There’s nothing like a truly bad date to make you want to delete every single one of your dating apps before throwing your phone into the nearest body of water. Even if you’ve spent the week leading up to the date engaging in witty banter via text and imagining your first kiss, there’s always the possibility that you might show up and discover you have absolutely zero chemistry. But how do you get out of a bad date without being a total asshole about it?
The good news is that according to relationship coach and clinical psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh, it’s totally possible to swiftly and kindly exit a date that isn’t going well. We can’t guarantee your date won’t be angry or hurt in the process — but we can guarantee that you can end a bad date quickly, without being a total jerk about it. Here’s how.
The best way to get out of a bad date? Don’t go out with someone who isn’t a good match for you in the first place. A good way to get to know someone beforehand is to have a pre-date phone call. “My very first piece of advice is the most important piece of advice: Never meet someone in person unless you’ve had a number of long telephone conversations with them,” says Walsh.
If you’re someone who hates talking on the phone (as most millennials do), this might sound like a nightmarish scenario. But as daunting as it might be, it’s super important if you’re trying to gauge compatibility. “You get so little information when just communicating digitally,” Walsh explains. “If you’re interested, get on the phone with the person. Don’t meet in the real world until you’ve had at least one, if not two, phone conversations.” If for some reason the phone conversation goes south, there’s no need to worry: just block them and move on.
One of the best ways to avoid the potential awkwardness of a bad first date is to arrange a platonic meeting first. “The first meeting is just for you to decide if you want to have a date with somebody. Make it casual, make it coffee, and make sure you have a hard out,” says Walsh. That way, you won’t waste any time or money getting dressed up, sitting in traffic, and ordering drinks for someone who keeps droning on and on about the benefits of going keto.
If all goes well during the coffee meeting, go ahead and set up a real date. But if the coffee date is awkward, just try to get through the 30-minute coffee meeting as quickly as possible before politely calling it a day. “[Dating] is a process of elimination,” Dr. Walsh says. “The elimination has to happen before you waste too much of your time.”
If you’ve matched with someone on an app and your texting banter is on point, it’s tempting to expect that your chemistry will be just as awesome in real life — which can make it all the more disappointing when you meet up with that person and find they’re not what you expected.
If you’ve followed steps 1 and 2, this likely shouldn’t happen — but if it does, “get through at least one course or one drink,” Walsh advises. After all, you’ve both made the effort to get dressed up for a night out, so unless your date is an absolute nightmare, you might as well spend some time getting to know each other, even if they don’t look or act like what you’d expected.
Part of the fun of meeting someone online is that you never really know what you’re going to get. But if you’ve ever met up with an online match in real life, you already know that not everyone looks like they do in their photos.
If you end up sitting across the table from someone who’s clearly used an old (sometimes very old) photo for their dating profile (or even if you suspect they weren’t using their own photos at all), do not make a comment to that effect. Just sit down, have a drink, and try to enjoy the evening before you politely call it a night. If you suspect they might be more attracted to you than you are to them, say something like, “I’m not sure if this will work between us, but maybe I have a friend for you, so let me get to know you a little bit,” suggests Walsh.
If your date isn’t taking kindly to your polite but direct approach, or if they’re showing some serious red flags (for instance, if they seem emotionally unstable, or if they keep trying to get you to go somewhere alone with them), Walsh says you should ask a friend to send you an “emergency” text to give you an easy out. Is this necessarily original? Nope. Is it honest? Not at all. But in a handful of cases, when someone is not picking up on your signals, it’s OK to turn to your last resort.
Ultimately, there’s no need to sit through an excruciating evening with someone you really don’t like, or who clearly doesn’t like you. After the date, try to avoid the urge to analyze what went wrong. If you sense that your date wasn’t that into you, just let it go.
One of the most important parts of dating is figuring out that someone isn’t the right person for you. If you’re genuinely interested in putting yourself out there and meeting new people, you’re going to encounter people you don’t get along with, and it won’t always work out as planned. Bad dates are bound to happen, so keep the stakes low and the conversation flowing, and at worst, you’ll have a funny story to tell your next date.