Most people know a red flag when they see one. And I don’t care how healthy and grounded you are, responding to subtle signs of incompatibility once you notice them is really hard to do. And yet, that’s what sets healthy relationship seekers apart from unhealthy ones. A healthy person will ultimately choose to walk away from a potential partner if the “signs” warn danger. An unhealthy person will most likely see the signs, but ignore them. The reason we do this is because being in a relationship–any relationship–is often more important than the quality of the relationship, and, because being alone is perceived as far more unpleasant than being in a relationship with a mate who might not be good for us.
That being said, here are 10 warning signs, or red flags to look out for when dating. When you see them, detect them, notice them or confirm them, he (or she) is most likely not the best catch. Move on!
- They have one or more episodes of cheating in their past Many people are on the fence with cheating. Some say, once a cheater always a cheater. Others say, people can change. I’m not sure which side I’m on. Personally, I’d like to know that the guy I am about to date has never cheated and has my same values. I think if they mentioned that they cheated in their distant past but they have proof of a long-term stable relationship where no cheating took place, there may be hope. Keep an eye out on this one.
- They’re married If you meet a hot guy out at a club who is clearly giving off “the vibe” only to find out he’s married, this is the red flag of all red flags. Honestly, unless there’s proof that they moved back in with their parents, or have completely severed ties with their ex and divorce/settlement agreement has already been registered with the courts, this is one guy or girl you need to stay away from. Heck, if he’s interested and you think there’s a chance, tell him, When your divorce is finalized, then you can call me.
- There’s more secrecy than you feel comfortable with She said she’d be going out for the weekend, but wouldn’t tell you where. You’ve never met her friends. You don’t know where she lives or, for that matter, where she works. Red flag, red flag, red flag. People who are available are engaged in sharing and opening up to you. Maybe not all at once. But, enough for you to feel like there’s definitely a willingness to be somewhat vulnerable.
- They do not speak well of their past relationships, and/or it was always the other person’s “fault” that the relationship ended. One of the things that I loved about my current husband when we were first dating was how kindly he spoke of his ex, even though she had left him. She was, in his mind, the mother of his children and even though he was hurt by her, she still deserved the respect of not being talked badly about. Granted, this hurt a bit. Sometimes we want to clearly be the center of someone’s world and we want to be elevated while everyone else is demoted to bitch, or monster, or most hated. Some of us feel “safer” when our love interest speaks badly about others. It’s as if we are the only one they love. And yet, the way your date speaks about people is a direct clue into his own personality. So, unless he is putting his ex on a pedestal (not good), you don’t want to date someone who trash talks his ex.
- They continue to impose strange restrictions after a decent amount of time dating (i.e. “Don’t call me at the office,” “Don’t show up unannounced,” etc.) People who like you typically want to be around you. And, unless you are coming on too strong and showing up unannounced all the time (not good), this type of restriction is a bit strange. Case in point: I was dating this guy for five months. By this point we had slept together, said, “I love you,” and we were even leaving clothes and toiletries over the other’s house. I had very clear boundaries (never showed up unannounced, never called his office, unless he specifically said it was OK). At any rate, one afternoon, I happen to be passing by his house and thought, “Let me just pop in.” Bad idea. He opened up the door, barely let me in and I felt immediately uncomfortable. No, no one was there. He wasn’t cheating on me per se, but he was smoking, something he said he had quit. Anyway, you don’t want to ever just “show up” unannounced. Not a good dating move at all. But, you also don’t want to date some guy who imposes those types of restrictions when it’s not warranted.
- They fall in love with you almost immediately Most people don’t see this as a red flag, although, heck yeah. It’s a biggie. People who value their heart and know the seriousness of commitment don’t “dive in” so quickly. That’s not to say they won’t feel passionate or hugely emotional towards you. But they will refrain from things like moving in, saying I love you, proposing marriage, or even having sex.
- They’ve never had a longterm, committed relationship. OK, so, anyone around the age of 25 might not fit this particular red flag. But, if you’re dating someone 30-years-old or older and they have not had a longterm committed relationship this could be a sign of social anxiety, intimacy issues, avoidance, emotional unavailability and so on. One of the best signs of a healthy partner is that he or she has had healthy, relatively successful relationships, or it’s something he or she is working towards. People change, there is hope. But, for love addicts, you want to stay away from people who cannot commit. It’s too much of an oil and water relationship.
- They say one thing and do another; they lie This is a classic move of Miss or Mr. Unavailable and a red flag if ever there was one. It is essential that a healthy relationship be built on trust and honesty, and the only way for that to happen is if a person’s words align with their actions. If you are detecting lies, then, you are most likely embarking on a lifetime of distrust and feeling hugely distance from your partner. When a person lies, they want to put distance between you and them. When a person tells the truth, they are seeking closeness.
- They do drugs; drink too much Whether you partake in recreational drugs or drinking or not, you definitely want to stay away from someone who does to excess. What’s excess? That’s up to you to decide. But here’s the bottom line: drugs and alcohol use is a relationship barrier. While “a few drinks” may loosen you up and help you relax, it ultimately keeps you from experiencing true reality (especially the uncomfortable kind) and worse, true, deep intimacy. Not only that, but no one has EVER had a serious conversation when they were stoned, drunk or on drugs. You need to see and experience people as they really are, and if your date is always drunk, then, who are you dating? You’ll never know.
- They treat people poorly, take pleasure in hurting others (including animals) or express an unusual amount of hate and anger toward people, placed or things. Always be on the look out for subtle clues of a potentially violent, sadistic or disturbing past. These are the types of red flags that, when ignored, can be very dangerous.
When our desire for a relationship, love or sex overcomes our capacity to think logically, rationally and to take care of ourselves, we may be a love addict. Take a look at the people you’ve dated in the past. Can you clearly see their red flags? What did you do when you noticed them? Ignore them, or leave? How does your current partner sum up? Does he or she have red flags? Are you just “dealing with” those red flags in hopes they go away, or are you working toward getting out of the relationship? Red flags are warning signs. If a potential partner or date is waving a red flag, pay attention and take action. That doesn’t mean work to change him. It usually means moving on to someone with no red flags.