Can This Date Be Saved?

Need some help getting back on track when things take an unexpected nosedive during your date? Here are five expert-approved ways to recover your mojo.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

ark J., 28, and Stephanie N., 32, first met in person at an art gallery opening. Initially, things were going fantastic: they felt an instant connection, easy rapport, good conversation — until a break in the steady flow of chatter led Mark to
I also felt like I had just blown the opportunity of a lifetime with a lovely woman.
compliment Stephanie on her voluptuous figure. Unbeknownst to Mark, this was a hot-button issue for Stephanie, who had been let down in the past by men who were more attracted to her physical assets than her mind. And just like that, what started out as a great romantic beginning suddenly veered into the "dating disaster zone." As he felt his mojo slipping way, Mark flew into "damage control mode," trying desperately to explain what he'd meant in a way that wouldn't insult his date. Instead, he dug himself deeper into the hole by comparing Stephanie to Kim Kardashian, calling her "healthy" and saying that what he'd meant to convey was that she was "very curvy for an Asian woman."


After Stephanie left a red, stinging handprint on Mark's face, he was asked to leave the gallery. But what felt worse to him than going home embarrassed with a bruised ego was Mark's certainty that at some point before things started to quickly unravel, the two had felt a real connection — and in his mind, he'd legitimately been trying to pay her a compliment.

"I honestly wasn't sure what exactly happened. It didn't seem real, and it took me a few minutes to regain my bearings," recalls Mark. "I was just so excited that I met someone like her and wanted so badly to tell her how beautiful I thought she was that I guess it came off the wrong way — like I was looking at her in a sexual way. But even beyond being embarrassed, confused and upset, I also felt like I had just blown the opportunity of a lifetime with a lovely woman. In short, I felt like a real loser!"

Could this first-date disaster warrant a second try?
For all intents and purposes, that could have been the end of this story — but Mark thought the connection he'd felt with Stephanie was strong enough to warrant an apology for his foot-in-mouth moment, so a flurry of emails ensued. "I felt that as a gentleman, it was my responsibility to apologize to the woman I offended, even if it was a case of miscommunication…her feelings were obviously hurt, and that's what bothered me the most," says Mark. "Certainly, I was hoping for another chance! But I thought that would be a long shot, so I decided I would be just as thrilled if she accepted my apology and left it at that."

However, much to Mark's surprise, Stephanie had also been reflecting upon the exchange they'd had at the gallery, and she too felt frustrated that things had taken a nosedive so quickly during their date. "The truth is, I am naturally built a bit like Kim Kardashian, and though I don't flaunt it, it's hard to hide. So as a result, I've had more than a few men make inappropriate comments in the past," explains Stephanie. "But it's so disappointing when you feel like you've met a guy with intelligence, honor, class, etc., and you connect on an emotional level — then the conversation degenerates into 'you've got a great rear,' basically." Upon realizing that her personal dating history may have caused her to overreact a bit, she decided to give Mark another shot and suggested they meet for coffee. "His apology seemed very sincere, and I felt that if he could give me the benefit of the doubt based on my reaction, then I should at least to do the same for him," says Stephanie. "Since that first encounter, Mark has been nothing but a perfect gentleman, and we've had many long, interesting conversations that have nothing to do with my hourglass figure."

The result: these two are now happily dating — for real. "Oftentimes, when people start dating, they don't move beyond the 'polite phase' for a few months and really don't have a solid understanding of each other," offers Mark. "I think because of our shaky start, we've both had to work harder to get across who we are and what we're looking for, so it may have actually accelerated our relationship."

The moral of this story is this: even the most tragic first date doesn't have to spell disaster for a potential relationship, but there are certain factors that must be in place for things to work. Obviously, both parties must feel a strong enough mutual attraction and connection to desire another round. Mark and Stephanie's disaster-date example illustrates how helpful it can be when both people recognize how they individually contributed to the situation (i.e., assigning too much blame on one side or the other means the relationship won't start out on equal footing either, which could be an issue down the road). So before you find yourself at the point of no return during an actual date — like the dreaded drink-thrown-in-the-face moment — keep these tips in mind for on-the-spot salvation.

