8 Ways To Get Out of a Bad Date, Gracefully

It happens to each of us at some point.  Your eagerly anticipated first date has gone totally flat, and you’re sitting there wishing for a major catastrophe to get you out of your minor catastrophe.  You don’t have to fake a heart attack or set a tablecloth on fire to get out of a bad date, though — there are easier ways to do so.  Check out some common bad date scenarios, and some of the best ways to gracefully exit stage left without embarrassing your date — or yourself. 

Bad Dates Are More Common Than You Think

First, you should know that you aren’t alone when it comes to bad dates.  For Valentine’s Day 2023, U.K. roadside rescue provider LV= Britannia Rescue commissioned a dating survey that asked people about their bad dates.  They found that nearly all of them reported having at least one — and about 1 in 5 of them had cut a date short because it was so bad.  

And while some dates are hilariously bad, others are a more mundane fail.  You’re not likely to get stuck paying $100 for Taco Bell while your date’s father propositions you, but it doesn’t have to be that bad for you to want out.  If you’re stuck in a tacky restaurant, desperately searching for the exit, you might consider one of these bad date exit strategies.

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Emergency Exit Strategies to End a Bad Date

First and most important, your safety is always the most important consideration.  If you find yourself in a dating situation where you feel unsafe, be sure to review these suggestions below. 

1. Straight up cancel the date

Did you ever agree to a date and then immediately regret it?  Or maybe you did a little research on Spokeo and found out that your hot prospect isn’t all they said they were.  Whatever the reason, sometimes the best time to get out of a bad date is before it even starts.  In fact, in a survey carried out by OnePoll, 44% of those polled had canceled dates because they weren’t feeling it.  Here are some tips from OKCupid on how to get out of a bad date politely — before it even starts.

What To Do

  • Cancel as early as possible; it’s the considerate thing to do.
  • Be honest without being rude, which will help avoid misunderstandings.  It’s a lot easier to say, “After thinking it over, I just don’t feel like things will work out between us,” than it is to make excuses for the next three weeks until they figure it out for themselves.
  • If you don’t want to see them again — like ever, — block their profile in your dating app after your conversation.  If your conversations have moved to other platforms, like text or Messenger, you may need to block them there, too. 
  • Pro Tip: If you’re concerned that they won’t take no for an answer, take the extra precaution of searching for any other dating profiles they may be using (Spokeo has a tool for that), and block those, too.

2. Just say you’re not feeling it

Sometimes, the kindest way to end a date that’s not working is to be honest about your feelings.  It could be the fact that they remind you of your dad (and not in a good way) or you just getting a weird vibe.  Maybe they chew with their mouth open and you can’t imagine sitting across the table from them for one more moment, let alone a lifetime. 

What To Do

You don’t have to be cruel to be kind.  You can just state your feelings honestly without going into specifics.

  • Thank them for taking the time to get to know you.
  • Say, “I’m really not feeling a connection and I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”
  • Wish them well and be on your way.

3. Make an excuse to leave

You’ve hung in there for long enough to know that this isn’t Mr. Right — not even Mr. Right Now.  You’re not doomed to sitting through two more hours of boredom just to end your date gracefully.  You can make an excuse to end the date early and leave. 

What To Do

Make your excuse believable.  If you can’t think of anything, try one of these:

  • I’m sorry to cut this short, but I have a lot of work to finish for tomorrow, so I’d better get home.
  • I hate to do this, but I’ve got an early start tomorrow, so I need to get in at a reasonable hour tonight.
  • I need to get home so my babysitter can get going. 

4. Use your emergency backup plan

Some situations call for more elaborate maneuverings.  If you’re not comfortable saying you’re not interested, or think they might try to talk you out of leaving early, you can call in the cavalry in the form of a pre-arranged emergency extrication plan.

What To Do

  • Make arrangements with a friend beforehand to call you at a specific time during your date.
  • If things are going well, it’s just a check-in — thank your friend for the call, and tell them you’ll talk later.
  • If, on the other hand, you need an out, your friend has a “sudden emergency” that requires that you leave right away.  You have to pick them up because their car broke down, for example.  Or it’s your neighbor calling to say a pipe has burst and you need to get home immediately. 
  • Say thank you, apologize and leave gracefully. 

5. Plan ahead for a short date

One of the easiest ways to get out of a bad date is to avoid long first dates in the first place.  Just start with the assumption that any date could be a bad one, and set yourself up with an out from the very beginning.  That way, if your date turns out to be torture, you’ve already got a set time limit.  If, on the other hand, the two of you click, you can easily extend the date or make plans to meet up again.  Check out these ideas for short dates that are easy to end.

What To Do

  • Meet for coffee in the afternoon instead of making dinner plans.
  • Plan an activity, like bowling or mini golf.  If you need to end the date, you have natural break points to do it gracefully.
  • Tell your date ahead of time that you have a time limit — a Zoom meeting at 8 p.m., for example.  That way it’s not a surprise when you have to leave — and if you’re having too much fun to quit, you can pretend to cancel your other plans. 

6. Get a sudden headache

You didn’t have the foresight to set up an emergency plan, and now you’re stuck sitting across from someone who just won’t stop talking about their ex.  It’s time to get creative and invent an excuse to leave early — and what’s a better excuse than suddenly not feeling well?

What To Do

  • Wince a few times, rub your temples and then regretfully tell your date that you’ve got a major migraine coming on and need to get home to a dark room.
  • Suppress a belch and look a little queasy.  After a minute or two, blame the questionable quesadilla you had for lunch and make a dash for the bathroom.  When you return, apologize for cutting the date short, but you’re really not feeling well at all.

7. Spill something on yourself

Don’t trust your acting chops?  Get klutzy.  Knock over your glass of wine, or really go for the gold and overturn your entire plate of ravioli into your lap.  Of course, you’re going to want to get home immediately to change out of your soiled clothes and repair the damage. 

8. Enlist help

All joking aside — if something about your date raises warning bells and makes you fear for your safety, just get out.  If you’re at a pub or other public spot, enlist the help of the bartender or a server.  They’ve often had experience in dealing with similar situations and can help you extricate yourself from the situation and see that you get home safely. 

10 Excuses To Cancel a Date

Sometimes you just want to get out of going out, but don’t want to leave any hard feelings.  These excuses are especially useful if you think you’d like to see the person another time — just not tonight. 

  1. My sister unexpectedly showed up at my front door and I have to stay home with her.
  2. My boss just dumped a load of work on me that needs to be on his desk tomorrow morning.
  3. My car won’t start.
  4. My babysitter canceled at the last minute.
  5. I should have checked my calendar — I forgot that I have to attend another event that night. 
  6. My best friend just got dumped and really needs me for moral support.
  7. I have to go out of town unexpectedly for work — I’m in the middle of packing my bags right now.
  8. I have a plumbing emergency and have to stay home to wait for the repairman.
  9. I have a family emergency.
  10. I tripped and fell earlier, and my doctor says to stay home and keep ice on my ankle tonight.

How To Avoid Bad Dates

One of the best ways to avoid bad dates is to spend time getting to know each other before agreeing to meet in person.  Choosing the right dating app can help with that.  So can doing a little research on the person beforehand.  Spokeo provides tools to help you learn more about people you meet online with as little as an email address, a phone number or even a social media handle.  A few searches can save you the embarrassment and trouble of having to come up with an excuse to get out of a bad date.


The Independent – Date or Dash: The Top Excuses Brits Use to Get Out of a Bad Date

Women.com – How to Safely and Smoothly Leave a Bad Date

OKCupid – How to Cancel a Date Politely

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