run down and old school and you can get beer in to-go cups if that’s your thing

    • I really like this post but am a bit confused about my situation.. I had two dates in spring with this girl (both times sitting around outside and talking since covid), it was very nice but she was very busy so the contact broke off. We contacted again and meeting soon after 6 months, and I’m not sure if should handle it as a third date or a first date?

  3. I like the date jar idea. As someone who gets anxious and has every thought flee my head when it comes time to plan a date, I might have to try this!

  4. These are some great ideas, thanks!

    I’m not great with noise, so I love going for walks or even going to the petting zoo to cuddle some goats. I’m boring. Better they know from the beginning.

    Recently I had some socially distant dates and this girl asked me to go swimming for the second date at a local lake because the weather was so nice. Initially I was scared (bathing suit anxiety) but it was very relaxed and fun and I love swimming there.

Comments are closed.