How To Avoid A Bad Date (Part 1)


By Melanie SchillingPsychologist and Dating Coach

After hearing your bad date stories, the #eHDateDoctor has called upon eHarmony Dating and Relationship Expert Melanie Schilling to explain how to avoid those bad dates! In part 1, Mel explores what makes a date good or bad, and reveals how to develop your own dating criteria for navigating the dating scene.

“I’ve just had the worst date of my life!” whined Jackie to her best friend, Sal on the phone as she walked home from a local bar. Sal rolled her eyes as she prepared for another depressing dating post-mortem with Jackie, “What was so bad about this one?” she asked. “I don’t know, it was just awkward, uncomfortable, weird and a bit creepy…”

Ever thought about your criteria for categorising a date as good or bad? Successful or unsuccessful?  Super-sexy or cringe-worthy? How would you know if your date was good or bad – would you simply trust your intuition or use a more considered approach?

Some people believe that first impressions and initial instincts are all you need to make a judgment call on a date. The scientists tell us we form an impression of someone in 7 seconds so surely this is all it takes to determine if a date is good or bad?

Or, is there more to it?

In the spirit of dating strategically and applying some intelligence to your dating experience, maybe it pays to have your own criteria for a good versus bad date. Of course, everyone’s dating experience and tolerance for ‘discomfort’ on a date is different so you need to have a think about your own, specific criteria for dating success.

Let me give you a hand. Most of my clients have two categories for evaluating a date:

  1. Deal breakers
  2. Preferences

Deal Breakers

Deal breakers are your non-negotiable, absolute turn-offs. They are typically linked to your highest values or deep, personal beliefs and morals. When a genuine deal breaker rears its ugly head you will feel compelled to walk away. Examples of true deal breakers are things like differing religious or political views, major lifestyle differences or differing views on having kids. For instance, if you place a high value on tolerance and your date demonstrates homophobia or racist views, you are going to categorise it as a bad date. If you are dead keen on having a baby and your date talks about his disdain for little people, you are likely to give him the thumbs down. Or, if health is your top priority but your date relates stories of her drug-induced all-night parties and junk food addictions, you’re not likely to pucker up.


Where deal breakers are almost hard-wired, your preferences are more fluid and tend to be open to negotiation. Most people find that if one of their preferences is unmet, in the presence of other positives, the preference can be overlooked. For example, let’s say you generally prefer to date men with professional jobs but your date is a tradie. Your conversation flows well and the chemistry is strong, you have lots in common and you laugh together throughout the date. You may overlook your ‘job-snobbery’ and explore this guy a little further. Or if you’re a guy who typically prefers petite women but your date is a statuesque Amazonian AND you get along well, with flowing chemistry, you may open your mind to dating a taller chick.

How to avoid those bad dates

Most people have between 1-3 deal breakers and 5-10 preferences. Take the time to reflect on your past dating experience and see if you can develop your own criteria. You’ll find that this will make your after-date evaluations much easier (and more fun)!

Keeping a Dating Journal is a great way to reflect on your dates and evaluate them against your criteria.  Maybe you have a Dating Buddy, a friend who is also in the dating game who you can compare notes with, and debrief your deal breakers and preferences after your dates.

Need some help?

If you’d like some help with developing your dating success criteria, join my 30 Day Dating Challenge.  It’s a free mini-course packed with activities and advice to help you upgrade your dating experience and take a step closer to your ideal, perfect partner.

Happy Dating!

What’s your Dating Criteria to determine a good vs. bad date? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation @eHarmony_AU or on

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