Most people have been on a date they didn’t totally love being on, but it’s difficult to know if and when it’s necessary to leave before it’s actually over. Even if your date-night makeup and carefully selected outfit are on point, you never know what’s going to happen once you arrive. Sometimes you just know after a few minutes of chatting that there’s not going to be a love connection — like ever. Whether it’s because you notice a serious red flag, are stuck in one of those places you should never go on a first date or find out your date possesses one of your non-negotiable deal breakers (yikes!), there are times when it’s okay to cut your losses and get outta there. We picked dating and etiquette experts’ brains to delve into when you should and shouldn’t leave, and find out how to bow out both politely and effectively.
1. Identify why you’re not feeling it. First thing’s first, you’ve got to pinpoint the exact reason why you don’t want to stick it out for the rest of the date. When it comes to leaving early, our experts pointed out that there are both good and bad reasons. Etiquette and lifestyle expert Elaine Swann says that if you observe your date being aggressive and condescending toward others, it’s a pretty clear indication they will eventually be the same toward you. “I say RUN in this situation! Also, if your date has had way too much to drink and the night is still young, put them in an Uber and send them on their way.” You might end up going out another time, but being super drunk on a first date isn’t a great look.
Certified Dating Expert Damona Hoffman says you should make a list of your really major deal breakers before you start dating seriously. That way, if you see a red flag, it will be abundantly clear that this person is not for you. Bad reasons? Lack of “chemistry”and inconsequential preference differences. “Too many people are quick to dismiss a date because of arbitrary reasons or a lack of chemistry, which can take time to develop,” she says. Also, just because your date doesn’t share your passion for The Biebs or Harry Potter (who could hate the world of wizardry?!), that’s not a legit reason to write them off. You never know — you might be able to help them appreciate your interests sometime in the future.
2. Let them know you’re out. It’s best to be quick and honest when telling your date you want to head home. “When it’s clear a date is headed south, sticking around will only make you resentful and deplete your interest in other dates. Honesty is always the best policy,” says Hoffman. “Couple that with a compliment and you’ll be out of there in no time.” Something like, “You seem really great, but I don’t think we’re a good fit for each other,” should do the trick. Once you’ve decided to go, stick with your plan. Most dates will try to convince you to stay if they are feeling something for you even if they sense it is not reciprocal. “You don’t owe it to a date to make them understand your feelings, but you do owe it to yourself to honor yours,” she points out.
Of course, if you feel unsafe, simply stating that you’re leaving is more than enough explanation. “Do not allow yourself to be convinced to stay any longer than you wish,” says Swann. “Because you don’t know the person well, it’s difficult to know how they might handle adversity or becoming upset, and you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way.”
3. Make your exit. While there is usually heated debate over who should pay for what on a first date, in this case the answer is pretty simple. “If you know you are not interested in seeing the person again, it’s a good idea to offer to split the check and thank them for their time,” says Hoffman. Even if you wouldn’t normally offer to pay on a first date, it’s a good idea to at least make the gesture if you’re leaving early. If you need to leave because you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsafe, call yourself a taxi and throw down some cash on your way out. That way, you don’t have to prolong the discussion of who is paying for what.
4. Don’t get discouraged. Even though it might not have been a fit, a date is never a waste of time, since you are both learning more about yourselves and what you need in a relationship, says Hoffman. “That being said, I usually recommend a three date rule for my clients. Don’t be too quick to dismiss a date as long as you feel comfortable and safe around them. Many people are not themselves on the first date, and if you’re looking reasons to ditch someone, you are likely to find them.”
Instead of fixating on little things you’re not too sure you like about someone, try to just focus on the moment. “Ask yourself if you could spend one more hour with this person rather than wondering if you could spend the rest of your life with them. That’s a question that really can’t be answered on a first date.” So unless there are major red flags, do your best to stick it out and give your potential boo a fighting chance. You might find by the end of the night you actually enjoy their company, even if they hate your favorite movie.
Have you ever left a date early? How did you do it and why? Tell us about it @BritandCo!