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Getting Through a Bad Date and Moving on With Your Journey

by eharmony Editorial Team - July 2, 2024

A bad date is one of those universal things, yet everyone wants to be that one lucky dater who skips gleefully over them like muddy puddles. Bad dates are also a bit of a conundrum because sometimes when you run the reel of the evening through your head, you can’t tell when it went wrong. Just that it did. 

It’s never fun but it’s also important to remember that it’s through this process and by taking chances that you find those special ones in between that are sheer magic. 

So let’s look through some tips for recognizing those ill-fated connections early on, and the best ways to get over a bad date.

5 signs the date went bad

Sometimes it can be tough to tell how a date went, especially if you’re not a very active dater. Negative cues you thought you got from the other person could’ve been misinterpreted, or the date was bad timing. So how do you know if a date went badly, without a doubt? 

Different expectations

Wanting different things from your love life is a sure relationship sinker and a sign of a bad date. For instance, they may be interested in getting married in the next few years, while you may not be looking to settle down just yet. Or they may want a serious relationship while you’re not sure if that’s right for you right now.

While these kinds of things can seem like quirky differences that may change with time and intimacy, there’s a good chance they may not. Either that or one of you may end up compromising your own individuality, which you’ll come to regret with time. 

You lacked compatibility

Sometimes you may not even have had a bad first date and got along well enough. The conversation flowed and you felt like they were a good person. But then you start to pick up aspects that prove your incompatibility.

Things like having different ideas on dating and romance. You two have vastly different lifestyles and beliefs. Or your communication styles don’t quite gel and you start feeling subtle friction. What these speak to is a difference in values. And this incompatibility and sense of difference will only become more of a bone of contention the more you date.     

You weren’t focused on each other

There’s a reason they call it sparks in dating. And a bad date just doesn’t have them. You want to get to know that person, what drives them, what dreams they have. You want to feel a deeper understanding of them and how they experience the world.

Your full attention should be on each other, not out of a sense of politeness (although manners are an important consideration), but because on a good date, you should be genuinely and deeply preoccupied with one another only. If you spent half the date looking at your phone or interacting with others, that really speaks for itself. 

The conversation on a bad date dries up fast

Although it does take time and intimacy before you get to a place where your conversations will have the vibrancy and shared history of seasoned couples, the conversation on a first date should still be somewhat engaging and not dry up every time you’ve explored a topic.

While this does somewhat speak to compatibility, it’s also about chemistry. Physical attraction is obviously a big part of an initial romance, but true connectivity is about being able to interest each other with your thoughts, make each other laugh and generally build a rapport. Dating life is too short for awkward silences.       

Neither of you attempts to make future plans together

As the date begins to wind down and you both agree it’s time to call it a night, the natural thing to say is something along the lines of “We should do this again sometime.” Or they suggest a possible venue during the date that you might explore next. It may not be set in stone but you’re discussing the future.

Usually after bad dates, those kinds of comments don’t come up. They just tend to end with a friendly goodbye, and telling your date it was nice to meet them.

At the end of the day, there are so many ways to delineate whether your date went well or poorly. But just look into your emotions and ask yourself whether that date felt right, or if it made you feel good. The most important aspect of effective dating is following your gut feelings. 

What to say at the end of a bad date

One of the hardest things to manage is if only one of you thought it was a bad date. This can happen as we often have misaligned tastes in people, or one person is lonelier and more willing to compromise, or they just think things will change. So how do you react to a bad date in a healthy way?

Give it some time

Never tell the person you had a horrible date at the date unless they really force the issue and drag it out of you. Give it a day, which will also give you some time to reflect on the date and whether it actually went that poorly, or if you may have just been on different wavelengths.

If not, try a text message like:

“Hey, I’ve thought about our date and even though I enjoyed spending time with you, I don’t think you’re the right person for me.”

Always be honest and clear

Try not to leave room for ambiguity. Firstly, you don’t want to string them along by not being definitive enough and you also don’t want them pestering you for dates further down the line because something about what you said indicated a possible future chance.

