The comforting thing about dating is that no matter how hopeless things seem, your luck can turn around in an instant. But before that happens, you have to go on a bad date (or a hundred). While they definitely suck, they’re a part of the process. Here’s how to get through the crappy parts:
- Call that one friend. Or text them since no one really calls these days. The number one cure for a bad date is heading out for some beers with your best friend. You know the friend you should be calling – they’re non-judgmental, absolutely hilarious and always make you feel better. That’s what you need right now.
- Categorize the date. There are all kinds of bad dates. The dates that are all awkward silences. The dates that seem fun but you never hear from the other person ever again. The dates that involve one really awful moment (a racist or sexist comment, a direct insult, etc.). Once you realize what category this date falls into, you can move on and stop thinking about it.
- Indulge. This means something different to everyone. It’s binging something mindless and a night off from thinking about annoying life stuff like how tough the dating game is. It’s an entire pepperoni pizza and watching the game. It’s not leaving your apartment for an entire weekend. It’s going to two yoga classes in a row. Whatever you feel like doing, go ahead and give yourself permission.
- Let yourself off the hook. It’s so easy to play the blame game and think that if you had just said something else or acted differently, the date would have gone well. But there are so many factors and you never know how your personality is going to mesh with someone else’s. Tell yourself it’s not your fault and believe it.
- Go down memory lane. It’s never great to live in the past but if you can think about some of the good dates you’ve had, that’s going to help your mental state. It’s a friendly reminder that yes, good dates are possible, and you’ve experienced them. It will happen again.
- Change your strategy. Sometimes you try to be super nice and end up staying for three hours when you know the date is a total bust. Maybe next time, stay for an hour and then politely make your exit. Nothing wrong with that.
- Follow a dream. The best thing you can do when dating gets you down is make steps toward a goal or dream that you have. Being productive will cheer you up and make you realize there’s more to life than dates.
- Break a sweat. Whether or not you love the gym, it’s just a fact that working out improves your mood. You definitely need to sweat it out when you’re getting over a lackluster night out.
- Laugh a lot. Find a comedy show in your area or watch a funny dating-focused sitcom like Master Of None. They say laughter is the best medicine, after all.
- Go another date. A rebound date, if you will. The only way to truly forget about your last bad dating experience is to put yourself out there yet again and just keep at it. It sucks, but the longer you keep worrying about how your bad luck, the longer you’re going to stay single. So try again.
Why you might want to give a bad date a second chance
- It’s better than sitting around on shopping websites all night. You say you’re going to go through all those BlackBerry e-mails from work tonight, but let’s face it. There’s a Paris-themed sale on Gilt tonight, and you’re screwed. Bye-bye, bank account.
- Maybe he was having an off night. Haven’t you ever had a date where stress from work was swirling around your mind? Where you just couldn’t get over the fact that your ex had that exact same shirt? Where you just knew that you weren’t on your game? Maybe he was, too. It happens.
- You weren’t entirely truthful on the first date. Did you tell him you’re “in social media” when you’re really just fun-employed and posting on your Facebook account? Here’s your chance to tell the truth and redeem yourself.
- Because he paid for dinner the first time. Frankly, it’s just rude to let a guy pay for dinner or drinks on the first date and then just ghost him out of existence. You don’t owe him any favors, but you probably do owe him a second chance.
- Now that you know what to expect from him, you can relax (and so can he.) Let’s be honest, it’s stressful going on a first date. You can’t go back and edit your answers like you do online. Now that you’ve got the introductions out of the way, you can really start to reveal your true personality and stop wasting time on those same-old, same-old elevator speeches.
- You’re already over your Seamless budget. You promised yourself you’d cut back, but your fridge is as empty as a freshman frat boy’s. And splitting the check at a restaurant is a totally different category on your Mint account. In fact, this is pretty much an investment. In your future!
- You’re going to Grandma’s for the weekend and you want to have an answer when she bugs you about your dating life. I know you had four children by the time you were my age, Grandma. But I’ve gone on MULTIPLE dates! With the SAME guy!
- If nothing else, just do it for the stories. Because let’s be honest. That’s half the reason you date anymore, anyway. What else are you going to talk about at brunch next week?
