Foolproof Ways to End a Bad Date

Don’t suffer through it


I have been on so many bad dates. One time this guy suggested we split a burrito (no), then ate my half when I wasn’t looking (no), then asked me to run an errand with him after the date (no), then (dad, don’t read this) when I lied at the end to be polite — “I had a nice time” —  he whacked my butt (no) and said, “I know you did.” No. A date once showed up to the restaurant he chose completely blackout drunk (no) and a personal favorite: the guy who got mad at me because I didn’t want him to read my aura (this may be surprising to some, but no).

Yet I sat through them all.

There was a time where I took bad dates in stride. I wore them like Girl Scout Badges, as though making it through three miserable cocktails in a row to the droll sound of a very rude ego was like completing a School of Life course that could bump my GPA. I figured the terrible ones would thicken my skin in that celebrated New York City way and the bad ones would make me “ready for anything.” When I was dating a ton — back to back to back — I would return from boring dates and tell my friends I much preferred horrible ones because, “At least then I’d have a story.”

But that isn’t true. You don’t give up an evening of your busy life to potentially have it ruined, especially not when the alternatives include hanging out with people you actually like, making progress on a project or hanging out in glorious sweatpant’d solitude. Bad dates stretch onward because we let them, and we let them because the alternative feels rude. Or awkward. Or like failure. Well, great. End bad dates the moment they go from, “this feels…odd,” to, “I would literally rather be anywhere than sharing breathing room with you.” Let it be rude and awkward and be considered failure if a date is indeed preparation for some sort of reality. So how do you do it?

Always Carry Cash

Be ready to lay down a $20 for your drink and GTFO if need be. Definitely consider why you’re going on a date with someone who you feel wary about — so much so that you come armed to potentially leave. But this isn’t a post about what dates you should and should not accept, this is about how to end one.

Have a Getaway Plan

Are there a lot of cabs in this area? Are you by a subway? Are you in an area with on-demand car service apps that allow you to order a car with the click of a button? (Have your account set up before hand.) Are you driving yourself? (If so, monitor your alcohol intake.) Do not stay on a bad date for the sake of a ride home.

Have a Friend In Cahoots

It’s helpful to have a friend at the ready to save you. Come up with a code word, or code emoji, that you can text if you need to get out. Have a pre-set plan so that she knows whether it’s her job to call the bar, call the cops, crash the venue herself or call you with an “emergency.”

Make Up an Excuse

This is really where you “end the date.” A friend helps, but you don’t need one to make up an excuse. Extract yourself from the situation to think. (My choice location for this matter is a little place called the bathroom.) Call a car if you can, take a deep breath, then walk back to your date and say the following, “Thank you for the evening so far. __INSERT WHITE LIE HERE____.  It doesn’t matter what your excuse is. You don’t feel well; you just got a text and your cat died; you got a work email; you realized you’re allergic to the dinner you just consumed. Use it, thank your date, pay for your drink or dinner and go. You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.

I can’t repeat that enough.

Be Honest

If it’s fine and you don’t feel unsafe in any way, but do want to exit the date and are feeling exceptionally adult and brave, you could flag the waiter, then turn to your date and say (in as kind a manner as you can muster because all people have off-nights), “I’ve really enjoyed meeting you, but I don’t see this continuing beyond this evening.” Then you very promptly turn the conversation to the weather, and when the check comes, get out of there whether you got the story or not.

Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; photo by GraphicaArtis via Getty Images.  

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  • jackie

    loveeeee this. i too have been on some awfulllll dates:

    1) i work in project management and when the guy on the date found out i did he tried to sell me his new project management startup device- “the last one didn’t work because my co founder and i got addicted to drugs but we are in a much better place now”

    2) the guy who said “i’m so excited for my friends’ trip to the lake this summer because they always have their girlfriends and now i have a girlfriend too”- THIS WAS ON A FIRST DATE

    3) The guy who spoke about fish for 30 minutes. fishing. the types of fish he liked to eat. his pet fish. anytime i steered the convo away, fishes returned.

