How to Get Out of a Bad Date

Dating may be a necessary part of life, but sometimes you just want to bail out of a bad date.
Dating may be a necessary part of life, but sometimes you just want to bail out of a bad date.

"I've been dating since I was 15! I'm exhausted! Where is he?" Charlotte York, the lovable girl-you-wish-lived-next-door from "Sex and the City," blurted out this comment as she lamented the lack of eligible men she had encountered. Dating can cause happiness, excitement and anticipation, and on the other hand, stress, disappointment and embarrassment. It has become an entire industry, comprising Web sites, reality shows, toll-free numbers, singles groups and destination hotspots.

Dating takes a lot of time, energy and usually, money. So why do it? The fact that humans are social beings was established as far back as Aristotle, Socrates, Cicero and other philosophers [source: Perlman]. Then, there's a basic need to mate and carry on the species. Population is not a challenge today, but once upon a time, it was a real concern. Move ahead to modern-day psychology and you have Freud and other notable psychologists devoting their entire careers to studying human relationships. One man, Abraham Maslow, developed the famous Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy discusses the five stages that people can go through to develop their full potential. "Belongingness and love" is the third stage, just after the basic needs of biology (air, water, food) and safety (protection, order, stability). So, while dating is not essential, the social sciences would argue that human relationships are key to our existence. Since dating can be a step leading to love and potentially marriage and children, it holds an important place in society.


On any given night, people are out there dating: Some do it well, some not so well and still others handle it rather disastrously. In examining dating, the case could be made that you fail more often than you succeed; after all, if you succeeded immediately, you probably wouldn't need to do it again.

Read on to see some of those failed experiments in the study of "dateology" and discover a few ways to escape from a date gone bad.



Why It Isn't Love at First Sight

Your date may sound great, but once you're face-to-face, you realize you'd rather be home in your sweatpants. Why does a date go badly? There are many reasons why people click and just as many reasons why they don't. Here are just a few:

  1. Chemistry & attraction: Call it superficial or shallow, but we want and need to be attracted to the person we're dating. Numerous studies have been done on attraction and what causes it, and while there is no single answer, there are some common thoughts. It may be narcissistic, but people tend to be drawn toward those they have stuff in common with. This includes similar physical attributes, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, family and intelligence level. If you don't click with your date, you may find yourself looking at your watch the entire time you're together [source: Jayson].
  2. Common interests: A person may look like your ideal mate, but then you start talking. You find out she likes Bach, and you like Bon Jovi. He runs marathons, and you refuse to walk more than a block. She grew up on a dairy farm, and you're lactose intolerant. There is nothing more uncomfortable than that lull when you realize you have nothing in common.
  3. Offensive behavior: You're on a dinner date, your companion is very nice-looking, conversation is flowing and the waiter brings the meal. Suddenly, your date flies off the handle because his/her steak is undercooked. After your date berates everyone from the busboy to the maitre'd, you quietly slide under the table and slink away. This may be a fabricated situation, but anyone who has dated has most likely been there. You think you've met your match, and then he picks his teeth with a dinner knife, throws out a racial slur or lets a door close in your face.

So, the date is going badly, and you're mentally canceling the Caribbean getaway for two. How do you escape?


Good Excuses for Getting Out of a Bad Date

What to do, what to do? Your date isn't going well, and you're ready to abandon ship. What's the best way to do it? Let's look at some options, starting with some of the more common excuses:

  • Is there a doctor in the house?: Fake illness. Most experienced daters could pull this off in their sleep -- a migraine, a cold, a stomach bug. Beware, however, of that very tender-hearted date who may just want to walk you home, tuck you in and get you some soup and tissues!
  • Work, work, work: In this day and age, it's easy to pretend you have an urgent fax, text, e-mail or call from your office that you must handle. And since many jobs seem to go beyond five o'clock, this excuse can work in almost any career. However, if you're not going to go back home after your date, watch where you go -- you don't want to run into your date later that evening!
  • Bring in the wingman: This is the friend that saves your tail -- the Starsky to your Hutch, the Robin to your Batman, the Goose to your Maverick. This friend may be at the date location with you, just waiting to swoop in if you give the signal, or somewhere offsite, sending that checking-up-on-you text or call. This is the same friend that you use when you want to approach a dateable person and their friend, so they know your style. Just make sure you rehearse things ahead of time to ensure that your stories match.

Click on for some more creative escape methods.


Creative Ways to Get Out of a Bad Date

The escape methods we've discussed thus far are fairly traditional, but now it's time to get creative. After all, you are in misery, and your date is talking about bringing you to a family reunion next week.

