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I use a dating app to go on dates with people I have never seen in person. Usually we spend 1-2 hours to go for some coffee etc.

I've had dates turn up that e.g. don't look like their picture/description, and spend the 1-2 hours having coffee and talking with them. After that we never write or call again. I couldn't think of a polite way to immediately end the date (before it really begins) and not waste our time.

They are not lying, but they do not match my expectations. My normal way of ending a date is to go for a coffee, dinner, sport activity, etc. then the date ends in a natural way. The thing is that I don't want to waste neither my time nor the time of another person if I know for sure that it has no potential.

What is the polite way to immediately end a date and say goodbye if I know that there are no future prospects?

122

Reddit has a lot of threads regarding this question.

Generally, the most honest way to do this, according to what I've seen on that particular forum, is to gracefully say,

"I'm sorry but this isn't working for me. Thank you for your time; I'll pay for drinks/dinner (whatever you have), and I hope your next date works out better for you than this one did."

It's kind of a known pattern that people on blind dates have a friend call them a couple minutes in and have some kind of emergency; I personally find that dishonest and it shows an unwillingness to be frank with others.

I'd add to that a couple of things: don't offer an explanation (generally that just invites hard feelings and arguments), don't say "it's not you, it's me", be gracious and polite, and be firm.

Good luck!

  • 93
    I agree, though I do think that there are very few things that justify ending a date within the first 2 minutes. It's easy (especially on reddit) for people to argue that "oh you're just saving everyone some time by ending it quickly," but that does have to be balanced with giving people a chance t show themselves. – pip install Monica Jan 7 at 18:41
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    @pipinstallMonica That's a good comment - I really didn't consider the reasoning behind the quick exit. I'd suspect that the only reason I'd end a date immediately would be that the only honest thing in their profile is their contact info. But.. I've been out of the dating world since the 1980s, I suspect things have changed a little bit since then. – baldPrussian Jan 7 at 19:04
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    It'd be helpful to include some illustrative links to such threads - then interested folks can click through to get an idea of how skeptical they should be of Reddit's recommendations, as pip alludes to ;) – Em C Jan 7 at 22:21
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    Just curious, why not "it's not you"? – d-b Jan 8 at 19:34
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    @d-b Is it ever really "not you"? There's something about that person that just isn't right for the relationship and this may at first glance seem to reassure the other, but in reality I find it patronizing. – baldPrussian Jan 9 at 2:13
47

You can always say "I'm sorry, but this isn't working for me. Goodbye." At any time.

That said though, it would usually be strange to say that so soon. The only reasons generally would be if the person is fundamentally not as they described themselves - physical characteristics, age or whatever - or if some other issue becomes apparent such as discovering they have poor personal hygiene, or if they do something which offends you.

Apart from that though, a date is two people having a chat. The end result may be finding a partner, or it may be a one night stand, but far more likely it'll just be a chat. If you go into it with the intention of it being more than that, chances are you're going to be disappointed. More than that, it's likely the other person will figure out that you're pushing too hard and will disengage. If you go into it just expecting a chat with another person though, you can be pleasantly surprised if it leads to more than that, but if it doesn't then you've still had a good time. And with that in mind, you wouldn't bail out in the first two minutes even if it seems unlikely that it'll lead to anything more, because it's still nice to meet people.


I haven't used that technique personally, but I have had a date basically say that to me. Not within 2 minutes, but sooner than I would have expected. I was slightly disappointed, but it was what it was. She was polite and definite, so there wasn't any point pushing.

18

As a person who dates, I would find it very rude if someone left after only 1-2 minutes. Most people need at least an hour to have any idea if they are compatible with someone, either in terms of long term partners, casual flings, or just being friends. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as your date lying about their marital status.

That being said, if that hour or so passes and I find that I'm not wanting to stick around much longer, I'll say something like the following during an appropriate lull in the conversation:

I should be going now, thank you for your time.

Often you don't really need to say more since feelings of disinterest are often mutual. Depending on their response, you might say:

This isn't working for me, I don't think we should do this again.

or

I would prefer if we stayed friends.

The above only applies if you do want to remain friends!

Of course, if at any time you are concerned for your safety, don't worry about staying long for the sake of being polite and simply get yourself out of there as soon as you can.

