Hands up if you've experienced this: you go through all the bullshit of finding someone who doesn't immediately repulse you (rare), you spend the entire day before the date feeling like your stomach is going to fall out of your arse, you actually take your comfy trousers off and put on your slightly less comfy 'smart' trousers, you leave the house, and then... five minutes after you greet with an awkward hug-kiss-handshake combo, you realise they're a total nightmare. Or maybe just incredibly wrong for you.
What in all of hell are you supposed to do in that situation? As most women have been socialised to people please, and put their feelings second (because: patriarchy), many of us would feel inclined to stay while inwardly despising every second. But what if you'd rather slowly pry your own eyeballs from your head than spend another second hearing male feminist Dave drone on about how much he "loves to go down on women"?!
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that ending dates is a nightmare. When any kind of social meeting doesn’t have a designated ending, it can be stressful to be the one to initiate saying goodbye," says Kate Taylor, a dating expert at Match. "We don’t find it hard to leave a concert because when the lights go up, everyone knows it’s over."
And that's why dates are difficult to wrap up, because they're usually unclear.
Plus, not knowing someone makes it harder to say goodbye because we don’t know how they’re going to react. "Will they get angry? Upset? If they liked us before we ended the date, will they like us less afterwards?" Kate says. "We don’t know what’s going to happen, which means we have to anticipate every scenario, and that puts us into a state of heightened stress."
Pre-arrange the ending time
Kate recommends avoiding this murkiness on early dates by arranging the ending time in advance: "Have something to do after a date, as it takes all the pressure off. Arrange to see a movie with your friends at a set time, or book an appointment, and let your date know in advance that you’ll be leaving at a certain time. If the date goes brilliantly, you can always arrange to see each other again."
How to get out of nightmare dating scenarios
[Editor's note: If you ever feel in danger or at risk, remove yourself from the situation immediately and call the police]
Your date looks so different to their photos it's obvious they've deliberately misled you
Not in a 'their hair is long in pictures but short in real life' way. In a, they've legitimately lied to you about who they are (i.e. you thought you were meeting a sweet, blonde woman from Leeds and up shows a 50-year-old Italian man) way...
Don’t even stay for the date, Kate says. "Simply say, 'I hardly recognised you from the photos you showed me. I’m looking for someone who’s open and honest, I’m afraid'.”
It’s always a good idea to have a friend ready at the end of the phone who you can message quickly to get you out of any tricky situations. And bear in mind, if you're going down the "full honesty/full disclosure" route when you end the date, some people are probably going to get defensive. So that friend may be very well needed.
Your date turns out to be rude and/or offensive
If this hasn't happened to you, then seriously tell me your secrets. So many times I've been half a pint in, chatting to someone who seems so far so normal. And then they drop the bomb, which is, let's be real, usually a racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic comment. Either that, or they say something wildly inappropriate/overtly sexual and it makes you feel like shit.
"Block their number as soon as you can"
"Quietly let the bar or waiting staff know that your date is making you uncomfortable," Kate suggests. "Go to the loo and book an Uber. When it arrives, tell your date that you find them really rude so you’re leaving. It’s a good idea to block their number as soon as you can to avoid a barrage of messages from them." Of course, it takes a lot of guts to speak your mind like this. And, again may spur on some defensive response from your date. So do whatever feels right and comfortable for you.
Your date spends the whole time on their phone
Not exactly the worst thing that could ever happen on a date, but very bloody annoying and rude (and a common occurrence). Plus: disrespectful!
Kate says in this scenario, she'd personally send them a message or WhatsApp saying, 'Goodnight'. "It’s lighthearted enough to get their attention in a positive way, but it demonstrates that you have boundaries," she explains. "Let them make it up to you with a date in a Wi-Fi dead zone another time" if you can be arsed.
You realise they're just not right for you
It might not be that they've said something so heinous you could never forgive them, but maybe just that you realise your life goals don't align. It could even be that you just know you don't want to bone them...
"If you like their personality but you don’t feel a physical spark, start thinking if they might be a great match for any of your friends. If they would, be honest [and say], 'you’re an amazing person but I’m just not feeling the connection. However, I know someone you might be a great fit with…' My parents met that way."
If you don't necessarily want to get out of there ASAP, Kate says just relax and enjoy the drink for what it is. "Sometimes it’s easier to be yourself when you know there’s no pressure to impress, so use it as a hiatus. After the drink, thank them for a fun evening, and go on to your pre-arranged after-date."