Seven Good Things to Come Out of Bad First Dates

Just been on a date from hell? Make the most of it, says dating photographer Saskia Nelson

When you’re online dating, sometimes you have to take a chance on different kinds of people and go on quite a few first dates to see what happens. Quite often these dates don’t go well, and it can feel like they were a huge waste of time – but I’m here to tell you otherwise. I’m currently riding high as one of the UK’s best dating experts, as awarded by the UK Dating Awards, and that accolade didn’t come easily. I’ve been on many, many bad first dates and could easily have become completely downhearted and given up. But I knew that if there was any chance that I was going to find my guy (which I did, by the way, six years ago this month on Guardian Soulmates!), I was going to have to stay relentlessly positive even in the face of such adversity.

Here I’m going to share with you the top seven things that I focused on during my bad first dates which helped me to do just that. So before you decide to give up on finding love online, read this and don’t quit just yet.

1. The practice

Going on lots of bad dates is actually great for getting you over the horror of first-date nerves. I remember in the early days when I started dating, first dates used to be really nerve-wracking. This stopped me from relaxing and letting go, so I wasn’t necessarily showing myself at my best. Every now and again you’re going to date someone you think is brilliant, so by getting over your first-date nerves on bad dates, you’ll be ready to impress the dates that you do like.

2. The learning opportunities

One of the most useful things to come out of a bad date is taking the time to figure out what it is about your date that is turning you off. This will help you understand more about what it is you are looking for in a partner.

You also get to witness other people – that is, your dates – making great big whoppers on dates, and you can learn what not to do from them. Did they spend the whole night talking about themselves? Did they complain a lot? Did they talk about their ex too much? Did they show you the open wound on their foot? After experiencing all of these, I know I became better at first dates because I learned what not to do.

3. The comedy value

The best thing about going on bad dates was the opportunity to keep my friends entertained at dinner parties with my tales of bad date hell. I found that the worse the date, the better the entertainment value later.

4. The increased confidence

The upside of going on all these dates is that your confidence starts to skyrocket as you get better and better at them. When first-date nerves take a back seat, it allows you to focus on being the best, funniest version of you. Don’t worry – the butterflies and excitement will come swiftly back if you decide you like your prospective partner after that first date.

5. The feel-good factor from putting yourself out there

On particularly bad dates – where the minute I sat down, I felt the urge to fling my drink over him, cry “You look nothing like your profile photo!” and run screaming down the road – I took delight in patting myself on the back and congratulating myself for continuing to put myself out there, taking risks and living my life like it was one big adventure. Sometimes that’s all you can do when the dates are really bad.

6. The latest cool bars

If you find yourself on yet another bad date, you can at least enjoy the environment you’re in. It’s always good to try out new places.

7. The new opportunities

Sometimes, when you’re on a first date, you both realise pretty quickly that there’s going to be no romantic future ahead, but you might find that you can help each other out on the work front. Or you may really enjoy each other’s company despite the lack of chemistry and decide that you quite fancy being friends and supporting each other on your dating journey. Or, you might discover he has a best mate who has way more in common with you. Always keep an eye out for new opportunities.

So the next time you’re sitting in front of someone on a first date thinking you’d rather watch a rerun of Real Housewives of Atlanta than go through the next hour, think again and take note of all the good things you can take away from it.

Saskia Nelson is the talent behind the award-winning Saturday Night’s Alright, the UK’s only dedicated dating photography business. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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