When you’re on a first date and it’s going well, congratulations, you’ve cleared the first hurdle.
But even though you’re quite sure you’re attracted to each other, other anxieties can creep up on you.
For example, you might start to ask yourself how the attractive, smart, funny person sitting opposite you could possibly be single.
According to marriage counselor Robert Maurer, asking your date this question out loud is a good way of sussing them out, because it will give you an insight into their attitudes towards their past relationships. Are they always blameless when something goes wrong, or are they mature enough to learn from their mistakes?
However, Erika Ettin, founder of dating site A Little Nudge, says asking someone “so how come someone as wonderful as you is still single?” is a terrible idea.
“To start, this question is a back-handed compliment at its finest, with undertones of ‘What’s wrong with you?’ or ‘Why does no one else want you?’” Ettin said in an email to Business Insider. “This question immediately puts the person at the receiving end on the defensive, when that person has nothing at all to be defensive about.”
At best, Ettin said, the person can uncomfortably deflect the question, by answering with something like: “Aren’t you lucky that I am?”
The most awkward part of the question, Ettin says, is the use of the word “still,” as it implies that there is something wrong with being single in the first place.
“Being single is not a crime,” she said. “In fact, it’s a valid life choice that many people desire…[It’s] as if one thinks you’ve been single since the day you came out of the womb. The reality is that we never know the other person’s story.”
It also suggests that being in a relationship is everyone’s ultimate goal, which isn’t necessarily the case. Just because someone is unattached, doesn’t mean they are desperate for a relationship, or they are lagging behind everyone else.
In fact, Ettin says she discourages her clients from discussing past lovers on the first date at all.
“When you go on a date, the focus should be on the present, not the past,” Ettin said. “Talking about prior relationships often brings up difficult feelings, usually negative, and takes the tone of the date down. Talk about things that make you happy, what you like to do, and who you are as a person… not who you used to be, and who you used to be with.”
With that in mind, however curious you might be about someone’s past, perhaps stick to less daunting questions the first time you meet them.