For all the times an Irish goodbye isn’t an option.
It’s a fact of life: not every first date is going to be great. If my dating experience is anything to go by, it’s likely that you’ll have more bad first dates than good ones. Maybe your date has a bad habit of talking over you. Maybe they were rude to the waiter. Or maybe they did nothing wrong, but your conversation is still falling flat. No matter how great of a catch you are, you’ll run into a situation like this at least once in your dating life. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news! But if love was easy, everyone would already be head over heels.
Keeping your expectations in check is a realistic (if unromantic) aspect of dating. "No one has a perfect first date every single time," Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, previously told Elite Daily. Accepting that you will wind up on the occasional awkward first date is one thing. But you still have to figure out how to make a graceful exit when you’re stuck in this sitch. The days of having your friend call you with a fake emergency are over — side note: did anyone ever really believe that lie anyway? — and it’s time to take a more mature approach.
Remember, these rules really only apply if you want to leave on good terms with this person. It’s not your responsibility to salvage a bad date. And, if your date is making you feel truly uncomfortable, you don’t need to protect their feelings. That being said, if you want to leave without making the bad date any worse, this is how to do it, according to Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist.
End Your Date With A Simple “Thank You”
Unless the date is truly terrible, a simple “thank you” is a good standard way to end it. Prescott recommends something like, “I appreciate you coming here to meet me for [insert activity], but I think I am going to head out.” If you’re feeling extra generous, tack on another, “Thanks again” as you’re leaving.
This is a courteous and direct way of ending a bad date. And it doesn’t give your date any false impressions of how the night went. “You don’t have to say you had a nice time,” Prescott adds. Plus, by showing gratitude before you actually leave, you can skip the post-date “thank you” text, which might open the floor for another sub-par conversation.
End Your Date By Being Upfront And Honest
When it comes to dating, honesty has gotten somewhat of a bad rap. But there’s a big difference between being honest and being brutally honest. The truth doesn’t have to make things weird or mean — even when the truth is that you never want to date that person again. Prescott suggests “be[ing] clear in a gentle but honest way.”
Her preferred script is, “It was nice getting to know you, and I appreciate you coming to [insert date location]. But I’m not feeling a romantic connection.” If there was something specific you didn’t like (for example, they ordered without you or didn’t offer to split the bill), you can tell them that, Prescott says. In those scenarios, she would say something like, “I appreciated us trying to get to know each other, but this isn’t what I am looking for in a partner.”
Fair warning: having this conversation in person will invite more questions that you might not want to answer. So if you aren’t willing to have a deep dive into that conversation, you can totally send this as a text. Just know it’s not the most mature way to handle things. Prescott explains, “If you know you never want to see them again, the respectful thing is to do this in person.” Though depending on how bad the date is, you can definitely get away with the slightly less respectful option, IMO. It’s still better than ghosting!
End Your Date With A White Lie (If Necessary)
Most first dates last around an hour or two, depending on how well they’re going (and how quickly the Uber shows up). But if you are ready to cut the night short, a little white lie is not always a bad thing. But, Prescott says, try to keep it as “truthful and authentic as possible.”
She explains, “Do you really have a morning meeting? Or could you say something like, ‘I’m really tired and feeling like I want to head out?’” Remember, you don’t owe this person an excuse or explanation, so getting into fabricated details is unnecessary.
Really, though, lying should be your last resort. “You can tell a white lie, but you may want to think about how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed,” Prescott adds. “Think about your values and how they play a role in dating.”
Lying isn’t a great habit to start, but it’s also not terrible in an uncomfortable first date scenario. Just don’t let this lie lead to others. Nothing’s worse than a fake “Let’s do this again sometime” that doesn’t go anywhere.
Having a bad first date sucks, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncommon. If you’re recently single or dating around, you are going to run into a couple of rocky first dates. It’s inevitable, and it’s often more of a numbers game than anything else. So if you do find yourself in one of these situations, panicking (see: hiding) in the bathroom while you try to figure out how to say goodbye, remember that you’re not alone.
Mapping out an exit can be stressful. You don’t want to hurt their feelings, but you also don’t want to give them any false hope. It’s a tricky line to walk. Luckily, these expert-approved tips can make that goodbye a little bit less intimidating. Good luck, and happy dating!
Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman
Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist