How to End a Bad Date

I’m of the belief that everyone’s worth a chance—at the very least, one date. It’s a good practice to have an open mind and also honing self-confidence, especially so we’re aware of what we bring to the table.

But I’m also not a Pollyanna about dating, assuming that every evening will be a homerun and that we’ll run out the clock closing down a restaurant, lost in conversation over how much me and this former stranger-turned-future soulmate surprisingly have in common.

Because the reality is that sometimes dates are just downright painful and awkward. Infuriating, even, if a political button gets pushed. So, what do you do? Where’s the escape hatch for when you find yourself twenty minutes into appetizers and praying for an emergency? (You know, just a teensy little one where it was false alarm in the end, but you’re off the hook and in the free and clear for the rest of the night.)

No single piece of advice will be the golden ticket in every situation, but here’s a running list of what to keep in mind when you’re worried you might be going out of yours:

Option No. 1: You can stick it out.

The noblest of choices, this option requires a little gumption to recognize the disaster at hand and the willingness to ride it out. It’s best served when your date isn’t necessarily rude or wildly unstable, but just isn’t a great conversationalist. And maybe just not that great with people in general.

It’s OK if you realize within 10.5 seconds of chatting (or not chatting) that there will be no second date. Consider the rest of the night like an experiment. Get curious about this person in an anthropological, non-romantic sort of way. What are their interests, secret talents, or goals for the year ahead? What have they read or saw recently that changed their perspective on something?

If at any point if you’re just straining for more than flat-lined answers, don’t be afraid to call it out… kindly. Something like, “Hey, I feel like I’m doing all the talking here. Can we switch? Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” Being clear and direct can often, quite helpfully, cut through the fog of nerves or social awkwardness to revive conversation.

Source: Noah Hinton

Option No. 2: You can fib and leave.

Now, I’m a big fan of honesty and wouldn’t normally advocate lying to get out of an uncomfortable situation but I’ll add it here for this reason: safety.

As much as I believe that everyone is worth a chance, I equally believe that we all have intuition, and the hope of a bad date turning around shouldn’t eclipse your ability to use common sense. If at any point you start to feel like something is off or you’re getting major creep vibe from someone (as in he memorized your Instagram posts from last summer, and not in a cute way), then I see nothing wrong with playing it safe and saying you need to call it a night—alone and with as little personal details as possible.

A simple “I’m sorry, but I’m suddenly not feeling that great and think I need to call a Lyft,” is all he needs to know. And, on some level, it’s totally the truth.

Along the same lines, if a date is being outwardly offensive, purposefully rude, or otherwise derogatory, there’s no reason to stay. Being polite isn’t synonymous with being a doormat, and if you feel a line has been crossed leaving you uncomfortable, voice it. (And see point number 4.) 

Option No. 3: You can prioritize a natural transition.

Most people know not to take dating advice from romantic comedies, but I actually think one of the best pieces of dating advice comes from Sleepless in Seattle. It’s when Tom Hanks’ character explains to his son that you always start with a drink date first, that way if things go well, you can progress to a meal. If not, then it was nice knowing you, no hard feelings.

If you’re unsure of someone up front, then take the easy out first. Start with a short and sweet date so this way you’ll have a built-in safeguard should the coffee, happy hour, ice cream hang turn disastrous.

If the schedule is beyond your ability to plan, then keep an eye out for natural transition points where you can take your leave. Meet there instead of carpooling. Order the quickest menu option and pass on dessert. Do one pass through the art show, no need for a second lap. Complete the activity at hand, then make your exit as civilly as possibly.  

Source: Stephen Di Donato

Option No. 4: You can be honest and end it.

If you’ve gone through your mental checklist several times and can find no clear value to spending the next few hours with this person, then don’t be afraid to simply end it, saying: “I appreciate you taking this time for me, but I just don’t think it’s working out.”

We don’t have to build-up dating (especially a first date) to the point where one bad night ruins our outlook. Remember what any date means, ultimately: You gave someone a shot.

It’s part of the human experience to see how we edge up to someone; the occasional rough edge doesn’t need to knock us off center.

In summary, here are a few easy one-liners to end a bad date:

“I’m sorry, but I’m suddenly not feeling that great. I’m going to head home.”

“I appreciate you taking this time for me, but I just don’t think it’s working out.”

“As much as I wanted to give you a chance, it’s clear we’re not on the same page. Have a nice night.”

“You seem really great, but I want to be honest, this isn’t a fit for me.”

Best worst date story? Share yours in the comments!

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