    4) the guy who looked like spencer pratt. enough said.

    • Bo

      do you still have fish guy’s number bc I also love fish

      • hahahah i imagine him habing been so stressed. he must have prepared that in advance to avoid awkward silence.

        • Bo

          I once had a similar experience on a date with a guy at my university who studied jazz (I know right, so sxc), for every song that came on at the bar he was like I KNOW THIS ONE BY THIS BAND THE ALBUM WAS RELEASED IN 2005 BUT IMHO WASN’T AS GOOD AS THEIR DEBUT ALBUM FOR REASONS A, B, C & D. Literally every song. Actually thinking back I would not be surprised if he actually prepared a playlist earlier, memorised it, then begged the bartender to put it on before I arrived

  • sq

    but why bother saying ‘I’ve really enjoyed meeting you’ if you haven’t

    • Adrianna

      Basic manners? Unless the person was a total asshole, he or she still spent their free time to go on a date with you.

      • sum

        I don’t know. I’d never tell someone ‘I had really enjoyed meeting them’ if I really hated it. But maybe it’s just a question of native language. I once read a story about an English woman who felt constantly offended in the Netherlands, because Dutch is just so direct and apparently you really just say what you mean. While in other languages like English some empty phrases of politeness are just expected.

        • Adrianna

          Well, yeah, I’m Polish-American and had to learn to smile when I make small-talk with Americans.

          My point is that it’s self-centered to only think about yourself and whether you’re enjoying the date.

      • sq

        It seems a bit patronising/dishonest to say that though, just find another reason to leave

    • belle

      I like “Thanks for taking the time to meet me” – works for interviews, dates, coffees with long lost summer camp friends, etc. The focus is on you being thankful for THEIR sacrifice, not your specific feelings about them.

      • Bo

        I like it. I feel valued just reading it

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    “You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.” Have written this now on a post-it on my computer. Also trickier scenario — what are the rules here for exiting situations with people you can’t stand but you have no choice but to be around them every day? Need some sure-fire exit-the-conversation tips.

    • june2

      The best one I know is to literally ignore their demands for social interaction, to their face. It takes nerve but just occupy yourself and keep interactions when necessary strictly to the point. Someone did this to me once and I was both mortified AND impressed. And then, do whatever it takes to create a better reality for yourself asap. (Get another job, apartment, divorce, etc…).

    • Bo

      It’s amazing how well people can handle a simple, unfiltered “no thanks”. We all say yes to so much bullshit these days, no is already a surprising answer – few people push beyond it for a reason why

  • shanthaferrara

    I realised he had a v hairy back after putting my arm on his shirted shoulder. Made my excuses and ran off on to Shaftesbury Avenue to jump into a black cab home.

    • Jeanie

      Omg, it’s just hair!

  • tmm16

    I 1000% believe in telling someone if you weren’t feeling it after a first date or telling them if the flame/interest has died after. Honesty is key. Also, the $20 advice is very good. I unfortunately had this happen to me once and had to make an excuse, lay some cash on the bar, and walk away.

    btw, Happy Birthday, Amelia! From a redheaded Taurus to another – hope you have a great day!

  • Amelia

    My roommate and I have a code- I text her, tell her to call me, pretend it was my boss saying I need to get back to the office ASAP, as one of my photographers is on set in Japan and because of the time change needs something desperately.

    Worked like a charm 2x. Even late at night “because of the time change”.

  • 1+1=1

    This is so relatable. I used to be on a date with a guy that acted really insane and that was not even funny anymore, I was scared, even though we were at the restaurant. I go to WC, call taxi and got the hell out of there. With no excuses and “goodbuy”

  • OMFG WHERE WAS THIS LAST WEEK WHEN I SAT AND LISTENED TO HOW MY DATE WAS GOING TO GET A PET PARROT FOR 30 MINUTES!!!! oh and take “two weeks off of work to bond with the parrot”. My one drink plan did not work because he fucking knew the chef who sent us over round two. I didn’t drink it, so he drank it. I’m still cringing and crying.

