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13 First Date Red Flags

Love may be blind, but be sure to trust your gut in these situations.

Warning Sign #1

He takes you to his favorite sports bar, then spends more time with his eyes on the game on the screen than on you.

Potential Hazard Ahead: If you don’t warrant his full attention on the first date, chances are that he’s made his priorities clear. If you are as engrossed in the game as he is, this might be a good thing. If he leaves you feeling like you’re already on the losing team, you might need to decide if you want to go into overtime or just admit defeat and cut your losses.

Warning Sign #2

You meet for a cup of coffee as a “pre-first date” meet-up, and instead of inviting you to talk about yourself, she spends the hour telling you all about herself.

Potential Hazard Ahead: Unless you were feeding her the questions and she was giving you the answers, it’s likely that her interest in herself will always outweigh her interest in a boyfriend’s life. Poor social skills can be corrected, but overt narcissism is almost impossible to cure.

Warning Sign #3

You go to a great restaurant that is known for its awesome sushi or burgers or falafel and he orders a meal about as far off from the specialty as it could be—and then complains throughout the meal that the chef doesn’t have a clue when it comes to teriyaki chicken when the restaurant is known for its Cajun gumbo.

Potential Hazard Ahead: It can be a lot of fun to hang out with someone who likes to take the proverbial “path less traveled,” but when they don’t like where it leads them and they look for someone else to blame for their decision, it may indicate that when things go wrong, you might end up the scapegoat more often than you’d like.

Warning Sign #4

You go to a cool new coffee bar and the list of demands she places on the barista when she places her order seems to go on and on. Then when all of her demands are seemingly met, she complains that the foam isn’t thick enough or the soy milk is too hot.

Potential Hazard Ahead: When someone reels off a long list of demands to her server, she may also be the kind of person who makes unspoken demands on a partner. Someone who expects her steak done to exactly 143 degrees is likely to expect the same kind of willingness to please from a boyfriend or partner in her life.

Warning Sign #5

He makes great eye contact, he’s warm, compassionate, laughs at your jokes, and makes you feel like he is definitely “second date material.” Then he explains that he’s still getting over his most recent breakup. He admits to being a “sensitive guy,” and you realize just how sensitive when he casually mentions that the breakup happened 11 months ago. Then he confesses that your smile or your hair or your laugh or whatever reminds him a little of the ex.

Potential Hazard Ahead: This guy’s probably nowhere near ready to let go of the past and move on into the future. His appeal may actually be his downfall if he’s bringing out your “caretaker” side. Trying to win your heart by being interested and caring is one thing, but trying to win your sympathy as he talks about his ex is something else entirely.

Warning Sign #6

She spends the first date elaborating on how much she hates her mother or her family or her job or how she’s been wronged by boyfriends or other friends in the past.

Potential Hazard Ahead: People tell you what they want you to know about them. If she’s already sharing how poorly she’s managed other relationships in her life, run now before you end up the next person on her list of “failed relationships.”

Warning Sign #7

He comes to pick you up and your dog starts barking at the sound of the doorbell. You quiet the pup as you open the door and your date complains, “Whoa, you need to get a muzzle for that animal,” or your cat hisses as soon as she sees him on the doorstep and your date immediately states, “I hate cats.”

Potential Hazard Ahead: While your pup may be the most awesome pup ever, converting non-dog lovers can be difficult and when he’s already dissing the pet before a formal introduction, chances are that he’s not going to appreciate the companionship of your faithful pup or kitten.

Warning Sign #8

She spends the evening making sure you get to know as much as possible about her and her life instead of taking time to learn about you.

Potential Hazard Ahead: Contrary to the often-repeated advice that we should all try to be “interesting” to talk to, the real key to building strong and viable relationships is not to be "interesting," but to be "interested" in others. If you feel like you know a lot more about what she likes and who she is than she knows about you after the first date, it may be an uphill battle to get a reciprocal balance in the mutual caring arena later on.

Warning Sign #9

He just can’t manage to stay focused on you and the conversation or the meal or the film or the music longer than a couple of minutes before checking his phone—and you don't know if he's checking a game score, the exchange rate, or firming up plans for his second "first date" of the evening.

Potential Hazard Ahead: His ability to focus on the potential relationship that the two of you are trying to establish on the first date can be a good indication of his willingness to be emotionally present in the future.

Warning Sign #10

A brand new date spends too much time asking if you’re having fun, if you’re too cold, if the restaurant is OK, if your drink is just right, if you’d rather go to a different place, ad nauseam. He’s so solicitous of your feelings that you are becoming oddly uncomfortable.

Potential Hazard Ahead: Everyone wants to be “liked,” but when someone is a little overzealous in their efforts to please someone else, it may be due to low self-esteem. If you don’t want to spend a lifetime trying to assure him that he’s great, the relationship is fine, and yes, you adore him, you may want to reconsider agreeing to a second date with someone who seems a little “too” agreeable or eager to please.

Warning Sign #11

If she shares her views on politics, religion, human nature, diversity, money, whatever—and you get the feeling that there are some basic fundamental differences in your belief systems—trust your gut!

Potential Hazard Ahead: Not every difference of opinion is or should be a deal-breaker, but when the differences bring up warning signs in your own mind, heed them. Remember that wanting to change someone is a lot different than being with someone who wants to change.

Warning Sign #12

He’s unnecessarily rude to your roommate or your mom or other drivers or people you pass on the street. He blows up at the parking meter because it didn’t register his quarter or at the hostess because another couple got seated first.

Potential Hazard Ahead: It's true that first dates are potentially "high stress" events, but if this is how he handles "good stress," you probably don't want to be around him when he has to respond to "bad stress" events!

Warning Sign #13

She orders a third whiskey sour before the second is finished or she pointedly doesn’t drink, but her eyes follow every beer the server delivers to other tables. Or she checks her phone incessantly—even during lively conversations between the two of you.

Potential Hazard Ahead: There may be an addiction issue present. Obsessing about the next drink or eyeing the drinks others are enjoying can signal an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. There’s also research that suggests that constantly checking social media, email, texts, etc. are signs of a process addiction. Addictive behavior patterns can be difficult to change. Know what you’re in for before getting serious with this date.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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