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    There are many cases where you know very quickly if someone fits you or not. I was smitten with my now wife within the first two minutes easily. I've also been on dates where I knew that this is a waste of time before I sat down. 1-2 minutes is a bit fast, give people a 2nd chance, but one hour out of courtesy? If it's a bad first impression and it doesn't change after 5 minutes - why hang around longer? – Tom Jan 8 at 21:28
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    @Tom In most cases, if the date lasts 5 minutes, then the person leaving is the one wasting time, not saving it. The exception, of course, is if it's a matter or safety, emergency, or extreme circumstances (catfished, lies on profile, etc). If the criteria for what "fits" you can be determined so quickly, then you'd only save time by doing a phone call, video call, or simply ask the person if they meet such criteria. Agreeing to the date means you've already wasted time. Leaving early is just wasting less time. Don't confuse that for saving time. – Clay07g Jan 9 at 22:29
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    Apparently your experience varies from mine, so let's leave it at that. – Tom Jan 10 at 7:49
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This is based on dating for many years before meeting my wife, both people I met offline and online (although not via Tinder, that came after my dating days). Further I will assume that your date isn't your type, but is otherwise inoffensive. If your date turns out to be impolite, creepy, aggressive, or otherwise not behaving appropriately, you have every right to leave at any point.

What is the polite way to immediately end a date and say goodbye if I know that there are no future prospects?

In a nutshell, you can't. Ending a date this early is rude, and no amount of sugar coating will change this. If you are going for politeness, making up a semi-plausible excuse (like the cliché "have a friend call you") is probably the most non-rude way you can go (you need to decide for yourself if shaving off 50 minutes of a date that isn't going anywhere would be worth this for you, it certainly wouldn't have been for me).

But isn't it more efficient for everybody if you let them know immediately that you don't see this going anywhere?

Sure, but a deeply human activity such as dating isn't only about efficiency. How would you feel if your date came in, took a look at you, and left after exchanging 20 words? It's difficult for me to envision anybody who would not feel devalued as a person by this experience. Always keep in mind that your date is a person, too. I get that you feel like you would have rather spent this hour differently (and I too had a few such dates), but it's not worth it to, at least likely, hurt the feelings of the other person.

So how long should I stay?

About as long as the activity you agreed on normally takes. If you meet for coffee or for a drink in a bar, stay at least half an hour to an hour. If you meet for dinner, don't leave before your date has finished their meal. If you go to the cinema, you should stay at least until the movie has finished. Basically, don't make it (too) obvious that you would rather get the heck out of there than spend anymore time with your date.

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    The example given by OP was if they don't look at all like their picture or blatantly lied in their description or messages; does this change your assumption (that it's just about being not their type) at all? – Em C Jan 9 at 15:45
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    @EmC I would say it's borderline. If the pictures are fake (like, a different person) this sounds obnoxious enough to warrant leaving immediately. If the pictures are old or generously used filters - well, it's online dating, I am not sure what you expected. For lies in the description I really don't know. – xLeitix Jan 9 at 15:53
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I use dating apps quite a bit and this answer is based on my experience. You should finish the date, especially if it's only an hour long. They at least invested the time in coming out to meet you. I think it's rude to end it earlier if the other person is having a good time. If it's your first date, especially with someone you never met, I think it's clear enough to simply say "(thanks but) I'm not interested" if they invite you again.

I went on a date with someone I met online. She didn't look at all like she did in her pictures. I still enjoyed the activity (ice skating) but we didn't see each other again. It turns out she knows people I work with (who in fact recommended me) so I'm glad I didn't cut it short.

Also you can try to plan your date in parts so you only go on the next part if you both feel like it. For example, start at coffee. After 30 minutes say it was nice meeting, or ask if they want to go for a walk/dessert/movie/whatever you normally do with dates.

Another answer suggests to pay for the food/drink if you decide to end the date early. I don't recommend this because who wants to leave first shouldn't have anything to do with who pays for what. Obviously I'm not saying do the opposite and not pay, but pay the way you would normally if you didn't want to end the date early.

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To be honest, unless you are willing to be very rude, there is no way to terminate the date that early. But I'd wager that you are not setting your dates properly to begin with. I'll first give you the tips you are asking for, but please keep reading through the tips I think you actually need.

The direct answers:

  1. You may tell the person you'll be a "little late" after you know he/she is on his/her way. So you know he/she will be waiting in place rather than searching for you. Then ask for a specific detail or maybe even a picture of the place they're waiting at. If you are lucky enough, this'll give you the opportunity to check out the person first (maybe bring field glasses/binoculars if that is such a big concern for you). This may give you the opportunity to bail out and claim that you've got a flat tire.

