14 ways to recover from awkward dating moments

From spilling wine to running into an ex, Metro Detroit relationship experts share advice to save you from embarrassment

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News
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We’ve all had those awkward date moments.

You spill your drink all over the table — and all over your date.

You run into an ex — and his gorgeous new girlfriend.

The waiter leaves the check — and no one reaches for it.

Again, we’ve all been there.

“I remember — and want to forget — being so nervous on first dates that I forgot their names,” says “Detroit’s Love Guru” Greg Dudzinski, a relationship and sex specialist in Detroit.

To spare you from potential embarrassment during your Valentine’s Day date (or any date), we reached out to local relationship and etiquette experts, including Dudzinski; Joe Kort, a sex and relationship therapist in Royal Oak; Marci Lash, chief etiquette officer of the Contemporary Etiquette Institute in Ann Arbor; Terri Orbuch, Oakland University sociology professor and author of “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship”; and Nneka Owens, a Dearborn-based family and relationship therapist.

Whether the date is a success or disaster, the important thing is to always be yourself, Dudzinski says.

“Be honest and genuine,” he says. “Never pretend to be someone you’re not.”

With that said, here’s what you should do if …

1. You accidentally call your date by your ex’s name.


Dudzinski: Be remorseful and genuine in your apology. Do not try to excuse your actions, or even laugh it off. Your date will not take your light-heartedness too kindly.

Orbuch: Before you go out on a date, I would practice saying the person’s name. But if you say the wrong one, you need to be serious. No humor. Say something like, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to refer to you by that name. It doesn’t mean anything. I wasn’t trying to draw a comparison.”


2. You spill the wine on the table and your date.

Dudzinski: Now this is a time to use humor, especially if you spill the wine on yourself! It gives your date the opportunity to see you are human and can laugh at simple mistakes. This is also an opportunity for you to assess your date in how she/he responds. Are they easily angered or joke with you about the situation? Note, I do not advise intentionally trying this to gain insight into your date’s character!

Lash: Apologize if your date was in the splash zone and offer to pay for the cleaning.

Orbuch: You have two options here: Either use humor or be direct in your apology with “I” language. Humor: “There’s no use crying over spilled wine.” Apology: “I am so sorry I did that. I really like you, and so I’m nervous as you can tell.”

3. Your date has a piece of spinach in their teeth.

Dudzinski: Simply say, “Oops, you have a little piece caught in your teeth.” Your date will appreciate your friendly gesture. Bonus: This shows you are paying attention to him or her.

Kort: Or try, “You have a beautiful smile, and it’s covered by something on your teeth.”


4. Your date starts talking politics and has the opposite view than you.

Dudzinski: This situation is no different than, say, a girlfriend hating sports, or a boyfriend hating chick-flicks. This is an opportunity to learn more about the other person. There’s no need to bash, argue or ridicule. Focus on learning what that person gets out of certain political views; just as you could try to learn why your boyfriend enjoys watching football or girlfriend enjoys watching “The Notebook.”

Lash: If this is someone you think has potential, be honest and let them know this is a topic you’re not going to agree on. You can tell a lot about a person by how they disagree with you. Can they be kind when they disagree? That person is a keeper.


5. Your date starts talking about how many kids he/she wants, and you are not ready for that talk.

Orbuch: Be open and honest: “I like you. I like where this relationship is going. But at this point, it seems a little early to be talking about children and how many we want.”

Owens: Respectfully state, “I can appreciate your love for kids, but I’m not comfortable with having this conversation.”


6. Your date won’t stop texting and/or checking his/her phone.

Dudzinski: The only time this is OK is if an emergency took place: a sick child is home, an ER physician is on call, or a suicidal client or patient calls. Even then, rescheduling the date would be advised. If the above is not in play and this is a first date, perhaps even a second, I would say, “I see you’re more interested in something else, and my time is valuable.” Then excuse yourself and leave.

Lash: Unless that date is a surgeon, the phone better be off the table.

Owens: I would point out that they appear distracted and maybe we should reschedule when he/she can be fully present.

7. Your date posts a photo of you both on social media that you do not want to be tagged in.

Dudzinski: Simply un-tag yourself in the photo. If it is bothersome to you, explain you would like to get informed before she/he posts anything involving you.

Kort: Tell the person, “Thanks for tagging me. That tells me you had a good time. I’m not ready to post my dates on Facebook yet. I’m kind of private. Do you mind taking it down?”

Lash: You’re in charge of your social media. Check your privacy settings, and don’t allow someone to tag you without your permission.

8. You run into your ex while on the date.

Dudzinski: You can either be nice by using a simple “hello” or a nod acknowledging him or her. Then move on with your date. Do not hold a conversation with him or her. This may show your date that you are hung up on your ex.

Lash: Smile, have fun and make your date feel like they’re the most important person in the room. Living well is the best revenge.

9. You drank too much too soon.

Dudzinski: There’s never a good excuse for getting drunk on a date, especially a first date. If you are genuinely interested in pursuing that person, stick your tail between your legs and offer a heartfelt apology.

Kort: Order more bread to absorb the alcohol and tell your date you drank too much out of nervousness.

Lash: There’s no graceful way out of this, but if your date understands, you’ve found a good one. Call Uber or ask your date to drive you home.

10. You let out a loud burp.

Dudzinski: This could be hilarious if done by accident! We all have had a loud burp sneak out of us in not so opportune times. Apologize by saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. That came from nowhere!” Add a few giggles or a laugh.

Owens: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Excuse yourself and say, “Wow, the tank is full.”

11. The bill comes, and no one reaches for it.

Dudzinski: When the bill arrives, most social etiquette deems the man pay. However, I use this as a gauge to see how the date responds. I always advise the lady to offer to pay her half, leave the tip or say the next date is on her. This is 2017 after all. This does not mean men should stop showing chivalry! Still hold the door open for the lady, let her order first and use manners. These practices should never cease, even if married for 50 years.

Orbuch: It depends on what date it is. If it is a first date, you can ask, “Should we split the bill?” If this is a date after several, you can say, “I’ll pay for this one if you pay for the next one?”

12. Your date has really bad breath.

Dudzinski: Be sensitive to the person. Think how you would want to be considered if you were in that person’s shoes.

Lash: Pop a breath mint and offer one to your date.

13. Your date leans in for a smooch that you don’t want.

Lash: If you don’t want it, you don’t take it. You’re in charge of you.

Orbuch: Try, “I like you, but I’m not comfortable with that yet.” Or, “I’m not comfortable kissing you at this time.” Both of these comments leave room for something to change in the future. But, if you don’t like the person or don’t see any future, then direct communication about that (rather than these statements) is important.

Owens: Simply state, “I had a nice evening, but let’s slow it down.”

14. Your date says ‘I love you’ way too soon.

Dudzinski: Be honest and respectful — seems to be a pattern here. Say, “I’m glad you feel that way, though I’m not into rushing my feelings. Please respect that, and don’t try to force it.”

Owens: Accept, but don’t feel obligated to say “I love you” back. Stay truthful about where you are in the relationship.


(313) 222-2156

Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg

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