Netflix’s new reality show Dating Around is just as memorable for its bad dates (Gurki and Justin) as its good ones (Mila and Charlotte). If you haven’t watched the show yet, here’s the premise: in each episode, a New Yorker goes on five dates, and at the end of the episode, they choose one person (or zero people, in Gurki’s case) to go on a second date with.
It’s kind of like a grown-up version of the early ‘00s MTV reality show Next, but much more real. As in, too real.
Dating Around includes a few instances in which people end dates abruptly. Along with that viral Gurki/Justin argument (seriously, that dude is the worst), there are two instances in Episode 5, "Sarah." First, Sarah goes on a date with a man who calls himself “Mr. John," who keeps making sexual innuendos. First, he asks Sarah, “You like it big?” when she orders the restaurant’s “Big Salad.” Later, when Sarah shares that she’s a singer, John asks for a demonstration. When she takes a sip of wine, he says, "Yeah, you don't want anything in your throat, right?" At that point, Sarah stands up and leaves without taking a bite of her "Big Salad," claiming that she has a headache and an early-morning meeting in a way that makes it very clear that she’s just fed up.
Both of these instances were awkward, but is there ever really a good way to end a date you're just not feeling?
Maria Sullivan, dating expert and VP of Dating.com, says that ending a bad date early is a good choice, because “staying on date when you aren’t even the least bit interested is never a good use of anyone’s time.” She recommends planning an "exit strategy" in advance, "in case you have to pull the trigger mid-date.” However, Sullivan advises that you keep your exit subtle — no abrupt call-outs or walk-outs. “You should never make it obvious about why you are abruptly leaving a date,” she says. “When you are creating your ‘exit strategy,’ it is important to make sure it is doable and easily believable for any scenario that you may find yourself in.”
You always want to weigh the cost/benefit: What’s it costing me to be direct and tell the person off, versus moving on and blaming it on something else?
Andrea Syrtash, dating and relationships expert and author of It's Okay to Sleep with Him on the First Date: And Every Other Rule of Dating, Debunked, agrees — but only if the badness of the date is a matter of incompatibility, rather than boundary-crossing or racism. Syrtash suggests planning the date so that you don’t have to spend hours together if you don’t click: “It’s important from the start of a blind date to not lock yourself into a three-hour dinner, for instance,” she says (so, don’t actually have a Dating Around-style first date).
Instead, she suggests a low-key activity like happy hour — that way, you can leave politely after one drink. When there's a natural way to "phase it out," simply begin gathering your things; if your date protests, you can make up an excuse, like fake dinner plans. “But unless someone is completely rude, if someone has put in the effort to show up and get there, I think it’s worth both of you trying to sit through one drink,” Syrtash says.
However, if the date is crossing boundaries like John or Sarah, or being racist like Justin, you don’t need to give that person the same consideration. “For the rude person, especially if there’s a racist comment or someone crossing boundaries, I don’t think that person deserves as much thought and care,” Sytrash says. In that case, it might be worth calling the person out and saying something like “That’s racist,” “That was really rude,” or even, “Thank you, but it’s pretty clear that we’re not compatible, I’m going to move on.”
If you do want to call someone out, Syrtash recommends evaluating the situation first. “I don’t believe you always have to confront someone to exit the date,” she says. “And one thing you have to keep in mind with some people who have no boundaries is that sometimes they’re looking for a reaction. Why put yourself in a situation where now you’re going to have a big conversation about it? It’s not worth your time. You always want to weigh the cost/benefit: What’s it costing me to be direct and tell the person off, versus moving on and blaming it on something else?”
If your date is so aggressive that you feel unsafe, Syrtash says you shouldn't confront them; instead, suddenly have a fake headache, or get a call about an emergency at work. Your first priority should be getting out safely. "Just exit the situation in a way you’re not alone: it’s not midnight and you’re walking down the street alone," she says. "Call an Uber, wait by the front door, make sure you’re not alone with the person.” She recommends planning all first dates in public places as a safety measure.
“We need to listen to our instincts, and if your instinct is screaming at you that someone is crossing a boundary in a way that feels dangerous or super disrespectful, you don’t need to provide much of a reason for moving on,” she explains. “But if it’s just not a match, I think it’s worth at least one drink before you exit.”