What not to text:

I really liked our date last night, but I just don’t think I’m ready for anything serious right now. But maybe later.”

What to text instead:

“I’m sorry but I don’t think last night worked out. We just didn’t hit it off. But I wish you all the luck for your next date.”

Always try to be nice about a bad date

Unless they acted completely out of line and were outright rude, try and let them down easily and say something positive about them, how you still enjoyed the night and that you wish them all the best.

Something like this:

“Thanks again for the date last night! I hope next time it’s with someone who makes you as happy as you deserve.”

Be prepared for the fact that the responses might not always be as calm and polite. Some people don’t handle rejection well. But just see it as concrete evidence that they were toxic and definitely not right for you.

A couple ending a date with the woman walking in her door smiling

How to end a date

Many people wonder how to end a date, especially when it’s a bad one. We share tips on how to end a date politely, whether it was splendid or a dud.

How to get over a bad date

Sometimes the date went well for you, but they didn’t feel the same or you still didn’t enjoy the date, but the experience has somewhat spoiled your faith in the dating game and finding someone. Here’s what to do if you have a bad date and want to move past it positively. 

Don’t be afraid to unpack a bad date and what went wrong

Take a look back at the date and try and see where things went wrong. Was it a certain conversational topic that maybe derailed the good vibe you were having? Maybe they misinterpreted a gesture of yours as rude or a red flag.

People can sometimes be extra-sensitive to certain actions, particularly in this day and age where dating can feel so disposable. Maybe there are just certain aspects of a date that can’t be unpacked because you couldn’t see them.

Don’t blame yourself but also be accountable for your mistakes

Not every bad date is down to something you did. Maybe they made the date bad? Often it can be the other person who has a completely dysfunctional way of dating or relating to people. They may be a serial dater, or just really callous with the people they meet up with.

On the other hand, maybe it was you who crossed a line or did something that may have soured the atmosphere of the date, and just didn’t realize it at the time. In this case, reaching out and apologizing or promising a better time next date can possibly make things better.

One terrible date doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your connection

We often think we’ve spoiled things with one bad first date. But often the reason the date was bad could be contextual. You may have taken them to a place they don’t enjoy or isn’t really their scene. Or maybe something disastrous just spoiled it. So while the date may have factually been bad, there may still be a chance you two share real chemistry that was just ruined in the moment – by you assuming they’d like kayaking and accidentally getting lost for 8 hours.

Just send them a short message apologizing for the terrible date and say you’ll let them pick the venue next time. They may just be intrigued enough to take you up on it.

Don’t take a bad date too seriously

We have a habit of seeing bad dates as a kind of fundamental failure on our part. We’ve once again proved ourselves incapable of finding a partner. How many more dates will it take? Will I ever find someone? Am I even worth loving? 

These thought spirals are so easy to fall into when we suffer a setback, and not just in dating. People tend to be overly self-critical. Try to see that bad date for the experience it was, that you got to go out and perhaps learn a little bit more about dating. Generally, just try to see dating for the fun and exciting experience that it is.   

Get back to it

There’s no use moping around feeling sorry for yourself – hoping that person might change their mind and message you. Look at bad dates as the luck of the draw. You can’t win them all, but you can’t lose them all either. So get back out there as soon as possible and try again. Who knows who’s waiting out there on your next date?

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Not interested in another horrible date? eharmony’s got you

Try to remember dating is always a challenge. Some people find the person they’re meant to be with early on, but it’s not uncommon to have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince or princess. That people can find each other in this vibrant cornucopia that is humanity is beautiful in itself. Building those connections into love is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

At eharmony, we’ve worked very hard to make it easier for you to find real love with people who share your interests and values. Since we got started over twenty years ago, our focus has been on compatibility, meaning fewer chances of a bad date. Our unique Compatibility Matching System searches our extensive database for eligible singles you’re likely to hit it off with right from the start. Then we make getting to know any potential matches easier with our detailed member profiles and our safe, secure in-app messaging system. It’s no wonder that over a million couples have found real love with eharmony. Sign up for the #1 trusted dating site and get started on your own journey to a serious relationship today.

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