    • Senka

      Your date sounds so much like me and it just made me cringe and realize how weird we, the bird people, are. I haven’t exactly taken days off to bond with either of my parrots, but I do offer unsolicited parrot stories and anecdotes whenever possible. I know it’s annoying but simply can’t stop. 🙁

      • Bo

        Lol @ The Bird People

        • Senka

          Trust me it’s a thing. I joined a facebook group of parrot owners, and before I know it I’m joined into like four of them and my news feed is spammed with cute birdie photos. Plus I throw around words like parront and fid (feathered kid) like there’s no tomorrow.

          • Bo

            Omg I have opened a door here that I didn’t know existed. Doesn’t the bird’s terrifying pointy beak like, scare you though? Or its horrendous scrunchy flapping wings? Coming from a total bird racist, I’m sorry

  • Suzy Lawrence

    While drinks do help me relax a bit (and dating should be super fun and relaxed), I’ve also found that I get much more tolerable after a couple beers. I’ll think back to how ridiculously rude a date was, but how bc I was three drinks in I was able to be positive and empathetic and stick it out. Now that I’ve reached a new peak of self confidence and acceptance, I only do coffee on the first date so I’m in the correct mindset to pick myself up and call a spade a spade, if need be. I’m not trying to be preachy, I totally dig grabbing a drink with a guy you like and having a fun, relaxed night, but for me, now that dating has become actual “dating” (usually involving strangers), I’ve learned what my limits are.

    • Anna Rebekah Forman

      Such good advice! I’ve realized I struggle with this as well and can find the good in anyone, especially after a cocktail in. I think as we get wiser with dating, you have to learn that it’s not being tolerable of someone on a date, but more so actually connecting. Albeit, I’ll probably be more nervous going on a coffee date, but in the end it’s the better decision!

    • CM

      do you mean tolerable or tolerant?

  • BarbieBush

    The only really bad date I had involved a man telling me about his hobby of visiting cemeteries, which for some reason at first sounded cool but he was pretty rude to me when I pulled out a pink bunny cell phone case.

    • Bo

      It is cool! Have you ever done a tour of a cemetery? Not in a goth way at night, just in a daylight sense with a local historian. I did one once and loved it a surprising amount. Doesn’t stop him being a jerk for dissing the phone case though

      • BarbieBush

        Lol okay!! I believe concept it could be interesting.

  • Kay Nguyen

    I have been to a number of bad dates but I never knew how to end it, I just suck it up and hope my date noticed that I’m not interested! I’m just don’t want to come across as an asshole…

    • jillygirl

      Your bad dates are bad because they are NOT noticing how are feeling so
      it is never going to work out if you are “waiting for them to notice you
      are not interested”. Dude, you’ve got to take charge when it sucks. There are good suggestions in the comments, like saying, “thank you for taking the time to meet me but I don’t see this date going any further so I’ll say goodnight now”, or the like. Then pay for yourself and leave. Wait for your cab at the bar though, not alone outside.

  • Hanna Kubis

    I went on a date with a guy who pulled out a large dried-up beetle from his pocket and insisted that I pet it. TOP THAT!!!!

  • I LOVE this – I’ve DEFINITELY been in too many situations like this, could’ve used this advice before!

    I once had a first date that was impossible to escape, though. I thought we were going fishing for a couple of hours on the pier — we ended up going deep-sea fishing for what turned out to be a NINE HOUR daytrip, the most of which I spent being violently seasick over the edge of his boat. Couldn’t really throw a $20 down and swim back.

