How to Gracefully Exit a Bad Date

Mastering the art of extraction from a bad date isn't easy, but gracefully leaving after just one drink is a necessary skill in your modern dating toolkit and can save you both from a more difficult exit further down the line. When the chemistry just isn't right and you have to find a way to politely say goodbye, here's how to extract yourself while still being a good person.

Set Yourself Up For Success

I have a $10 bill that I walk into every date with. It's the same $10; I never use it. I just have it with me if I need a quick escape, and you should have it, too. Why $10? That's enough for one drink but not two. When you know it's not a fit right away, you've got to start planning your exit during your first drink and never, ever stay for a second if you're certain it's not a match.

Accept Your Fate

You already know you're not into it, but you agreed to this, and so did they. It'd be devastatingly rude to just walk out, so order a drink, lace up your bowling shoes, or lean in to whatever this date has on deck and treat it as an opportunity to learn a few facts about a fellow human being.

Be Friendly, Not Flirty

The temptation to flirt with your date to appease the disappointment you're going to inflict later may cause your date to get the wrong idea. Ask friendly date questions like "Do you have siblings?" or "What were you like in high school?" and avoid mixed signals like casually brushing an arm or a leg, leaning in closely, or bringing up the topic of sex in general.

Prepare For a Clean Break

Drink your beverage at the same pace they are drinking theirs. You don't want to finish at different times, leaving things open for a second round. As they are getting close to the bottom of their drink, leave that last sip in your glass and excuse yourself to the restroom. This allows you to collect your things, and your thoughts, before you walk back to your date. When you return, remain standing and say, "Well this was really nice; I'm going to head out."

Ideally, you're a strong enough person to do this without inserting a false excuse, but I am not, so I often employ one of these white lies:

  • "I actually have some work I have to finish up when I get home."
  • "I'm such a lightweight; if I have more than one drink, I'll be hungover tomorrow."
  • "I have to give my roommate's cat her medicine."

Stay Committed

Don't draw this part out. You said what you said, and you mean it. Keep your purse on your shoulder, and don't sit back down in the chair. Give your date a friendly hug if you want, and inevitably they will wave at the empty glasses and say they've got the round. If they don't, this is when you slap that $10 down, which will cover just your drink.

Exit Separately

Here you have a brief but important window to smile and exit without them. If you dilly dally on the goodbye, they will have time to get the bill, pay, and walk you out, where you'll encounter the dreaded moment of your date misreading all your signs and trying to kiss you.

Walk Around the Corner

You're almost there, but how utterly loathsome would it be to make it this far only to have them offer to wait with you for your car? Go to the next establishment and call your car from there, or simply get around the block. Put some distance between you and the scene of the crime, and you've done it! You're free!

As you employ these steps, do so gently. Dating is hard for all of us, so be nice to one another, and don't waste someone's time or money if you know it's not a fit. Do what you agreed to do, which is simply to meet, and try not to be too hard on yourself for making an exit when you know it's not a fit. It's the kind thing to do in the long run. Good luck out there.