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Things You Can Learn From a Bad First Date

photo of Laura
by Laura
Things You Can Learn From a Bad First Date

Let’s be honest: bad dates are something we’ve all experienced. The process of dating can be endlessly fun, but once in a while, you’ll go a date that’s so toe-curlingly bad that you’ll want to immediately renounce your commitment to dating and hide in your room forever. But of course you get over this, pick yourself up, and get back on the scene.

But we’re here to tell you that something good can come from a terrible date. Even when dates don’t go as you hoped they would, they can be used as a learning experience: this principle applies to dating as much as anything else in life. We want to change the dialogue around bad dates and emphasise the positives that can come from them as part of our Love With No Filter campaign, celebrating a more authentic view of dating and relationships.

If it’s full of awkward silences

The scenario: Truly one of the most dreaded dates: when you have nothing to say to each other and even the time it takes to gulp down one drink feels like an eternity. It might be that you’re both perfectly sociable, chatty people in other circumstances, but for some reason when you come together all you can produce is sad emptiness.

What you can learn: The ideal way to learn from this kind of date is to teach yourself not to find silences awkward. Try to accept them as a normal part of conversation and don’t force yourself to fill in gaps in conversation by blurting out any old thing that enters your brain. Of course, this is much easier said than done as it’s natural for silences to make you feel awkward, especially with someone you’ve just met. Something that you can easily take from a date like this is to prepare a list of questions you can ask in advance. This might sound trite, and it might not turn the date around but it can be a real lifesaver if it helps you drag yourself through slightly less painfully. Read our suggested first date questions for inspiration.

If you have nothing in common

The scenario: This won’t necessarily be the worst date you’ve ever had. Your date might be perfectly nice, even charming, but they happen to be a very different person to you. This is fine and happens to all of us. You’ll go away feeling deflated but hopefully not sad (unless you really thought they’d be the one for you).

What you can learn: If you’re determined to avoid wasting time on dates you don’t have anything in common with, you’ll need to spend longer getting to know them before arranging the date. If you’re online dating, narrow down your options by making sure their interests match yours before you even start a conversation. If it’s offline, speak on the phone a few times before meeting face-to-face to confirm you have common ground. Alternatively, accept that you’ll go on some dates like this. It’s an inevitable part of dating that you won’t click with everyone you meet, so try to embrace it and see it as a bend in the windy road of dating.

If they’re not a nice person

The scenario: They seemed lovely when you were messaging before the date. But in reality, they’re rude, arrogant, nasty, or any combination of the above. They might be unpleasant to the waiting staff, spend the whole date bragging about their career, or, worst of all, make you feel bad by shutting you down mid-conversation.

What you can learn: This kind of date can really make you feel bad about yourself for not realising what your date was like before agreeing to meet. It’s important to remember that it’s possible to portray yourself very differently when you’re talking via message. In a face-to-face situation people have much less time to consider what they’re going to say, which means that their real personality tends to reveal itself almost instantly. So don’t think that you’re a bad judge of character – what matters is that you’ve realised your date was a nasty person before you went on any more dates. This kind of experience can also help to solidify exactly what you’re not looking for in a partner and will mean you’re on high alert for this behaviour next time around.

If they’re offensive

The scenario: You’re having a good time together, when suddenly, out of nowhere, your date says something that’s really not OK. Whether it’s outwardly racist, homophobic or sexist, or something a little more subtle that still makes you draw a sharp breath, it’s enough to put a rapid end to the date and any chance of romance.

What you can learn: Obviously this something you have no control over, so don’t dwell on it – get planning your next date with someone a bit less controversial. The only thing you might regret is if you didn’t challenge your date on what they said. It’s fair enough to not want to cause a scene mid-date, but if it’s bothering you afterwards it’s worth thinking about how you’d handle the same situation if it happened to you again.

If they can’t put their phone down

The scenario: As soon as you sat down, they had their phone out on the table. This was a bad omen: they’ve been checking it and replying to messages throughout dinner. You’re playing second fiddle to a phone and it feels bad. You know this is something you want to avoid at all costs on future dates.

What you can learn: An experience like this makes you reassess your own habits. Have you ever spent too much time on your phone during a date? This can help form your habits in the future. Ideally, keep your phone in your pocket to avoid distractions. If you have it on the table, keep it face down and on silent so you can’t see messages coming in. You might even want to consider asking future dates to do the same so you can get the best out of them. Explain where you’re coming from and phrase your request carefully so you don’t seem like you’re ordering them about. This could be the start of a phone-free date revolution!

If you just don’t fancy each other

The scenario: Everything else is there: you get on well, have lots to talk about, but you just don’t feel a romantic spark. You’ve had fun together but the actual date side of things hasn’t gone so well. Should you keep trying to see if there could be anything there?

What you can learn: The answer to this question is no, you shouldn’t. If you don’t feel a romantic connection from the beginning, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to force it. The point of chemistry is that it’s natural and no one really understands where it comes from. So how can you make yourself attracted to someone? You can’t. This is something you should take with you on future dates. Don’t waste your time trying to artificially create attraction when it clearly isn’t there. Agree to be friends but admit defeat on the date front.

If you’re ready to start your learning experience and go on some first dates, register for free now. Check out our guide to how to create an authentic online dating profile, or see our list of 8 relationship goals you actually need. If you’re after more advice, check out our hub of dating advice.