  • Wardrobe malfunction: Ruin your outfit. This is extreme, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Spill a glass of wine on yourself; red works well. Tear your pants or ruin a shoe -- this is especially effective when dancing is involved. Lose a contact or eyeglass lens; this is good on movie dates. These will all prompt your quick exit. You may lament the loss of that special outfit, but you won't lament the loss of your date.
  • Find the Achilles Heel: In the 2003 movie "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," actors Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are in a bet. Hudson wants McConaughey to dump her; he wants her to escort him to a gala. Hudson proceeds to redecorate McConaughey's apartment, interrupt poker night, make him miss an NBA game -- anything to make him run the other direction. This is what you do when you find your date's Achilles heel -- does he not want children, does she hate sports, is he allergic to cats, is she anti-religion? Find the weakness and play it up. Your date will signal for the check and find a personal escape route.
  • The emergency: This can be a sick friend, a flooded apartment, the dog you forgot to feed or a relative you're supposed to pick up at the airport. This takes good acting, because you need the right amount of urgency while still being believable. You don't want to be so desperate as to encourage your date to come with you to help.

While these methods can be effective, sometimes honesty really is the best policy. If you're a terrible liar, click to the next page for some more upstanding methods.


Using Honesty to Get Out of a Bad Date

Sometimes honesty is the best policy for escaping from a bad date.
Sometimes honesty is the best policy for escaping from a bad date.

Sometimes, when you're stuck in a bad situation, it's best just to tell the truth. Tell your date it's not working for you, and suggest that you end it rather than waste his or her time. This approach is direct and will most likely work. Who would want to hang out once they've been rejected? Of course, for every person who agrees with this tactic, you can probably find just as many who would say it's too harsh. If you're not going to see this person again, would a little white lie spare hurt feelings? You be the judge.

It's easier said than done, but you can use honesty to avoid getting yourself into a bad date in the first place. Just as a person can know when something's right, you can also know when it's wrong. So if you don't want to go on the date, remember that you don't have to. Be honest with your potential date and yourself, and just say no. You'll save yourself and the other person a lot of time and stress. If you're having trouble being direct, here are a few other options for excuses -- most likely, you can turn one of these into the truth, so you won't feel guilty about lying:


  1. The busy schedule: Between work, social obligations and family, you have no time. If you can't seem to schedule the date, you won't have to worry about escaping it. After all, who wants to call repeatedly just to get one date? When the date-setting process becomes too difficult, the other person will likely give up. Mission accomplished.
  2. Chores: You have to clean your apartment, go grocery shopping, wash your hair -- anything involving something other than a date. Again, this may be just a temporary stopgap. After all, your house and your hair can only get so clean. But because people can read between the lines, this may work.
  3. It's not you, it's me: You're just getting over someone, you're not "in a dating place," or you're going through a selfish phase right now. Anything that sounds like it might have been used on the Dr. Phil show will usually stop someone from asking again. Few people want to take on an emotional challenge. However, beware of that eager beaver who wants to be the one to fix you.

If you need help deciding whether or not you should accept an iffy date in the first place, click to the next page.


To Bail or Not to Bail

There are many bad date scenarios and ways to escape. So the question becomes, do you stay or do you go? Regardless of the number of how-to dating books you read or reality shows you watch, it's a personal choice that will vary based on your personality, the severity of the situation and your feelings toward your date. If you choose to leave, your escape route may be determined by how gutsy you're feeling. An experienced dater may have no problem using any of the reasons discussed here, while a novice may waver. Which are you?

If you decide not to escape, there are some positives that may come out of your bad date. A bad date can become a good friend or may have other dateable friends or season tickets to Madison Square Garden. It may also make a really good story. If you decide to stick it out, be sure to focus on the positives. A bad date can be practice for the next time, when you really want it to work out. Maybe you learn how not to end up in the same situation again, or what you may want, or not want, in another date. Maybe you'll decide to say no the next time you have a bad feeling about someone, or maybe your bad date just makes you a more experienced dater. As the old saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.


Bad dates are going to happen; it's a fact of life. Just remember, in the game of dating, you can't win every time, or the game would be over. And like your mother probably told you, it's not about winning, it's about having fun.

For more dating tips, click to the next page.


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More Great Links


  • All Psych Online. "Personality Synopsis." March 24, 2004. (Sept. 22, 2010)
  • Associated Press. "Bad Date? Use Your Cell Excuse." Aug. 8, 2004. (Sept. 19, 2010)
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. "College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2009 High School Graduates." April 27, 2010. (Sept. 21, 2010)
  • Couric, Katie. "Finding true love: A look at the history of dating." Feb. 17, 2005. (Sept. 19, 2010)
  • Jayson, Sharon. "What's the attraction? Look to society, biology, not 'logic.'" USAToday. Feb. 10, 2009. (Sept. 21, 2010)
  • Kuriansky, Dr. Judy. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dating." Third Edition. Alpha. Jan. 2004. (Sept. 21, 2010)
  • & Chadwick Martin Bailey. " and Chadwick Martin Bailey 2009-2010 Studies: Recent Trends: Online Dating." 2010. (Sept. 21, 2010)
  • "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs." (Sept. 21, 2010)
  • Perlman, Daniel. "The Best of Time, the Worst of Times: The Place of Close Relationships in Psychology and Our Daily Lives." Canadian Psychology. Vol. 48, Issue 1, Pg. 7. Feb. 2007. (Sept. 21, 2010)