The Best Thing to Say (or Text) After a Bad First Date
The other night, I went on a bad date.
I hesitate to call it a bad date because there was nothing specifically awful about it — he showed up on time, asked the right questions, and slipped his hand into mine at the end of the night without making it awkward.
Really, it wasn’t a bad date — it was an okay date.
There was no spark, no connection, and throughout the entire night, there was an odd gut feeling about the guy that I just couldn’t pinpoint. It felt like I was drinking a cup of lukewarm coffee — I could tolerate it and maybe even enjoy it if I really tried, but I wasn’t going to order it off the menu.
Part of my uneasiness may have had to do with the circumstances behind the situation. My date was a guy from one of my classes who’d asked me out once before. Still raw and nursing my emotional wounds from a recent break-up, I’d declined his offer.
A couple of months later, I encountered him again and we spent an hour or so talking. He asked if I was seeing anyone and his eyes lit up when he found out I wasn’t. Even though I could already feel the lack of a spark, I felt obligated to give him a chance.
I figured that, in a more romantic setting, things might feel differently. As if a romantic connection might suddenly pop up underneath the dim lights of dinner or while we strolled together in the chilly winter air.
Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Although I usually like to go on two or three dates with someone before I even think about emotional connections, I could just tell that nothing was going to come of this situation. There were no red flags — it was just an uneasy gut feeling that made me hesitate when he tried to make more plans.
When I walked away from the date, we had tentative plans to meet up later in the week. I debated following up on those plans and seeing him one more time to make sure there truly wasn’t something there, but thinking about it only made the uneasy feeling in my gut flare back up.
I didn’t want to drink lukewarm coffee for a second time.
I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Next came the hard part — letting him know that I didn’t want to see him again. Although I don’t necessarily believe ghosting is wrong, it’s not a habit I like to practice. When I can, I prefer to be direct and honest.
When he messaged me the next day, I didn’t waste any time:
Hey, I had a great time last night, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m just not sure I felt much of an emotional connection. You seem like a great guy and I’d be down to hang out as friends, but I just don’t see anything romantic happening between us. I hope you understand.
This isn’t the first time I’ve sent a rejection text after the first (or even a third) date. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a rejection text too. While rejection texts aren’t fun to get (especially if you’re into the person), there’s a weird sense of relief that comes along with them. Instead of getting led on for weeks or months, nobody’s time gets wasted.
Most people that I’ve rejected have appeared to agree with this sentiment — but this guy didn’t seem to be one of them:
Whoa, hold up. Don’t you think you’re being a little impulsive here? Give me a chance.
Although I’d normally agree that there’s nothing wrong with a second chance, this wasn’t one of those times. Not only was I sure that things weren’t going anywhere, but something told me that trying to have this conversation after a second or third date would only be worse.
I tried to explain my side of things:
I know this might come across as impulsive, but I really don’t feel much of a connection between us other than friendship.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to let me get off that easily:
I did feel a connection between us. Are you just afraid of getting hurt?
At this point, I was feeling mildly frustrated:
No, it’s not about getting hurt. As I said, I had a good time, but I just didn’t feel the connection.
After repeating myself, he had to throw in the final word:
Okay. I’m not sure if we can be friends after this. I need to process this — I’m really hurting.
I apologized one more time and that was that.
Like with any rejection, hearing that you’ve hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t feel good. It results in a weird cocktail of guilt and self-loathing that almost makes you want to take it all back.
However, having gone on only one date with this guy, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical about just how truly heartbroken he was. Maybe his pride was hurt and he did have some feelings, but a few hours and surface-level conservation at a restaurant isn’t enough time to truly get to know someone.
After his last text, I apologized again and left it at that. The guilt remained, but there haven’t been any regrets — I stand behind my decision.
Even if things played out a little rougher than I would have liked them to, I still find that a carefully-worded rejection text is the best way to finish off a bad date.
Honesty is golden
When it comes to rejection in romantic relationships, there are plenty of cliches that people like to lean on: I need to focus on me right now, I’m just not in the right place for a relationship, or I don’t have the time for a relationship.
These phrases tip-toe around the real issue and they sound like an easy let-down, but they’re rarely true. People like to use them because they think it disguises the truth — that it avoids blame and puts a pretty pink ribbon on a gift that nobody wants.
However, most people understand when they’re being fed a line. Rather than making the other person feel better, you’re creating more questions. In the back of their mind, the rejectee is always going to wonder where things went wrong.
In my own experience, I’d much rather hear that someone just isn’t all that into me than be fed another cliche line.
Even if it sounds harsh or feels harsh to say, taking an honest approach can make for a cleaner ending (and the other person may appreciate it more).
That being said, I don’t think there’s any reason to be brutal. Telling your date you don’t want to see them again because they’re ugly or boring isn’t any more effective than letting them know you didn’t feel much of a connection.
You can’t control how the other person responds
Given that this post is all about finding the right thing to say, using this recent example may seem counterproductive — after all, my date didn’t take the rejection as gracefully as I thought he would.
However, I use it to make one more point — even if you say the right thing and give your date the honesty they deserve, you still can’t control how they respond. Even if you’ve only been on one date, the other person may question you, become hurt, or respond angrily to your rejection. Once you’ve given your explanation, there’s really nothing else you can do — your responsibility for someone else’s feelings is limited (especially this early on).
If the other person tries to guilt-trip you into a second chance, going on a second date out of pity isn’t a result that anyone wants. Regardless of what they say, it’s important to stay honest and stick to your guns. Worst case scenario, if they try and harass you, there’s always a block button at your disposal.
Bad dates come in all shapes and sizes — there is no specific “right” thing to say, but you can be truthful. Honesty may not always be well-received, but in most cases, the other person will appreciate a straightforward response rather than being fed a line.
As for me, my date didn’t go anywhere as well as I would’ve hoped it to, but I still believe honesty is the best policy.