    Needless to say, there wasn’t a second a date…

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    • Katie Miller

      For a FIRST DATE? I am so sorry, that sounds horrific 🙁

    • june2

      Oh no! I have a horrible fish story too! First date, ocean jet skiing on one ski, meant to be a jaunt out about two miles for a little deep sea hang out to enjoy the view (maui – the islands are very scenic from the ocean), then back. Little did I know he had a fishing line stashed which he used to catch almost immediately a giant mahi mahi, and which he then, well I won’t describe the events as they involved an aluminum baseball bat – let’s just say it was a traumatic turn for me, a vegan, #1 and #2, I realized I was two miles out to sea on a tiny vessel with someone I did not know very well (but we worked together at least, which is why I felt ok accepting that type of date), who felt comfortable wielding a baseball bat to end life with. Ugh. Then he made me drive back so he could hold onto the enormous fish, his “biggest ever!”, to keep it from falling out.

      Has anyone ever driven a jet ski on the open ocean for two miles? Do not do it! I had to ice my forearms and they were still solid blocks of pain for TWO WEEKS. It hurt to even flex my fingers. Live and learn.

  • This is going to sound so crazy but I have been on only a few dates having met my husband at the ripe old age of 18, and none of them were bad. I am a little sad that I have no stories to tell! Sounds like people meet a lot of weirdos and I find those encounters absolutely fascinating! Except for the creepy ones – obviously.

  • Chess

    I went on a date with a guy to a comedy gig and he HECKLED THROUGHOUT why are they like this

  • tiabarbara

    I once had a date flake on me twice, and I decided that he deserved a third chance (because I was dumb and he was so pretty) and I waited at Universal Studios for him FOR 3 HOURS!!!!! There’s nothing quite as sad as walking into The 3 Broomsticks and telling the usher that you’ll be eating alone.

  • Forever Great

    I escaped a horrid date just hours ago by ducking under the table briefly explaining that I thought my probation officer walked by. Then I started blowing ass until even the old couple behind us commented something like they thought a dead baby was under their seat, if your going to ditch the date MAKE IT FUN, so that you’ll be comfortable doing it at a moment’s notice!!

  • I’d like to add two additional reasons to leave a bad date. 1) Potentially the longer you stay the more negative you could tend to feel about dating in general. 2) It’s a very empowering feeling to ‘take care of yourself.’

  • Christina

    This really only works for a date where you’re just getting drinks, but arrive first and go right to the bar and buy your drink for yourself before he/she arrives. Then you are fee to bail at any moment. And then when you’re not feeling into the date anymore just finish your drink and say, “thank you for the evening, I’m going to head out now. Have a good one!” And then go! That’s it!! No excuses needed!! And it’s not rude if you say it in a friendly and polite way

  • starryhye

    I’ve been out of the dating game for over a decade now. But back in the early 2000’s (before on-demand car service apps, hell, before apps!) if you needed to get out of a situation, there was one fool proof way. Tell them you have diarrhea. Yes, you have to swallow your pride a bit for this, but no one will question you. You are free to go on your merry way. You’re welcome 😉

  • NDStorey

    Worst first date ever:
    1) invites me to a diner for BREAKFAST on Sunday. Not brunch.
    2) orders cereal.
    3) starts complaining about obamacare
    4) starts chatting with fry cook about how bad Somali immigrants are.
    5) I left and stuck her with the bill

  • Frieda

    I’ve already read this article when it first was published and today I re-read it after having to end a bad date (I am sorry, but I don’t feel well – I want to go home. Call some friends instead to enjoy the rest of the evening but I will leave you now). I don’t owe anyone an explanation for exiting a situation that makes me feel uncomfortable. PERIOD. Thanks so much Amelia!!!

  • jake101goodale

    “You never owe anyone any explanations for exiting a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable”
    Couldn’t disagree more, you do owe an explanation if you are bailing on someone who took their night off to spend time with you.
    It can either be a lie to be polite or straight up honest about not being interested. Unless they are directly threatening your physical safety you owe them an explanation. Being “uncomfortable” is not a pass.