Did You Make A Love Mistake?

Maybe you got too wild too fast or stopped returning your date’s calls. Save face (and even a relationship) with these tactics.

By Dave Singleton

ou didn’t return your date’s call. You acted way too wild, and now you regret it. You got intimate too soon with someone and wish you could, à la Cher, turn back time.

Do any of these behaviors ring a bell? If so, and you feel remorse, sadness, or disappointment in yourself, maybe you’re experiencing what I call a dating moral
“There’s no going back and unsleeping with someone.”

The truth is that not all hangovers are caused by an overdose of beer, wine or vodka. A moral hangover occurs when your behavior and emotions spin out of your control, and you feel like it’s the morning after and you had one too many last night.

Just ask Alex, 33, of San Francisco, who says his bad dating habits have caused him more than a few moral hangovers. “I think I am a good guy, but I don’t always do the right thing. I don’t call back. I get very into a guy, lose interest, and never follow up. Afterwards, I ask myself, ‘Why did I do that?’.” Alex likes to learn from his mistakes, so his approach now is, “Try and fix it, and then make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The good news is that every morality tale is also a tale of redemption, if you change your ways. As the following five tales illuminate, there are remedies to cure some common moral hangovers and avoid future ones:

Moral-hangover trigger: You didn’t return a call from your date
“He bored me to death, but he is my friend’s friend, so I tried to be nice,” says Alex, describing a date that led to a moral hangover. “During dinner, visions of a solo cab ride home danced through my head. Apparently, he had a great time and called me twice the next day to ask me out again. I never called him back. He was a perfectly nice guy, just not for me. I didn’t want to deal with it. The friend who fixed us up got mad at me, and I guess I don’t blame her.”

Hangover remedy: Alex may not have wanted to “deal with it,” but most of the time, you end up having to deal with it anyway, by awkwardly running into your date or, in Alex’s case, getting lambasted by the mutual friend who fixed him up. So deal with the inevitable sooner, rather than later.

“Now I always call a date back. If he pushes for another date, I let him down gently by making it clear I liked him, but there’s no chemistry,” says Alex. “Occasionally, I’ll tell a white lie and say that I’m preoccupied with work and can’t focus on dating right now.”

Moral-hangover trigger: You just disappear rather than tell your date that you’re just not that into him anymore
“My friends call me ‘runaway guy’,” says Atlanta native James, 32. “I have a hard time breaking it off, even after we’ve been seeing each other a while. So I often disappear and don’t say anything, or shoot off an email. But I feel guilty about it.”

Hangover remedy: Atone by coming clean and meeting in person. “Breaking up with someone utilizing a note, a telephone, a computer, or any other means other than a face-to-face chat simply reinforces the idea to that individual that, not only do you not want to be with them anymore, but you don’t even care enough about them or respect them enough to do in person,” says April Masini, author of Date Out of Your League.

“I don’t want to feel guilty anymore,” says James. “I’m going to be more upfront about breaking up, if I’m ever in that position again. I’m learning that people can handle bad dating news.”

Moral-hangover trigger: You acted way too wild and now regret it
“I had three martinis on an empty stomach,” says Orlando native Russell, 34. “Not smart. I was way too loud, obnoxious, and sloppy. My
“Be honest about what level of dating you really want.”
date was great, and I felt like I screwed it up.”

Hangover remedy: “Call the next day and apologize sincerely—then steer clear of too much alcohol the next time you two go out,” advises Dr. Gilda Carle, relationship expert.

It worked for Russell. “I called my date the next day to let him know that drinking a lot wasn’t typical for me. On our next date, I limited my intake to a glass or two of wine during dinner. All was forgotten. But I keep that night in mind when I’m inclined to drink too much.”

Moral-hangover trigger: You got intimate too soon with someone and now you regret it
“We got carried away on the first date and hooked up,” says John, 28, from Ohio. “It was bad because I’d made such a point about wanting to build a relationship slowly.”

Hangover remedy: There’s no going back and “unsleeping with someone,” but, it’s not always a deal-breaker. The remedy is to forgive yourself and address any concerns your date has about pacing or what sleeping together means, since premature intimacy can cause stress on a budding relationship.

“I felt terrible the next day,” says John. “But when I saw him a couple of days later, he was cool about it and reminded me that it was his decision, too. We cleared the air and are still dating.”

In the future, set your limits firmly before you head out for the first date. You’ll be less likely to lose yourself in the moment. If you’re really concerned, make sure you meet you date in a public place–and no heading back to one of your home’s for a drink or a chat afterward.

Moral-hangover trigger: You indicated that you wanted a relationship, but all you really want is to have some fun and date casually
“I used to ‘bait and switch’ a lot,” says Chris, 35, from New York. “I acted like I wanted to be in a serious relationship, but I shied away from getting involved. The last guy I saw told me how puzzled he was by my mixed messages, and that made me feel bad. I knew I wasn’t treating him right, but it wasn’t his fault. It’s my conflict.”

Hangover remedy: “The first rule: No matter what the problem, ‘fess up’ immediately. Otherwise, your date will sense something is wrong and think he’s the root of the problem,” says Dr. Joy Browne, author of Dating for Dummies and Dating Disasters and How to Avoid Them.

“One night when he suggested going away for the holidays, I told him I was interested in casual dating only,” says Chris. “He didn’t want to see me after that. But at least we were honest and knew where we stood rather than hanging out in some vague, Twilight Zone together.” In the future, avoid hangovers like this by being upfront about what level of dating you really want. If you don’t, it could backfire and leave you with that morning-after feeling.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at
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