There are certain things you’re supposed to do on first date in order to set yourself up for success — clean up a bit, arrive on time, ask your date questions, offer to pay.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a clear sign that things went well, whether that’s a goodnight kiss, or a request to go out again.

But what happens when things do progress past the first date? You’ve both said “I had a great time, let’s do this again,” but you’re still not 100 percent sure where things stand.

Often the uncertainty will get resolved on the second date, but sometimes, you’ll find yourself still searching for answers if you’re lucky enough to venture toward date three.

That’s why a third date can be a particularly important one. Humans do tend to have a sort of built-in ‘rule of threes’; the idea of “three strikes and you’re out” applies to much more in life than just the confines of the baseball diamond.

Many people can tolerate two so-so dates, but three underwhelming dates? That’s pushing it. If you’re two dates into seeing someone but not yet clear on whether this is for real or not, the third date might be your last chance at making things work. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about third dates.

1. How the ‘third date’ is different.

The first date might feel high stakes for you, but further dates can actually be more stressful, if you’re not yet clear on how the other person feels about you.

The stakes are higher on the third date because it’s the gateway to a relationship. On date 1 you get a sense for how comfortable the two of you are together. The second date is about seeing if there’s chemistry and mutual attraction, and on date 3, you decide if you’re a good fit long-term. Think of the first few dates like a series of job interviews: By the third, you’ll know if you want the ‘job’ of being in this potential relationship.

Just like with a series of job interviews, by the third one, you’ll have a clear idea of what the opportunity in front of you looks like, what you can bring to the situation, potential challenges you might face down the road, and different areas of it you’ll find fun, fulfilling, or exciting.

The ability to have interesting and engaging conversation at a bar or restaurant is one thing, but who are they (and you) really? The third and fourth dates are opportunities to express more than your drinking and dining decorum and really get to know each other.

By date three, you’re no longer just testing the waters, you’re actually interested and ready to start building trust, opening your heart (a little), dropping your guard, and delving into other sides of your personality. You’re presenting a more authentic you — the fun, quirky, nerdy, spontaneous sides. You want to make sure that they really like you for you, and you for them, or else, why continue?

2. How to approach the third date.

Regardless of how high stakes the third date might feel, you shouldn’t try to make too big of a deal out of it. After all, this person has expressed interest in seeing you three separate times. Surely, they’re not just doing this to be polite.

Firstly, you have already had a chance to get to know each other a little, so relax and remember if you are on date No. 3, something good must be happening. You’ve gotten to know a little about what your date is interested in, so don’t try to impress [them] — try to delight.

At this pivotal stage of dating, try opting for something like an “inexpensive, intimate place to eat, or even a food truck or picnic.

The message you want to send is not that you want to buy your date’s affections with expensive things, but you want to get to know them in a simple setting that encourages you to talk and be close.

To impress, do less – many guys feel the need to up their game on big dates and to plan elaborate activities or spend a bundle at a white-tablecloth restaurant. This can backfire, because trying too hard can convey neediness.

Instead, making your conversation the avenue where you show off.

Don’t try harder. Go deeper on the third date, try to connect over Big Life Stuff: careers, wanting kids, your core values. When two people find that their Big Life Stuff aligns, it’s easier to move toward being a couple.

3. Dealing with physical or sexual intimacy on the third date.

If the first two dates have been relatively tame, you shouldn’t necessarily take the existence of a third date as a sign that things are going to get hot and heavy now.

When it comes to physical intimacy, the escalation isn’t determined by the dates, it’s determined by how you are feeling, if you don’t have that initial hit of hard chemistry, you might not want to get physically intimate immediately, and that’s OK. As your attraction grows, you will want to get intimate. But at least you want to have a real kiss by date 3 so that you can see if there is that spark when you kiss.

Alternately, maybe you do a little bit of kissing early on but then things go cold afterwards. That could be a sign that things aren’t going to work out between you.

Many men get stuck on the same base for multiple dates, if you reached first base on date 1 and are still there two dates later, it can lead to the ‘friend zone.’ The other person might feel things are not progressing, so they lose interest.

4. What happens when the third date is a flop.

Bad third dates happen. If the first and/or second date are incredibly good, the third time might not even feel like a date to you. Instead, spending time together won’t have that formal quality where you need to impress each other.

On the other hand, the third date could be where things go south, and, there’s the possibility that it just won’t work out. But how do you respond to a third-date flop?

If the third date is a bust but the first two went well, assume it was just an off night, it happens. Go for date 4. Treat it like a mulligan.

A big red flag to watch out for “is when your first meet-up is great, but dates 2 and 3 are duds. This can mean that that first-date spark was just the thrill of meeting someone new, and it turns out you’re not compatible as a couple.

It’s also possible to turn a bad date into a good one by not letting an awkward or disappointing situation get to you. Instead, make it something the two of you can poke fun at.

Maybe you get rained on, the event was bad or called off, or the movie was terrible, but those things should be sources of shared laughter and good memories. If the conversation about a disappointing event is better than the event, you’re doing fine. Hopefully, you’re not fighting or insulting each other, there is no excuse for bad behavior on the third date. Don’t let your expectations get the best of you. Relax, calm down, and be in the moment.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you survive the third date.