What to say to end a bad date quickly
If it’s really not going to work and you’d rather die than go on a second date, here are some things you can say to shut things down ASAP.
- “You remind me so much of my ex.” Even if that’s a compliment, it’s a weird thing to say. They’ll be happy to see you go.
- “My roommate is locked out.” If you don’t have a roommate, they don’t need to know that. You could also say your neighbor is locked out and you’re the only one with a key.
- “I need to go home and walk my dog.” No one can argue that one, because no one is going to force a perfectly adorable creature to wait to pee.
- “I have a 6AM flight.” So, obviously, you need to be in bed by 10PM, because otherwise you won’t get up on time.
- “I have to do laundry or I’ll have no underwear in the morning.” No one can argue that. Ladies need their undies.
- “Are your friends as cute as you?” Making them think their friends are competition before you’ve yet to meet them is scary for anyone.
- “My parents are going to love you.” You haven’t even gotten through the first course and you’re already planning on them meeting your parents? Yep, that will overwhelm them to no return.
- “I think I have food poisoning.” You may not have had dinner together, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t get sick from whatever you had for lunch.
- “I should probably tell you I’m psychic.” Follow that up with how you know exactly what they’re thinking, then yeah, they’ll be pushing you out the door.
- “I ran into my ex on the way here, so my night is ruined.” Normally, even bringing up an ex on a date is a no-no, but since you have no plans to see this person again, who cares?
- “I need to get home so my super can fix my stove.” Once you start feeling like things are going bad, subtly put it out there that you’ll have to leave soon for some apartment related drama. It’s all about the set up.
- “I’m pretty sure I love you.” Because no one, and I mean no one, is going to stick around if you drop the L-word on a first date. It actually makes for the best escape plan around.
How not to let disappointing datings experiences get you down
- Remember your Worst Date Ever. We all have one. That guy who insulted us for an entire two hours straight. The one who rescheduled a bunch of times and then had the nerve to be late. The one who straight-up requested a hook-up ASAP or talked about himself non-stop. Whenever you go on a bad date, just think about the fact that it’s probably not your Worst Date Ever, and you’ll instantly feel a thousand times better. It can always be worse, right? Somehow that’s super comforting.
- Share your stories. Our BFFs make our worlds go round and they can make the process of searching for love a lot more tolerable. Text your girlfriends and head to a bar to swap your worst dating tales. Or write about your less than amazing dates, whether for a website or your own personal blog (or even your own personal diary if you’re old-school). Tell one person or a million, just make sure you tell someone. You always feel better when you talk about something instead of just letting it slowly eat you alive.
- Indulge in some pop culture therapy. Whether you swear by T-Swift’s love-advice-in-song or are still mourning the end of Friends, the first thing you need to do after a bad date is take your mind off it. Watch a sitcom or a silly reality show or read a juicy mystery novel. You’ll be reminded that fun still exists in the world, no matter how dull your date was.
- Take a break or jump right back in. Sure, these two things are total opposites, but that’s kind of the point. Sometimes you need a serious break from dating and other times you want to go on another date pretty soon so you can definitely forget about your most recent one. Listen to yourself and be kind. You’re not a loser if you need a month to just chill out, focus on work and see your friends. And you’re not desperate if you want to line up a few dates because you’re so focused on finding The One. It’s all good.
- Break a sweat. Exercise gives you endorphins, and happy people don’t kill their husbands. Remember the fabulous pink world of Legally Blonde? Follow Elle’s super sage advice and check out that barre class you’ve been dying to try. You know that you don’t exactly feel your best after living on junk food and not moving from your bed or couch, so working out can only make things much better. You want to not dwell on your date so anything that can take your mind off it is a good idea.
- Judge yourself. In a good way, of course. Analyze the date and think about your performance. A date can feel like a job interview, which unfortunately can’t always be avoided, so consider it the same as if you were trying to land your dream job. Did you try too hard to be funny and it didn’t come off all that natural? Or were your jokes totally on point and he was just humorless? Did you ramble and cut him off mid-sentence or were you a perfect listener? We can always grow and learn and change, so think of your bad dates as learning experiences, and you’ll always be glad you went, no matter how bad the outcome.
