There’s only so much you can tell about a person from their online dating profile—and until you really get to know someone, even a real-life encounter is kind of a gamble. No matter how tough your selection process is when you’re swiping left and right, at some point you’re bound to end up on a date with someone you really don’t want to be with.
Then what? On the one hand, you don’t owe a near-stranger your time—especially if they’ve said or done something that, to you, is a dealbreaker. On the other, you probably wouldn’t like it if your date just up and bounced. According to psychologist, dating coach, and relationship expert Dr. Paulette Sherman, the appropriate response will vary based on what exactly your issue is with your date. Some situations call for tact while others just require you get yourself the hell out of there ASAP.
How do you tell which is which? Keep reading.
If they’re perfectly nice, but you have zero chemistry
This one kind of sucks. If the case is that there’s nothing wrong with your date, per se, you’re just not feeling it, you should probably do the polite thing and see it through. That said, you don’t have to feel bad about leaving quickly: Sherman recommends sticking it out for 40 minutes or one drink, whichever comes first.
If they’re making it hard for you to exit gracefully
If you can’t find a polite way to get out of a conversation, or they’re being pushy about keeping you there, Sherman suggests saying something like why you need to be up super-early the next day, you have family staying with you, or you’re meeting an old friend and can’t cancel. Set a hard, out-of-your-hands deadline as an excuse and stick to it.
If you feel unsafe
In this case, you need to do whatever feels right. If your date is making you uncomfortable and you don’t feel OK storming out, there are a few stealthier escape routes. You can head to the bathroom and text a friend to call or come meet you, or you can use the app Bad Date Rescue to get a fake phone call if you want a good excuse in a pinch. Some bars also have codes like “Angela,” “angel shot,” or “on ice” that’ll summon help from the staff—find out if the one you’re at has an equivalent. But if you feel really freaked out—and you’re not in a public place—don’t feel bad about calling the police.
If they’re getting the wrong idea
If you don’t think things are going well but your date seems to think it is, make sure your body language gives off a clear platonic vibe to let them down easy. Keep the conversation brief and avoid leaving together. If that doesn’t give them the hint, a handshake at the end should do it.
If they ask you out again, and you know it’s a definite nope
Be honest. Sherman recommends something like, “You seem like a [great] person, but I don’t think we’re a match.” You can also use that script over text if they ask you out a few days later. If they don’t say anything about getting together again, feel free to stay silent on the matter. After all, it’s not ghosting if it happens mutually.