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Verified by Psychology Today

11 First Date Red Flags

3. They tell you their ex was "crazy."

Key points

  • Trying to pressure someone to stay longer after a date or engage in an unwanted kiss is a violation of boundaries.
  • If a date is indirect or defensive in response to a reasonable question, it's best to proceed with caution.
  • It’s difficult to build an emotional connection or feel close to someone without feeling seen or heard by them.

First dates bring up conflicted feelings for a lot of people. There may be nerves, excitement, or even a feeling of dread.

Part of what can make the dating process disappointing is that you want a relationship but you end up spending a lot of time with people who ultimately are not compatible with you and don’t want the same things. It’s tough to continue putting yourself out there when you feel like you’re not getting the results you want.

This is part of the dating process. However, the more quickly you can determine whether someone is not the right fit, the more quickly you can make room for the right person. The less draining the process is for you, the more fun you will have with it.

Although you can’t necessarily determine where a relationship will lead right off the bat, these are some initial red flags that can help you weed out those who are clearly not suitable for you on the first date:

1. They don’t respect your boundaries. Pay attention to how your date responds when they don’t get what they want or when you express a preference for something they disagree with. The way someone else reacts to your boundaries is very telling: Do they treat you with respect or violate your boundaries without consideration for how you feel?

Here are some examples of what it can look like if someone is not respecting your boundaries on the first date:

  • You say that you don’t want to have another drink and they order one for you anyway.
  • You say you need to head back home because you have an early day tomorrow and they try to convince you to stay longer.
  • They try to kiss you and you express that you’re not comfortable with that. They respond by becoming defensive, angry, or trying to make you feel guilty about your response.

2. They are rude to others. It doesn’t matter how kind your date is to you if they are treating the people around them poorly. Are they complaining that the service is bad, saying that they don’t want to pay a tip, or being condescending to the bartender or wait staff? You’re getting a front-row seat view of how this person treats others and if it’s not with kindness, then you will likely be on the receiving end of that behavior soon enough.

3. They refer to one or more of their ex-partners as “crazy.” Discussion of ex-partners is not usually a great first date topic in general, but if it does come up and your date is calling an ex-partner “crazy” or discussing them in a disparaging manner, it demonstrates that they’re unlikely to take accountability for their actions and wouldn’t with you, either.

4. There is a theme of them talking poorly about others. During your initial conversations, are they putting others down behind their back? Is something seemingly "wrong" with everyone in their life? If your date has a problem with so many people, they are the common denominator and that should give you pause.

5. They don’t answer reasonable questions directly or they try to make you feel bad for asking one. If you’re asking reasonable questions for a first date and your date isn’t answering them directly or they respond judgmentally, proceed with caution. For example, a lot can be learned by asking someone what they are looking for from the dating process. It’s a pretty straightforward question and can easily be answered honestly. If the response to a question like this is, “Why would you ask me that? I don’t know you," “Let’s just go with the flow," or “You’re rushing it," these are signs that the person is judging you for a reasonable question and that you are not on the same page.

6. They frequently check their phone or take calls. Unless it’s an urgent situation, if your date is distracted and frequently checking their phone or taking calls during your date, it shows that they are not taking your feelings into consideration and may have difficulty being fully present if you decide to proceed.

7. They talk about themselves the whole time. Is your date talking at you or with you? There is a difference. When someone is talking at you, they are talking about themselves and not asking you any questions or allowing space for you to share more about yourself. It almost feels like it wouldn’t matter if you were there or not. It’s difficult to build an emotional connection or feel close to someone when you don’t feel seen or heard.

On the other hand, when someone is talking with you instead of at you, it is similar to a ping-pong ball being hit back and forth. Your date asks you a question then sends the ball to you, you respond and ask your date a question then hit the ball back to them, and so on.

8. They are trying to speed up the pace of getting to know you too quickly. Are they talking about the future and all of the things you two will do together, events that you will go to, and places you will visit? It may feel nice and exciting at first, but they don’t actually know you, so talking about all of these plans for the future can give you a false sense of security which can likelihood that you will overlook other red flags.

9. They give you backhanded compliments. "Negging" is another term for a backhanded compliment. You may feel confused at first upon hearing a neg because you’re uncertain if you were just complimented or insulted. Negging is often used as a tactic to cause another person to feel self-doubt so they are more likely to want your approval.

Here are some examples of what negging can look like on a first date:

  • “You look good for your age.”
  • “You’re cute but would be so much hotter if you let your hair grow out.”
  • “I’m not usually into curvy women, but you’re attractive.”

10. They bring up the topic of sex. The topic will come up eventually if you begin a relationship, but if it comes up this early on, it’s usually not a great sign. It’s not so much the topic of sex that’s the issue; it's that the person chose to bring it up on the date without knowing your comfort level. Someone who cares about getting to know you and is taking your comfort into consideration is unlikely to discuss sex on a first date.

11. They disregard your comfort and concern for safety. If they insist on picking you up, going for a walk at night in a secluded area, or meeting in an area that would require you to take public transportation late at night and you tell them you prefer to try another option because you’ll feel safer but they respond defensively or indicate that you are overreacting, this is a red flag that they are not going to take your needs or comfort into consideration moving forward.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition or well-being.

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