- Judge him. Think about what qualities you want in a partner and whether this guy had any of them. Maybe he seemed pretty awesome but there were one or two things that were total turn-offs (like he’s a frequent smoker and/or has zero career motivation). This is always a good idea because then you will be way more prepared the next time you venture out to a bar in your fave date outfit (you know you have one).
- Feel like the pro that you are. You’ve gone on so many dates you should totally have a degree in it by now, so why not act like you do? You’re a pro by now and you know what makes a good date and what makes you want to run away screaming. You should be proud of all your bad dates because a) you don’t act like a damsel in distress who will accept any behavior from the men and b) you’re willing to hold out for the right person. Those are all huge pluses.
- Fill up your calendar. Take yourself on dates or spend time with your friends and family. The busier you are, the less you’ll worry about still being single or whether you’re ever going to meet a nice guy. Don’t save all your free evenings for dates that might be fun but might go nowhere at all. If you have a clear head about the whole thing, you’ll end up with what you want.
A few reminders
- Bad dates make you stronger. I know that becoming a stronger person feels like a consolation prize when you wanted a relationship, but it’s something you’ll value in future. When you become stronger from dealing with and surviving those bad dates, you’ll realize just how little you actually need to find someone.
- Every bad date is one step closer to your forever person. It might not feel like it, but every bad date you have is actually a way in which you’re getting closer to finding the right person. You just have to keep the faith that he’s out there. Maybe if you don’t meet all those jerks, you won’t be directed towards an amazing guy.
- You’ll have a better idea of what you want. When you meet all those toxic people who you thought were your type when you matched on Tinder, you’ll realize what you actually don’t want. This is so valuable to know so you can move on to bigger, better things that actually make you happy.
- You have great stories. Come on, what’s more entertaining than having loads of funny date stories? You could keep your friends in stitches with them, or use them as inspiration for a dating blog or bestselling book. Now that’s a satisfying way to turn your jadedness into an empire.
- You’re better off single. Yeah, you know that being single has some major perks, but one you might not think about or realize is that your terrible first dates could have become horrible relationships (like if you had low standards and saw those guys again). Now that’s a scary thought. Be glad you dodged those bullets.
- You can take a break. You don’t have to buy into the pressures of dating. You don’t have to force yourself to go on dates. You can take a break if you’re feeling jaded so that you don’t put so much unnecessary stress on yourself. This can feel so liberating! Seriously, go on and try it. A break from the stress and uncertainty of dating can be just what you need to make you feel better about life and stop obsessing about meeting people.
- You’re not meeting “The One” for a reason. You might always think in terms of how you’ll meet the right guy for a reason, like that you’re lucky to have such great timing, but you’re also not meeting him for a reason. Maybe now’s the time to be single because you need to concentrate on other things that bring you joy. Someday it’ll make sense so you might as well make the most of what you have now.
- You’re doing dating wrong. If you feel so bad about your love department, or lack of it, to the point where you’re feeling down and anxious about being on your own, then consider this: you’re doing dating wrong. It’s supposed to be fun and make you feel good, at least most of the time. It’s definitely time to remove yourself from how toxic it’s become and regroup.
- You’re not unlucky. Seriously, there’s no such thing as being unlucky in love. That’s just another bit of unnecessary pressure you’re putting on yourself. Just like with happiness, you create your own luck. Maybe you can’t make your Tinder matches better because you don’t have that power, but hey, you’re probably lucky because you’re not matching with them. Here’s a wild thought: Maybe you’re lucky because you’re in a position of being jaded so that you can realize what you should be grateful for. Yeah?
- You need to do something different. If you’re not getting any good results from your current dating strategies, then maybe it’s time to change things! If you don’t do different things, you can’t expect to get different, better results, right? So, instead of meeting all your dates on dating apps, try to meet guys more spontaneously in real life. See what happens. Be creative. And most importantly, have a bit of fun. You were put on this earth to be happy, not miserable.
- Your future doesn’t depend on having someone. You might feel OK with being single right now but you don’t want to be single forever. The latter is scary, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Your future can be amazing with or without someone, but that part is up to you. It doesn’t just happen one way or another. So instead of feeling terrible because you’re not finding the right person, realize that you’re choosing to be. A life partner isn’t something you can’t live without, like oxygen (or chocolate).