Date-saving move #1: Stop talking and listen to your date
You know that instant when you realize things are headed downhill? Cut yourself off right then. If you start trying to explain yourself
Sometimes, just stepping away from a stressful situation can give you both a moment to collect yourselves…
when things feel awkward, you're totally at risk for unwittingly creating a conversational gaffe like Mark did. "Sometimes it's better to cut your losses rather than digging yourself deeper," he suggests. "Lesson learned! If I had just said something like, 'I'm sorry if I offended you; I meant it as a compliment, but let's move on to another topic,' I bet things might have ended differently that first night." An even better suggestion: Really listen to your date. Let him or her do the talking. You'll probably get more points for seeming interested because you're a good listener than by trying to dole out compliments or talk about yourself too much during awkward silences on dates.

Date-saving move #2: Take a time out… literally
If you can tell that things are starting to spiral into the no-second-date-could-possibly-come-out-of-this zone, remove yourself from the situation. As in, physically leave your date and go somewhere else for a breather. "Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom," suggests Toni Galardi, Ph.D., author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon. "Once there, breathe deeply into your belly, as this will ground you and help you release the tension that comes from feeling you may be responsible for things being off track," Dr. Galardi explains. "Then, put your hand over your heart and use this as an anchor to set an intention to be real and speak from your heart when you go back out to reconnect with the person." Sometimes, just stepping away from a stressful situation can give you both a moment to collect yourselves before the damage becomes too great to repair.

Date-saving move #3: Ask questions about your date's passions
People usually like to talk about themselves. If you sense that things are getting off track, try to change the subject by mentioning something that interests your date. "If you already know something about the person, ask questions that can draw your date out to talk about something [he or she is] passionate about; that can often get the energy flowing again," says Dr. Galardi. If Mark had followed this advice, things might have moved in a different direction that night at the gallery. "Initially we got into a conversation about education (which is obviously a passion of mine, since I'm a teacher), but he had some very interesting points of view on it as well, so I found myself thinking: OK, he's handsome, articulate, shares some of my interests; hmmm… maybe there are possibilities — until he started in on my figure, which was a huge red flag," says Stephanie. In other words, if Mark had asked where Stephanie's passion for education came from instead of panicking in a moment of silence and grasping at compliments, the conversation might have stayed positive and engaging instead of combative and confusing.

Date-saving move #4: Acknowledge what's happening between the two of you
Sometimes, the best course of action is to simply state out loud what you both already know is happening. Sharing your feelings in such a powerful way often serves you better than trying to ignore the elephant in the room. "Try saying something like, 'Gee, things got off track with us somewhere, and I feel that I may have contributed…I'd love to see if we can get to know one another without any first-date pretenses that always make it hard to be yourself,'" suggests Dr. Galardi. At the very least, you should get a little credit for being so honest!

Date-saving move #5: Be open to trying again, but don't be afraid to walk away, either
Of course, some dates simply can't be salvaged. In those rare cases, it's better to accept that you weren't a good match to begin with and move forward in your search for someone who's right for you. "If by the end of the date you really don't think you're interested in seeing this person again and he or she intimates [going on] a second date, be authentic and tell the truth — in a kind way," says Dr. Galardi. "Say something like, 'You seem like a really great person, but I think our lifestyles are just too different and I do not want to waste your time and money when we're not a match."

That said, if you're on the fence about someone, don't be afraid to give it another shot. "The slap certainly got my attention, and it did seem like an overreaction on her part… but no harm was done," says Mark. "It certainly wasn't a deal-breaker when she really seemed like a woman I wanted to get to know better — very engaging, intelligent and thoughtful — and I saw all sorts of romantic possibilities if she would just give me another chance." And Stephanie agrees: "We look at everything through the prism of our own experiences, and sometimes, that means we can be very judgmental. My best advice is to give someone a 'fair' chance and don't base everything on a first impression." And that is a date-saving mantra, indeed!

Kimberly Dawn Neumann ( is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Maxim, Redbook and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she's published two books: The Real Reasons Men Commit and Sex Comes First and is the founder of She has been on more than one date that didn't go as planned, but definitely made for a great story later.
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