  2. Warn a friend (or even better your sister/mom/granny) that you may need a bail-out call. Send a message to ask for it during the date such that a few minutes later the person will call you and provide you with an excuse to promptly leave. Try to make sure the other person notices that you received (rather than made) a call, and that your date also notices there is indeed another person speaking at the other side of the line. For added realism, reject the call once or twice first, then say "she's insisting, I'd better check what's wrong".

  3. Set an even shorter date frame. Though 2 hours is very short, I've once had a girl set a coffee date during my work lunch that would have lasted at most 40 minutes, then arrived 20 minutes late. If things go well, you may try to go Brexit style on your date (say you need to leave, but stay indefinitely), or even say "my other appointment got cancelled, wanna grab some dinner?".

Why you shouldn't do any of this:

  1. If I went to a meeting place, only to be left alone wondering, I'll think the person is really not interested and is quite trashy. If indeed a girl had any issue that led her not to show up, she'll only get another chance if she promptly proposes a new date. I'm not asking her out again, I'm not investing in messaging her anymore. Though you might not care about the person you've let down, you also wouldn't like to get a reputation for being a trashy person. People do talk: "Hey, I have a date set up with this girl tomorrow!" (shows picture), "Cool, I know her from X place, have fun". Later: "So... how did the date go?", "She didn't show up".

  2. Even if you don't call off the date immediately, and even if you actually had a fair reason to go attend different matters, I myself think this is very inconsiderate. When I go on a date, I'm dedicating my full attention to the person with me, so I'm not picking up my phone nor checking it. If I were to find out a friend died during the date, the whole date would ruined, and I'd feel like making up for it, almost anything can and should wait. When on a date, you've got to show your best self, this is both a matter of respect and a matter of practice. Doing well on dates is a skill you'll really want to have honed for when you strike a date with that special person. Also, half the people won't buy into the theater (so they'll be pissed anyway) and the other half will probably be left really concerned for you.

  3. I've asked this girl directly about it. She had a reason to be late, but on that occasion I had already found it very disrespectful (her being late represented 50% of our available time). She herself claimed that she wanted to check if I really looked like my pictures. I did, but she didn't. In that case I indeed could not stay longer so I really left. The problem then was: I was disappointed with her looks but was willing to give her a shot for personality, but she wasted her chance. Also, desirable people who don't need to beg for dates will not agree to such a short time frame, some people will even think you “need” to leave because you'll be going to another date afterwards, which really makes them look down at you. In summary, this approach devalues yourself too much (and remember: people talk).

A few tricks to prevent this situation altogether

  1. Talk more through messages before the date. Ask for phone number and start texting instead of using the dating app/website chat. Lying during a short chat is easy, but doing so over a few days is more difficult.

  2. Add the person on social networks. This precludes lying as well, and makes it much more difficult to use fake or incredibly favorable pictures.

  3. Ask for more pictures. Find an excuse to ask for a fresh selfie. "Oh, you've bought a new shirt? Send me a pic", "I've heard this phone of yours has a great camera, send me a pic!". Even if you ask for a picture of the place the person went to, the picture will likely contain the person. Most girls will willing send a you regular selfie if you give them the right excuse for why. This prevents the issues I'll comment next, but the main goal is to verify if the pictures are indeed of the person you are talking to.

  4. The first thing I'd always check on dating app pics was "would I recognize this person walking down the street?". Often, girls use pictures taken with very favorable angles/lightning, make-up or even special hair dressing. Or maybe the picture is blurred or otherwise seems to be taken with a bad camera. Those are the warning signs that the person might not look like the pictures. I've once (very politely) asked for a girl to send me a "recognizable" picture. I basically teased her as if I was going to ask for a nude or something similar, then straight out said "a picture that would let me recognize you if I found on the street", she did send it.

  5. There is the possibility the person was using pictures from when he/she was fit, but gained weight since them. You might ask from when those pictures were (usually, people use vacation photos, so the question is more like "when did you go to this fun place?", rather than "when was this photo taken"? But see tip #3.

  6. Are you feeling in danger? One thing is to find yourself embarking on a date with a creepy looking fellow, who you know you are not willing to give a chance, a whole different story is if by some reason you are legitimately afraid of him/her. Let's say your date is carrying a gun or similar. To avoid this, set up dates on public places with good security, I'd say at least a shopping mall, but preferably a bar/club that serves food and checks people on the entrance for guns/drugs.

