Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Don't let one awkward experience ruin online dating forever

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Online dating is full of tricky situations, foot-in-mouth moments and embarrassing encounters. And guess what? So is face-to-face dating ... and life in general.

It happens all the time: Someone makes a teeny, tiny faux pas and is ready to throw in the towel on all dating websites and apps.

My latest example is a client who was absentmindedly swiping — we’ve all been there, right? — and accidentally matched with one of her co-workers. Her immediate reaction was to pause all her accounts.

I’ll tell you what I told her: That’s just silly. So what if you saw a co-worker on Bumble? Or matched with an old high school classmate on Hinge? Or your cat walked across your keyboard and managed to send a message reading “sfjklsd fiewrpo” to that hottie you’ve been chatting with? (Don’t laugh — anything can happen.)

At the end of the day, these things are awkward (and may lead to a weird look at the office), but they’re just not the end of the world... or even close.

Imagine you’re out on a first date and accidentally spill your drink. Are you going to immediately run out of the bar, drive home and never go on another date again? No — you’re going to crack a joke, grab some napkins and clean up the mess. And that’s exactly what you have to do in less-than-ideal online dating situations too.


When my client sees her co-worker again, I’d encourage her to address the situation so there is not a lingering awkwardness between them. She could say something like, “Hey! I saw you on Bumble. Always nice to see a familiar face.” Acknowledging the situation casually and making light of it will help him realize it’s not going to lead to anything. (Will she do that? Likely not, but what can ya do?)

And if he messages her, she can say the same type of thing. But there is no shame or embarrassment in being on a dating app — and it looks like they’re both in the same boat anyway, so there’s no judgment there.

You can do some damage control on an unintentional right swipe (which always tends to happen at the least convenient moment, I might add). Some apps allow you to unmatch, so you might be able to undo your deed without the other person even knowing, as you’ll disappear from each other’s matched lists. There’s even reporting people, if things take a turn for the creepy. But there’s no reason to delete your account, change your photos or otherwise try to hide a small mistake.

Just know everyone has been there before. From unintended right swipes and accidental messages to even posting a photo that wasn’t meant to be seen by everyone on Tinder, it happens... but it shouldn’t cause the collapse of your entire online dating experience. Grab those napkins and clean up the mess — and only then will you realize how small the mess is.

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