Search icon


01st Dec 2023

‘Zero Date’ – the empowering dating term that will save you so much time and energy

Jody Coffey

Zero Date

Zero Date = Zero Disappointment

There are few things more exhausting in the dating world than days (or weeks) of chatting with someone online, only to find upon meeting face-to-face that there is no chemistry.

While dating apps can help some find ‘The One’ within one swipe, for most it can be a never-ending trial and error of first dates that lead nowhere fast.

This is where the dating term ‘Zero Date’ can save you a whole lot of time, energy, effort, and disappointment.

To make it from the first swipe to the first date, a copious amount of continuous conversation, flirtation, and sharing is often needed, which is great unless you finally meet IRL and there’s no ‘spark’.

This type of let-down can be exhausting on our minds, hearts, and even our finances.

However, what if there was a way to find out if it’s worth the prep?

Credit: Getty

In 2018, podcaster and entrepreneur Christina Wallace gave a TED Talk on what she coined the ‘Zero Date’ approach, which ultimately led to her doing away with swipe-based apps entirely because ‘the things [she] cared about, [she] couldn’t see online’.

She decided to set a personal criteria, one that involved seeing a potential date meeting three markers in their opening message.

For Christina, the message needed to: ‘1) be written in complete sentences with good grammar, 2- reference something in [her] dating profile and 3) avoid all sexual content’.

By setting these non-negotiables in the online dating world, she was able to eliminate any online suitors who didn’t fit her real-life criteria.

With this in mind, she says people in the dating sphere would swap the question of ‘Are they ‘The One’?’ and instead ask themselves: ‘One drink, one hour. With the goal of answering one question: would I like to have dinner with this person?’

If the answer is yes, set the time limit on the first date. And, instead of giving them an afternoon or evening, giving them just one hour will also allow you to meet more potential suitors.

“Because it’s just one hour, you can squeeze up to three in one evening, and then you only have to do your hair and pick out one great outfit a week.”

A ‘Zero Date’ is essentially a ‘pre-date’ where you’re putting out the feelers, getting an idea of a person before you invest in them or date them properly.

In 2020, Virgin Media carried out a survey on 1,000 singles to analyse dating dynamics during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Surprisingly, and yet not surprisngly at all, this research found that ‘online daters reckon they can tell whether a match has potential within just 30 seconds of on-screen chit-chat’, which only makes Christina’s ‘Zero Date’ make even more sense to apply in out dating lives.

Credit: Getty

More recently, the approach is growing, with the reasoning being one that is very understandable.

“One is that people are more aware than ever that life is too short to spend time on awful dates. The zero date offers a name and a format for investing less than a full evening with someone they are only just starting to get to know,” Christina tells Glamour UK.

The entrepreneur gave the magazine her top three tips for applying this dating technique into your life.

1. Be super clear about your expectations: one drink, one hour (or a timeframe that works for you). Don’t meet at dinnertime if you don’t want to eat dinner. If it’s just one coffee, it’s just one coffee. Just looking for a stroll? Do just that.

2.  Be in control of your exit: If you drive yourself, take public transit, or a taxi, rather than having your date pick you up and drop you off, you’ll be able to depart if the chemistry isn’t there.

3Be open to it working out: It’s understandable that after a string of failed dates, you may be mentally preparing yourself for disappointment. However, Christina tells the outlet that you should ‘wait for the person to show you who they are rather than filling in the blanks based on who you want them to be’.

The beauty of ‘Zero Dating’ is that you may end up waiting to extend the hour a little longer, or, if you don’t want to, you set the expectation, so zero disappointment.