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69 Dealbreakers: The Worst Romantic Turnoffs

Vulgar language, excessive intimacy, stinginess, smell, and more.

Key points

  • Recent research sought to understand what most people considered turnoffs when it comes to flirting.
  • 69 reasons were revealed, structured into 11 broad categories.
  • Vulgar vocabulary, poor looks, excessive intimacy, and narcissism were some of the categories identified.
  • In a follow-up study which rated the 69 items, older participants rated the turnoffs as more off-putting than younger counterparts.

Recent research published in Personality and Individual Differences sought to understand what most people considered turnoffs when it comes to flirting. In the first of two studies, researchers sent a questionnaire to 212 participants—91 men and 121 women with a mean age of 35.

In the open-ended questionnaire, participants were asked, “You are single and someone is approaching and starts flirting with you. Write a few things about him/her (behaviors, traits, etc.) that would make a bad impression on you, leading you to rule out the possibility of giving in to his/her flirting.” Once all questionnaires were complete, the researchers coded the reasons.

The following 69 reasons were revealed, structured into 11 broad categories:

Vulgar vocabulary
Bad vocabulary
Rude vocabulary
Inelegant expressions and gestures
Excessive consumption of alcohol/food/cigarettes
Lack of good manners
Poor vocabulary

Poor looks
Unattractive body
Poor looks
Not attracted by her/his looks
Badly dressed
Lack of sense of style
The way she/he walks

Excessive intimacy
She/he comes too close when she/he speaks to me
Excessive intimacy
She/he touches me without my consent
Aggressive approach
Too revealing dressing

Lack of intelligence
Low intelligence
Gaze that shows a lack of intelligence
Stupid lines
Looks desperate

She/he thinks highly of herself/himself
Showing off money
Too sure about herself/himself
Too much self-confidence
She/he speaks as if she/he knows everything
Showing off looks
Too much effort to impress
Bad behavior toward others
She/he only talks about herself/himself
She/he constantly makes negative comments about others
She/he tries to manipulate me
Too much effort to look cool
She/he talks too much

Lack of humor and low self-esteem
She/he does not smile
Lack of humor
Low self-esteem
Bad humor

She/he expects to split the bill in two
She/he lets me pay the bill

Bad hygiene
Bad breath
Rotten teeth
Unattractive body smell
Lack of respect
Bad personal hygiene

Slimy approach
Slimy comments about my looks
Sexist comments

Different views
She/he says something that makes me realize that we have completely different views
Bad communication

Lack of exclusive interest
She/he looks at other men/women while we are together
She/he is not interested in learning things about me
She/he seems to be bored
She/he is stuck on her/his cell phone
Very pushy
She/he constantly interrupts me when I speak
She/he has approached many different men/women before me

In a follow-up study, 734 participants (406 women, 328 men, and three participants who did not indicate their sex, with a mean age of 30.5) were asked via a digital form: “You are single and someone is approaching and starts flirting with you. Rate how much each of the following would put you off, leading you to rule out the possibility of giving in to his/her flirting.” Participants were then given the list of 69 items identified in study 1 above and asked to rate them on a 1-5 scale.

The results of the second study showed that women gave higher scores than men on all factors, except for “Poor looks,” where for some items within the category, men scored them to be of greater importance, including “unattractive body,” “poor looks,” “not attracted by her/his looks” and “badly dressed."

Interestingly enough, older participants rated the turnoffs as more off-putting than their younger counterparts, and marital status made no difference to the identified dealbreakers, meaning that whether single, dating, or married, offputting factors were universal.

Facebook image: New Africa/Shutterstock


Apostolou, M., & Eleftheriou, C. (2022). What constitutes bad flirting: An explorative study of dealbreakers. Personality and Individual Differences, 194, 111665.

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