  7. Is your date married? Then you can go with some sugar coated speech like "I'm not judging what you are doing, but this is something a cannot condone". This kind of person needs discretion, so you this approach is not so bad.

  8. And the most import tip: Change your mindset. You seem to be going for several dates just to check if the person is good enough for you. There are good chances that you act judgmental or anxious during your dates, which both makes it more difficult for the other person to keep their composure and gets them feeling unease. Bluntly: Maybe your behavior is ruining dates. Let yourself be just a little bit more picky on the chat session if necessary, but once you go for a date focus on being nice and fun yourself. As I've wrote before, you need to practice the skill of being good at dates for when the need arrives. I've had girls screw up dates with me (either for being disrespectful or simply for not knowing how to play the dating game). Once I'm pissed at a girl, I change the mindset to "My goal now is to remain a gentleman for the rest of this date". This is also the kind of tolerance you must have if you ever want a long term relationship. At times, this simply resulted in me denying a second date, in a few cases it really paid off to let a girl make up for some early mistake.

  9. Keep in mind that very often, people’s approach for handling a poor match in a first date is “I’m not doing this again, but I’m also not losing this trip”. This means that just because you won’t want a second date, you can still enjoy the first one (and you should!). I’ve had several of those were I was really bored and disappointed, or maybe pissed at the moment. But in retrospect, when I remember those dates, it is as if they were actually really fun. This wouldn’t be my recollection if I had found excuses for leaving early.

  • 1
    "Set an even shorter date frame" worked really well for me. I started out messaging for days/weeks and setting up several hour long dinner/movie dates, but eventually I moved to asking people out for 30-45 minute coffee dates. It was way better because: 1. Meeting IRL is the best way to determine chemistry, 2. If either's not feeling it, it's less time wasted. 3. If you both feel the date is too short, you can have a second longer one within days. 4. It's easy to fit <1hr into any schedule, 5. It was way more fun and fast paced – that other guy Jan 9 at 21:57
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    @thatotherguy : If you do this, then at least respect the time frame. I was really pissed at the girl for arriving so late. Also, keep in mind that this strategy leaves almost no room for making up for errors. I think this is very risky, and would only propose that if I was just borderline interested on the other person. – Mefitico Jan 10 at 12:23
  • I agree, and it's by design. The point is to use the early, short date to determine whether you're interested in the first place, so "borderline interested" is a fair description of everyone you'd meet up with this way. I don't have my evening plans hinged on a successful date, so there's no pressure to fix or salvage anything. If they're 20 minutes late for a 30 minute date, we'll chat for 10 minutes and it'll still probably tell me more than two weeks worth of messaging. – that other guy Jan 10 at 18:05
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I've had dates turn up that... I couldn't think of a polite way to immediately end the date

They are not lying

What is the polite way to immediately end a date... if I know that there are no future prospects?

There isn't a polite way.

You should be prepared to spend an hour with the person, and should spend that time if you are able to hold a conversation with them. If you cannot hold a conversation with them, it would be possible to end the date sooner.

Dating apps came after I was married, but I did have a blind date once that I arranged to have dinner and a movie with.
I felt obligated; taking her home before the movie didn't seem polite.
I don't regret the extra time we spend together, but WOW was it awkward - for both of us I'm sure.

There were other dates that I have been on where it was awkward at first,
but then one (or both) of us 'relaxed a bit' and the date got much better.

Be kind to people. Saving yourself an hour isn't worth possibly embarrassing another person.


If the other person has lied or you feel unsafe - totally different situation.
"I'm sorry but this isn't working for me", text someone to come get you, text 911, head out the back... whatever you need to do!

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Modern society has invested a lot of effort into drilling down the concept of "no means no". We can slightly expand on that idea to formulate a broader statement of "no person can be forced to interact with any other, no matter the circumstances". There are of course exceptions for law enforcement officials and health emergencies, but these are unlikely to apply during the course of your date.

You are therefore free to leave the date at any point of time, regardless of circumstances and without offering an explanation. This likewise applies to any stage of your relationship - from the very first date down to many years of marriage. People are of course free to judge you harshly for doing so, but hey - it's hard to make everyone feel happy in life.

Personally I enjoy conversations with strangers so I usually spend at least an hour on the date just for the sake of getting to know the other person. But if you feel otherwise, simply apologize, pay your check and head for the door.

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