You walk into a restaurant and scan for the guy sitting alone, the one whose face matches the picture on your phone’s screen. Or maybe you’ve met before, and you wonder if you’ll think he’s as attractive now that you’re sitting across a table for two. Or maybe he won’t be as interested in you? (Ugh. Let’s not think about that.)
No matter how many times you’ve done this, dates can be awkward and scary. But the very worst part? The last few minutes of the date. There’s the uncomfortable wrap up, the sweaty hands, and then the wondering…
“Who’s going to pay? Should I offer? Should I argue if he wants to pay?”
“What if I don’t want to kiss him? What if I do?”
“Should I tell him I want to see him again?”
“How do I let him know I’m not interested?”
Friend, if you have ever wondered these things — sweaty, awkward self and all — know that you are so not alone. I was talking with some girlfriends about this the other day, chatting about all our strategies for ending a first date. And as I was listening and weighing in about the things I learned the hard way, I thought, “Man, I wish someone had told me these things earlier!”
So, with that in mind, here are our five best practices for ending a first date well (whether you liked him or not!):
1. First things first… what do I do when the bill arrives?
My friend Carly said it’s always best to order as if you’ll pay. Yes, most of us hope we won’t pick up the tab, but it’s good to be prepared, right? (If you wouldn’t want to pay for steak and lobster, maybe don’t order steak and lobster.)
When the dreaded moment does arrive, Carly says to take a breath. If the server brings the check or asks if you want to split the bill, give it a beat. See what your date says and does. If he pauses, seems unsure, or doesn’t reach for the bill immediately, reach for your bag and ask, “Should we split it?”
If he does offer to pay right away, you can ask, “Are you sure?” And if he says yes, smile and give him a genuine “Thank you.”
2. What about end-of-date PDA? What if I don’t want a kiss?
Friend, first of all, if your preference is to avoid kissing on the first date, you can let him know! There is nothing wrong with laying out your ground rules ahead of time to avoid awkwardness at the end of the evening.
If you reach the end of the date and decide you don’t want a kiss, you can use your body language to let him know! If you cross your arms and keep a bit of space between you, your posture will gently tell him you’re not looking for a goodnight kiss. But friend, if you find that he’s not getting the hint, or he pressures you in any way, PLEASE speak up for yourself! No matter how amazing the date was, remember there’s no — “He bought me dinner, so I need to kiss him.” No. Your affection is not a transaction, and your boundaries should ALWAYS be respected.
3. What if I want him to kiss me? (And is that so bad?)
Friend, sometimes we overcomplicate dates with a long list of rules. We think there’s a right or wrong way to end the evening, to check all the boxes for a perfect and correct date. But the truth is that it’s up to you! Check your heart. Are you ready to take that step with him? Do you feel confident, comfortable, and safe? Or do you think it’s wiser for you in this moment to wait another date or two?
The most important thing really is this: It’s up to you.
If you are hoping for a kiss while he says goodbye, know that is totally okay! Body language can help here too. Maybe stand a little closer. Lean in. Eye contact can be a powerful communicator. Show him you’re open to affection.
4. At the end of the date, how do I let him know if I’m not interested in going on another one?
It’s so easy to overthink your parting words, isn’t it? But whether you just had the best date of your life or made it through a total dud, it’s important to be kind. As my friend Carly says, “He’s still a good person and his mom loves him!” Remember that he’s putting himself out there just like you are.
If you’re not interested in another date, your parting words can be something like, “Thanks. Good luck out there!”
It’s also okay to let him down gently with a text later: “Thanks for going out with me. I think I’m going to continue going out with other people. I wish you the best!”
5. If I AM interested in seeing him again, what do I do next?
If you’re hoping and praying he loved hanging out as much as you did, resist the urge to rearrange your schedule for a second date. If he is into you, you won’t have to chase him down. Leave with a “Thanks! I’d love to do this again.” Keep it short and to the point.
If you want to follow up with a text the next day, go for it! Approach the follow-up as if this is a person who could become a friend. Send a text related to your conversation the night before. You’re simply picking up the conversation again.
Remember, first dates are very low risk. You might go on 7, 17, or 47 first dates, and only one will become your husband. (And that’s what we’re hoping for! We’re only looking for one!) At this point, remember that you’re hoping for a second date, not a marriage proposal. There’s no pressure. There’s no timeline. Keep that perspective. Dating is fun if you let it be fun!
Friends, I hope this was helpful for you. Whether your date was beautiful or bombed, parting ways doesn’t have to be awkward or complicated. Bad dates make good stories. Neutral dates teach us something about our priorities. And you never know, this next date might be the best yet!
If you could use advice or encouragement as you navigate being single and dating, I have just the thing. It’s the Girls Night podcast, where you can hear more of Carly’s tips, my conversation with my friend Jennifer on dating with intentionality, a super honest talk about sex before marriage, and so much more.
Oh, and if you’re ready for a deep dive on how to talk to guys without all the butterflies and sweaty palms (whether you’re talking online, on the phone, or on a first date), check out my new guide, “How to Talk to Guys (we also have a hard copy version).”